Friday, June 30, 2006

The Planet's Dullest Major Sport, Again

Another good anti-soccer column.


Even though things had not gone the Americans’ way, I regretted missing those two games. I felt vaguely guilty, in fact, the way Americans are supposed to feel when it is pointed out to them that the rest of the world is in love with soccer and that they are a bunch of parochial, provincial philistines for not getting on board. Flat-earthers (the Friedman kind) tend to despise American football — too violent, militaristic, macho, etc. — and find something sublime in the international version. It is the aesthetically — even morally — superior team sport, and the average American sports fan’s indifference to soccer and the World Cup is just further proof of how unenlightened and boorish he is.

After all, Henry Kissinger is a soccer fan, and that ought to prove something.

Actually, to my thinking, it strengthens the case against soccer. Kissinger, remember, was also a fan of dĂ©tente with the Soviets, which was the geopolitical equivalent of soccer, with lots of 1-1 games where you had to count on your enemy to score your goals. (The Soviets kicked the winner, for us, in Afghanistan.) Fans of American football prefer the American football approach to foreign policy. You know — long bombs, blitzes, sacks, and the rest of the NFL arsenal, with the result being something like a 51-0 annihilation of the guys in the wrong colored jerseys.

With cheerleaders, of course.

Something came up, again, so I missed the American team’s loss to Ghana. Our boys did score a goal, I learned from the highlights. Or, perhaps, that should be highlight, singular. One goal in three games.

I am one of those baseball fans who likes low scoring pitchers’ duels, but one goal in three full games of soccer … watching that strikes me as something more akin to watching chess. The people who push soccer cite the sport’s non-stop action, and I’ll give them that. But there ought to be a point to all that action. Sports are often described in martial locutions, and the ones that come to mind for soccer are “stalemate” and “trench warfare.” Who wants to watch the Brits and the Germans go at it again, the same way they did outside of Ypres?

Speaking of which, for a sport that is supposed to inspire the universalist in one’s breast, soccer certainly seems to stir up the old, primitive, nationalist juices. As an American, I like for my rivalries to resemble a clan feud rather than a struggle between sovereign states. There is more humor and fellow feeling between the Hatfields and McCoys than the Germans and the Poles. So give me an Alabama/Auburn football game any time. After the game, the drunks are much nicer.

Fans at American sporting events will, from time to time, get out of hand in their enthusiasm. They will tear down goalposts after a big college game or burn up some cars in Detroit when the Pistons win an NBA championship. But these things seem trivial compared to the kind of riots and street thuggery that often follow when soccer emotions reach a boil. The cops have busted hundreds of rioters during the World Cup matches this time around, but so far nobody has been killed, which has been known to happen. And fans have not been the only victims. Back in 1994, playing against the Americans, a Colombian goaltender unwisely deflected the ball into his own net. (Shades of the Italians against the U.S. in 2006.) The Colombian team went on to lose, 2-1, and was eliminated from the tournament. A few days later, the goalie was shot, 12 times, as he left a nightclub. The shooter is reported to have shouted “goal,” each time he fired.

Scott Norwood’s last-second kick sailed wide-right against the Giants in the Buffalo Bill’s first of four Super Bowl losses. Yet Norwood is still with us and still appears in public. So much for the way American football provokes violence.

1 comment:

miriam said...

Soccer must be wildly exciting to fans who are used to cricket. What's that all about, anyway?