Dumbass, you wouldn't have to do that if you'd just use your hands!
Kanu and the Gunslingers love it more than life itself. Stranko Montana likes it OK, but mainly for the chicks. The M Zone, evidently, hates it hard, while Kyle King is content to remain merrily apathetic.
I have to confess that -- in spite of the fact that it was one of the few competitive sports my lazy, un-athletic ass could be bothered to participate in as a child -- I've never been much of a soccer fan. (The other two sports, in case you were curious, were swimming, which I was good at, and teeball, at which I sucked. Yes, the ball was stationary right in front of me and I still wasn't any good. Go on; make your jokes.) As a spectator sport, I think soccer is mostly about as exciting as watching paint dry. Check that: It's about as exciting as listening to Bill Frist describing paint drying. And yet, while I'm still never going to be as excited about it as these crazy wooden-shoe-wearin' fuckers, I have to admit that I've actually kind of gotten into the World Cup.
Now, that's not to say I've gotten into soccer as a sport. I may be just a dumb uncultured American like everyone else, but I firmly believe that if a given sport's average game has a significant chance of ending in a 0-0 tie, there's probably something wrong with it. Yet as one writer explained, that may be precisely what the rest of the world likes about it. Here's a bit from a column forwarded to me by my friend Kristen whom I stayed with in Maryland last week -- do read the whole thing, because it's excellent:
Recently, New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik contrasted American sports -- which have lots of scoring and action -- with the low-scoring, defense-heavy game that dominates the world's sports scene.
"The World Cup is a festival of fate -- man accepting his hard circumstances, the near-certainty of his failure. There is, after all, something familiar about a contest in which nobody wins and nobody pots a goal," he wrote. "Nil-nil is the score of life. This may be where the difficulty lies for Americans, who still look for Eden out there on the ballfield."
He may have a point there. Not only does every sport with any degree of popularity in America have far more scoring than soccer -- even hockey, I'd be willing to bet -- every major sporting league in the country from the NFL on down has enacted some kind of rule change in the last decade or so to make things easier for the offense. Of course, if his point were universally true, basketball (particularly the higher-scoring NBA variety) would be far and away the most popular sport in the country, and I've already gone on record as caring about the NBA substantially less than even Olympic figure skating. Again, figure skating has Tanith Belbin, the NBA has . . . what, who am I supposed to be looking at? Kobe? Shaq? Um, yeah. Thank you but no.
Oh yeah, back with the gratuitous Tanith Belbin pictures . . . feels like it's late February all over again! Wake up the echoes!
What was I saying? Oh yes: Soccer, kinda boring. I mean, if the thing goes 90 minutes and there are even five goals scored -- a pretty high-scoring game by modern standards, if what I've been seeing over the last couple weeks is any indication -- that's still a lot of time being spent running around and kicking the ball back and forth without making any progress on the scoreboard. And yes, I know I'm the same guy who waxed rhapsodic about the brain-pummeling intensity of last year's Tennessee-Alabama game, in which Alabama beat the Vols 6-3 and in which the scoring amounted to a total of three field goals, but . . . well, look, if Bama busts off a 9-yard end-around, then I know they've made some progress, OK? Or if they're looking at third and 2 from the Tennessee 21, then I know how far they have to go and where they need to be. There are no such clear metrics when you're watching 22 guys running around a huge, mostly unmarked field that is in fact substantially bigger than a gridiron. That guy kicked it to that other guy . . . who kicked it to the guy with the weird-ass mullet . . . weird-ass mullet guy gets the ball knocked away by the guy from the other team . . . but now the first guy gets it back . . . and maybe some progress was made there toward somebody scoring, but I have no way of knowing, and all I really want to do by this point is drink a beer and watch some moldy-ass Orange Bowl on ESPN Classic, m'kay?
And there you have it -- I've just gotten done delving into all the reasons why I think soccer sucks, so no, I don't consider myself a fan. And yet, while I don't like soccer as a game, I think I really do like the World Cup. Let me explain.
Other than the Super Bowl, there is no sporting event (or series of same) that captures the world's imagination anywhere close to the way the World Cup does. Now, I'm not going to be one of those effete snobs who thinks everything foreign must be grand and everything American must be jejune and tacky, but be honest: If there's something that's bringing together millions of people from that many different countries, isn't that at least a little bit cool? And while millions of Americans might read the words "Ecuador v. Poland" in the paper and snicker at the obscurity of it all, isn't it kind of cool that all these Ecuadorians are going to be meeting all these Poles for maybe the first and only time in their lives? And doing so in Germany, yet another country they may never have been to?
There's just something really appealing about the international-brotherhood aspect of the World Cup, even though the sport itself really doesn't appeal to me much at all. Basically it strikes me as kind of like a typical Georgia football Saturday, only lasting an entire month and bringing together people from literally all over the globe. And if this month-long tailgate also brings together fine young ladies such as . . .
Brazil, U.S., Switzerland, Croatia: Yahtzee.
. . . then who am I to say "that sucks"?
So yes, I watched from Bohemian Hall in Queens as the plucky Ivory Coasters played overdog Argentina to within an inch of their lives. I watched from Dulles Airport on Monday as my Slavic homeboyz from the Ukraine beat the ever-living crap out of those filthy-rich oil barons from Saudi Arabia. I watched during Father's Day brunch in Alexandria as my other Slavic homeboyz from Croatia battled to a scoreless tie with Japan -- which, OK, in all honesty was kind of a shitty match but at least had the redeeming factor of being broadcast on Univision, whose World Cup coverage isn't afraid to be almost maniacally energetic and is also liberally dosed with the kind of Latina chicks hot enough to make you want to throw rocks at the girls in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue . . . well, here, I'll let Kanu tell it. (Correction, that was a guest post from Orson Swindle. Kanu's own equally edifying words can be found hyah.)
Anyway. Football -- American football -- will always be king with me, and I'm certainly not about to start loving fútbol just because a few billion other people do. But even if you don't love soccer, I hope you find something to love about the World Cup, because it involves a bunch of people from radically disparate countries coming together to compete with one another without killing each other, and these days, that's a blessed relief indeed.
And just like that, thousands of conservatives suddenly soften their stance on immigration.
Oh, and the girls. Did I mention them? You can at least get excited about that, can't you?