Monday, June 26, 2006

Soccer: Global waste of time.

Every few years, when the World Cup activity begins to peak, everybody gets excited about soccer. Granted the rest of the world calls it football but here in the U.S. we ugly Americans call it soccer because we already have a game we call football.

Let me say that I respect a lot about soccer. It requires tremendous coordination, astounding stamina and a considerable degree of toughness, although there are some teams and players who engage in unflattering antics to gain a strategic advantage. Soccer doesn't allow for timeouts. The clock always runs and play is continuous. Players who are ejected can't be replaced so it's not unusual to see a team play short a player or two. Of course, there also aren't that many fouls that will result in ejection. In fact, most fouls aren't really penalized. A team is awarded a free kick for most infractions but that free kick rarely offers a team a decided advantage.

Soccer scores are low. Not only are the scores low, but the number of shots taken on goal are low as well. The entire game is about moving the ball and gaining position. The rules favor defense and the aspect of soccer that infuriates Americans is the rather common 0-0 tie. In fact, the administrative wing of Major League Soccer has offended purists by tweaking certain rules to avoid the dreaded tie in the US vertsion of this global sport, The tie is a most incestuous offense in American sports. We have overtime. On rare occasion an NFL game that fails to produce a winner after a sudden death period will get recorded as a tie, but that's a rare occurrence. In fact, the last bastion of the American tie, NCAA football, adopted an overtime policy that not only makes a tie virtually impossible, the shootout method used in college actually makes for some exciting offensive possessions. A game deadlocked at 14 can balloon into a 48-46 nail biter thanks to some creative overtime rules.

Americans like offense. Maybe we have too many diversions and deriving entertainment out of a pitching duel or a defensive masterpiece is too much to ask the modern sports fan. Maybe we are just a bunch of ignorant slugs who refuse to show the rest of the world respect. But perhaps it is possible that soccer really does stink. The rest of the world can be wrong.

And I'm not just some fat NASCAR hick upset because ESPN is cutting into my Dale Jr. coverage. I hate NASCAR. In my mind the only good thing about it is that it allows inbred hicks a mindless source of entertainment. Studies have shown that incidents of incest have decreased in the past 10 years and that's thanks to NASCAR.

No, I actually know a good bit about soccer. I can't name more than four players, but I officiated high school soccer for a few years and even coached a youth team. It's a great sport from a participation perspective, but so is synchronized swimming, track, gymnastics and wrestling. None of them are that appealing from a spectator's perspective. Not unless artificial drama is added. That's why we have the WWF and why boxers will pretend to hate each other. Hype rules. Football makes it's own, baseball has history and basketball has some hard-core street values instilled in it. Soccer is a bunch of sweaty Euro-trash drones running around on a field all day. Hockey at least speeds up the game with the ice.

To me, it wouldn't matter if the U.S. managed to entice its best athletes into soccer and field a good team. MLS could find new revenue sources for payroll and lure the best players in the world to play here and I would still pass on the free tickets to watch the Columbus Crew play. It's not the quality of play that discourages me, but the quality of entertainment. Soccer is boring. It's like one of those "films" that critics laud but regular lugs like me find pretentious and pedantic. Can we blow something up once in a while? Soccer is the art piece of the sports world and like great art, I like to appreciate it from a theoretical perspective. Don't expect me to pay money to visit a museum. I'll meet you at the brewery down the street. Nuture your cultural side while I load up on barley and hops and we'll talk about who had more fun. I got ten bucks on the beer. That's ten bucks I won't spend on soccer tickets.

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