SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
I was going to make fun of soccer last week, until I realized I’d never actually watched a soccer game. It wasn’t fair, poking fun of something I had no knowledge of, although maybe I’m the only one who feels that way. So I sat down to watch an entire World Cup game (Mexico vs. Greece). It’s good to experience new things, educate yourself, exposure yourself to other cultures.
Now I’m ready to make fun of soccer.
(You might be reading this after the World Cup is over, thanks to the quirks of my schedule—it’s like Star Trek time travel, only without the techno-babble.)
Soccer’s just never been on my radar. Not only do I have little interest in sports, but I live in America, the black hole of soccer. We even stole its proper name, football, and gave it to an entirely different sport.
When I was a kid, the only sports I had anything to do with were forced on me in gym class, whenever I couldn’t find a decent hiding place. Our gym teacher did a good job of exposing us to different sports. Sure, there was basketball and football, but in winter we’d shovel the ice off the school pond and give hockey a try. We ran track, of course, and played badminton, which involves a slow moving thingy that we would busily swing at, and miss. Or maybe it was just me missing.
I even did well a few times, by accident. Once I almost won a volleyball game for my team (half the class) by serving the ball and actually getting it across the net several times. The trick is that the other side botched things and didn’t get the ball back to us—thus I really had little to do with it.
Another time I ended up second to last in dodge ball, thanks to my schoolyard experience in dodging bullies.
I usually hit what I swung at in baseball, or so it appeared when I opened my eyes to see the ball sailing into the outfielder’s mitt.
But we never played soccer. Not once. It just didn’t appear on the American horizon, replaced by a sport that held a chance of literal explosions: NASCAR.
To Americans, football isn’t the same unless the ball isn’t ball shaped. When I see a sticker for NASA (Noble Area Soccer Association) I start dreaming about missions to Mars.
This year the World Cup drew the attention of the American media, probably in an attempt to cover up how much the government is screwing up. I’m sure many Americans watch it, as it’s every bit as exciting as curling and way faster moving than baseball. Still, no one I know personally seems to have actually watched the World Cup, until I did.
What were my impressions? Well, the heat index during the game was 100 degrees, they hauled one guy off in a stretcher, and several others were left groaning on the ground. It was deadly.
In fairness, I’m not a sports fan, so I’m not the one to compare it with other sports. Still, I noticed several problems which may—or may not—explain why international football has not become, here in the USA, national football:
Low scoring. Americans, especially American men, like to score. In sports, too.
Now, basketball scores too much—you get a hundred points scored in a game, and it’s not special anymore. It’s why big movies on TV are no longer an “event”: You can watch big movies at home anytime.
Soccer scores are so low that any time the ball goes in, the players actually go into convulsions, the crowds riot, and the governments of countries that were scored on are overthrown.
Too-large field. The World Cup football field is slightly larger than the national deficit. It lessens scoring, of course, because by the time a team gets the ball to the opposing net they have to lay down and nap before trying to kick it in. It might help if each team, to get down the field faster, was issued a minibus.
There are other problems, such as the fact that substitutions are limited, which means that toward the end of the game you see players crawling forward on all fours, tapping the ball a few feet forward with their heads. There’s also the fact that, apparently, teams often play with the intention of tying, rather than winning. This goes against everything America used to stand for—just ask George Patton.
Finally, most serious of all, and the main reason why this team sport will never become huge in the United States:
And now we know why baseball is fading, too.