The Beautiful Game

What is the month-long sporting event that will see most nations grind to a testosterone induced halt while Americans wonder whether Barry Bonds will hit another meaningless home run?

The World Cup.

Soccer.

The original football.

world cup

Engalnd vs. Germany, France Vs. Italy, Brazil vs. Argentina, Europe vs. South America, all with African, Asian, Middle Eastern and North American teams hungry for success.

No other sporting event has so many stories and so much national pride invested. The Olympics may be close, but is frankly diluted by the sheer number of events to the point where almost every nation has some success. There is only one winner in this event. Only one nation reigns supreme at the end.

Pagentry. Nationalism. It’s the closest thing we have to medieval warfare. The honest brutality of which I think we all subconsciously crave in this day and age. We know our enemy. He’s over on the other side of the stadium. And he’s wearing Blue.

The U.S. doesn’t have a prayer. And maybe that’s part of our collective ambivalence. If we aren’t the best at something then we aren’t interretsed. But I actually find it refreshing to have a sporting event that we are participating in at the highest level where we do not dominate and are not expected to win. Our basketball “dream team” has become a disaster and an embarassment. Give me a struggling squad with no where to go but up. Give me a handfull of players who collectively probably don’t make what the average quarterback in the NFL makes. Give me young men without the egos of rock stars. Give me the hunger that makes for honest competition.

I’ll admit this is not the best soccer you will see. The players haven’t played together enough and many are just coming off long seasons that left them with nagging injuries. But no event on earth beats the sheer spectacle that is the World Cup.

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12 Responses to The Beautiful Game

  1. Bradley says:

    Something else to watch for… I wouldn’t be surprised if attacks in Iraq and around the world quiet down significantly starting Friday and continuing until at least Iran and the Saudis make their exit.

  2. Jeremy says:

    Personally, I prefer an US vs. Them sport.

  3. Bradley says:

    Uh… what event is more “us vs. them” than the world cup? It’s the US national team against 31 other countries!

  4. Jeremy says:

    Yes, you are right, but where are the batteries?

    You can’t watch a sport without a handfull of batteries.
    Though, a sack full of doorknobs would work as a replacement.

  5. Jeremy says:

    I’m not sure that Soccer is disliked as a sport. I’m finding I’m becoming surrounded by World Cup fanatics.

    Its almost fad-like, as if people are jumping on the bandwagon that is a “new sport”.

    I think that is more reason for me to avoid it. (I dislike fake fans.)

  6. Bradley says:

    Really? I have found nothing more than passing curiosity around here. Even among the people I play soccer with, I would say only 50% are following the World Cup.

    Soccer is very much disliked as a spectator sport. People watch the Olympics when it comes around, but who watches skiing or track & field at any other time? World Cup is an event and some people flock to events just so they talk about it. But as you say, it is a bandwagon only. They’ll be gone soon.

    I think soccer will catch on… but very gradually. Used to be no one played. Then the AYSO formed in the 70’s and kids played, but stopped to play “real” sports when they reach their teens. But more and more kids are playing soccer longer. And players become fans.

    People say soccer will never catch on in America because there is only halftime in which to play commercials. No time outs. But I think that’s bull. Advertisers will find a way if people want to view the games. It works around the world, and their TV time is not free.

    I think the problem is that we don’t have good teams. And we don’t want to watch England’s club teams or Spain’s, or whoever. Imagine though if athletes who are now going into football or basketball instead went into soccer. Imagine that we had clubs strong enough to attract the best players from around the world. Imagine that the best soccer in the world was played here and not England. Imagine that we could win the world cup.

    That may not change your mind, but as the number of people who played as kids increases, so does the understanding of the game, so does the number of good athletes that stay with soccer, thus increasing both the player pool AND the fan base at the same time.

  7. Bradley says:

    By the way, in respect to my first comment on this thread… The Ivory Coast has been in the throws of a civil war, but declared a temporary ceasefire in order for everyone to watch their national team.

    They lost 2-1 on saturday against Argentina. Things aren’t going to get easier. They are certainly in the hardest group of the whole cup.

  8. Jeremy says:

    The epitome of my “bandwagon” observation, was in the Cubicle Jungle, this week, as our cafeteria was filled with people watching the USA game the other morning.

    I know for a fact that most of the people in the room had never seen a soccar game in their lives, but there is always room on the bandwagon.

    I’m all for learning something new, but if you do it as a fad, or because its trendy, leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    The true test will be if these “fans” watch the rest of the tournament, now that the US has been outsted.

    Aside, I watched the USA Italy game, and was frustrated watching the Italian guys fall down and the Ref throwing peice of colored paper around.
    If the Italians wanted to fall down so bad, I’d like to introduce them to Brian Dawkins or Jevon Kearse. They are good at helping people fall down.

  9. Bradley says:

    Or Terry Tate!

    One of the big gripes I hear about soccer is the flopping and faking injuries. I agree. It’s a very ugly part of an otherwise elegant game. Fifa needs to get ahold of that. It’s interresting though to see the cultural difference in that respect. I find latin american countries and Italians do this much more than others. You see it much less with the US, England, Brazil… In fact watch Brazil… watch Ronaldinho. He’s widely regarded as the best player in the world. Other teams try to knock him out of the game by doubling him or sticking him (hard tackle)… he keeps his feet all the time. Not only doesn’t he dive, but he doesn’t even try to get a foul… he just stays on his feet and wins the ball and plays the game.

    That’s how it’s done.

    And a note to bandwagoners: US soccer sucks. It’s getting better, but it sucks now. It’s not fun to watch. Watch some of the other games and see how soccer is really played. You may find you become a real fan.

  10. Jeremy says:

    So Soccer boy, what do you think of Le Tour de France? (Another Fad Sport in my opinion)

  11. Bradley says:

    I’m not a fan of any sort of racing. It doesn’t seem to lend itself to be a spectator sport. I guess I just don’t get it.

    I like taht Lance sticks it to them every year… it’s a great story. But that’s about all the attention I pay it.

    Speaking of soccer though… I realized another way that soccer has it right today: NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB… they all have some singer/star come out and sing the national anthem. During the world cup, the anthems of both teams are played over the loudspeaker and the teams and fans are the one’s singing.

  12. [...] Take heed Cicso! First: Beware of the FIFA dangerous sicknesses Medical researches confirmed and are currently confirming and will confirm that most of the peoples overtaken, enthusiastic and addicts of the football are the first to be hit by the psychological and nervous sicknesses leading to angina pectois, strokes, diabetics, blood pressure and early senility At the time when movement of a human being constricts due to excessiveness of technology use; and accordingly becomes lazier, more exanimate and flabbier; and sport transforms, in turn, from an individual activity, like prayers where no proxy is allowed or a public activity practiced by the republic all (Jamahiriya Sport*) to an exploitation and monopoly activity for the predominating and rich elite; the same as it with FIFA today.. and thus, the public are to be only stuffed within the role of stupid spectator. [...]

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