A nation returns to not caring about soccer for another four yearsJune 28, 2010
Flop, flop, GOOSE!
So yeah, America lost in the World Cup to Ghana, a country most Americans couldn’t find on a map without Google’s help, thus ending America’s quadrennial infatuation with soccer. Sort of like the Olympics where Americans don’t give a shit about swimming until Michael Phelps reveals himself as AquaMan and wins every race he enters and even some that he doesn’t.
As you can tell, I didn’t get the fever for the flavor of the futbol, even with America’s dramatic win over Algeria in Group Play. Was I supposed to get excited over the USA winning their group with a 1-0-2 record? Am I supposed to cheer for a tie? Two teams in the most prestigious soccer/football/nationalist-wankfest in the world take the field and after 90 minutes both teams leave no better or worse than how they started the day, and I’m supposed to be psyched about that? Bollocks I say. If you read a book where there was no development or arc for any of the characters and at the end nothing happened or had changed from the beginning, you’d throw that book in a fire for wasting your time over 500 pages. In my literature and in my sports I want the status quo challenged. I need something at stake. Will the hero reach his objective, or will his crushing failure to do so ruin the lives of the people he cares about? Ties mean no one has reached their objective and no one is changed for the experience so you might as well not have even bothered. Is soccer trying to tell me a deeper truth of the universe, that sometimes you don’t win and you don’t lose? I don’t watch sports for philosophical inquiries into the gaping void we call life, much like how I don’t go to academic symposiums on 21st-century postmodernism for the wet t-shirt contests: that’s not what they’re for.
My problem with soccer doesn’t seem to be with the game itself but with its structure and what it unrighteously demands from me. It demands that I accept less and like it. Let’s take a look at two 2-1 games in two different sports. In the USA/Ghana game both teams had six shots on goal after 90 minutes of regulation time and 30 minutes of overtime with Ghana winning. Game Two of the Philadelphia Flyers/Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup Finals had the Flyers getting 33 shots on goal while the Blackhawks had 26, all done in 60 minutes of regulation time with the Blackhawks winning. Clearly I’m getting more for my time, money, and attention for a hockey 2-1 game than I do with soccer. And it’s free of vuvuzelas too.
A 1-0 baseball or hockey game is a defensive gem, a 1-0 soccer game is just another Tuesday.
Soccer will then argue that it’s about the systematic wearing down of another team, the defensive stops, the counter-rushes, and the missed chances that give the beautiful game its adjective. Like none of these things happen in any other sport. Soccer demands I have a disproportionately favorable reaction to things like failed corner kicks and midfield turnovers that don’t go anywhere, like they’re the bees’ knees. It’s like soccer is handing me a saltine cracker and telling me it’s the best thing ever, but if I point out that Ritz crackers taste better and they’re sturdier so you can put things on it like cheese or peanut butter soccer calls me a boorish ugly American prat.
Then there’s the penalty kicks in World Cup knockout play if both teams are still tied after the 30 minute overtime, which demolishes the above argument that soccer’s joy comes from its little things. They’re perfectly content to end their most important games not with more overtime and physical exertion but with point blank shots at the goal. I have the same issue with Olympic ice hockey in the medal rounds going to shootouts after a 10-minute sudden death overtime, but at least the NHL in the playoffs makes the teams play 20-minute sudden death overtimes until someone scores. But soccer’s shootouts are more egregious because shooters score 85% of the time (NHL shooters only score about 32% of the time) It’s less of a contest between shooter and goalie and more of a contest between the shooter and his not fucking up, which turns the grueling test of stamina and skill known as soccer into golf without clubs. And when your sport turns into another sport at the most crucial of times, it’s not a good thing. Going back to literature, it’s like reading The Hunt For Red October and then at the climax it turns into The Joy Luck Club. Where’d the Russians go? Where’d the cool submarine go? Where’d all these Chinese women come from?
Rugby has more to offer, yet gets a fraction of the taint-licking that soccer does. Same thing with Australian Rules Football and Irish Hurling, which I suspect is because few people understand the intricacies of those games whereas soccer’s simplicity makes it more accessible for the newer viewer until they get bored of watching men in shorts flopping to the grass and grabbing their knees whenever there’s a stiff breeze, or until the U.S. gets eliminated and the aforementioned new viewer can jump off the jingoistic bandwagon.
Fuck it, dude. Let’s go watch curling. The officiating is much better and no one’s ever gotten shot over a curling match.