By Jeff Girod
But Jeff, you say, you’re just another ugly American ignorant to the grace and subtle nuances of soccer—or futbol as the rest of the NFL- and slam dunk-hating planet calls it. Soccer purists excuse this kind of crap all the time. “That’s just because you don’t understand it,” as if soccer is a fine wine or piece of conceptual art hanging on a gallery wall the rest of us mouth breathers are too obtuse to appreciate. And while I’ll admit I am both an ugly American and proud mouth breather, one thing I am not is soccer ignorant.
In fact there are probably few people more qualified to line up and take a free kick at soccer’s balls. I’ve donned the scratchy V-neck soccer jerseys, worn the shin guards and eaten the sliced oranges—for 12 years in fact, including all through junior high and high school. I even have the embarrassing photos in tiny shorts to prove it. I was a captain of my high school soccer team, team MVP and made all-league a time or two. And I’m here to tell you that I would rather watch a colonoscopy than sit through 90 excruciating minutes of a soccer game. Hell, if the game went into overtime, I’d rather get the colonoscopy!
I played in more than 200 soccer games and I was even bored most of the time. Sometimes I was tempted to smack the ball with my hand just to keep things interesting. Soccer is lawn hockey. Soccer is marbles without the drama. Soccer is 90 minutes of foreplay of getting hot and sweaty without the cigarette afterward.
Not to mention that soccer is played by a gaggle of 140-pound men in short pants and collared shirts with mullets, gold chains and the kind of caterpillar moustaches usually seen on seventh-grade boys. When I watch “the world’s top athletes” play a sport, they should be bigger and stronger than the girl I took to prom. When the Los Angeles Lakers take the court they look like seven-foot, 250-pound god-men. When U.S.A.’s soccer team takes the pitch they look like Mrs. McGregor’s’ gym class.
You know why the World Cup is only held every four years? Because it takes most soccer players exactly four years to stop writhing around after getting kicked in the shins like they’re playing the lead in Hamlet. NFL quarterback Brett Favre has played in 309 consecutive games over the last 19 seasons despite being constantly chased by 300-pound refrigerators in stretch pants. A soccer player gets tapped on the funny bone by a bee and he drops to the ground like he’s re-enacting the JFK assassination.
And never mind that soccer players are softer than a French cruller. What about the scoring? 0-0? 1-0? 2-1? Are we playing a game or counting eclipses? The score of last week’s NBA Final between the Lakers and Boston Celtics was 83-79 and that was criticized as low scoring. Brazil beat Ivory Coast 3-1 on Sunday and that was considered a “blowout.” I get up from the sofa to grab a beer or use the toilet and there’s a good chance I’ll miss the One Moment in Time anybody actually scores a goal. Some Eddie Munster lookalike heads a ball into the net and that’s supposed to make up for 89-and-a-half minutes of nothing happening? Sounds like a magic trick performed by David Blaine.
“But soccer is the most popular sport in the world!” Yeah? And David Hasselhoff had two No. 1 singing hits in Germany. It just means there’s no accounting for taste (which explains why the World Cup trophy looks like two-thirds of a lamp I made in art class).
Football season doesn’t start for another 2 months anyway so it’s either watch World Cup soccer on TV or stare at paint drying . . . I’d better go get a can and a brush.
Contact Jeff Girod at firstname.lastname@example.org.