I really wish I could care about the World Cup.
The sense is that Americans don’t care about soccer because
we’re jingoes, we’re not as good at it as other countries, we’re self-absorbed
or we’re just assholes. While I wouldn’t argue with most of those things, none
of that has anything to do with why I can’t deal with soccer.
As a kid, I was caught up in that “hey everyone’s going to
learn soccer” movement that captured the country in the early 1980s. We were
also caught up in that whole “we’ll be converting to the metric system, so
learn it” thing. I still buy my gas by the gallon and measure my kid’s height
by the inch, so we know how well that worked out.
I played for eight years, the limit of time allowed before I
went off to high school and you had to be good to play. I think I scored two
goals in my whole life, but I got to spend Saturdays with my friends. It wasn’t
bad, but it wasn’t a life calling.
When the Midget got old enough to participate in some YMCA
programs, she asked to be in soccer. If you haven’t seen 4 and 5-year-olds play
soccer, you’re really missing something. Between the number of kids running out
of their shoes and the goalie who keeps wandering off, it’s something to
In mid-season, the coordinator was dividing the kids into teams
and needed someone to coach one of the teams. The Missus, who works at the Y,
volunteered me. I agreed but pleaded ignorance.
“What should I do?” I asked the coordinator.
“It’s easy,” she explained. “Just tell them they’re doing a
great job, remind them not to use their hands and watch for kids who need potty
I wonder if Bob Bradley has to be on potty watch…
It was great watching the kids play. Imagine 11 kids on a
side, with two goalies sitting around while a pack of 20 kids chases a ball in
every direction. By the second stoppage of play, the kids all want to go home
or eat dinner. Eventually, someone scores a goal by accident, they all run a
lap around the arena and everyone gets a sticker.
It’s great fun, but it doesn’t make me want to watch the
The common arguments issued by most soccer purists regarding
my disdain don’t really apply.
“You’re a U.S.-centric sports snob. Football, baseball and
Not true. Sure, I’ll catch the big three, but I’m also fine
flipping through the channels and catching a sports event in which I’ve got no
real betting interest and still get involved. I caught the end of the Stanley
Cup, even though I didn’t care who won. I’ve watched track and field on the Big
10 Network and cheered for some kid I just saw for the first time six seconds
ago. Hell, I even caught the Lumberjack Olympics a couple years ago and was
screaming my head off for a guy from Ripon, Wisconsin who was whipping a
two-handed saw through a log.
“If someone isn’t scoring every six seconds, you’re too
ADD-addled to care.”
Again, not true. Baseball is one of my favorite sports and
it can be as slow as molasses in January. Hockey’s a great sport (thanks,
Canada!) and the games could end in scoreless ties when I started watching. The
speed of the game isn’t a deterrent for me. While baseball is great for me,
soccer is as boring as owl shit.
“You don’t understand the game.”
So not true. I played it and I had friends who played all
the way up the ladder. I know enough of the rules to follow along. I know how
it works, the strategy and more. I just don’t give a shit.
This has caused more than a bit of consternation around me.
One of my favorite colleagues is a guy who shows up for faculty meetings
wearing soccer jerseys. He’s been trying to get me jacked up about this, but it’s
not happening for me. I feel like a sex partner who is politely laying there
because my significant other really wanted it that night and I couldn’t care
enough to get involved or to say no. Thus while everyone else is getting their
soccer rocks off, I’m doing the “Mmm hmm. That was nice.”
To be fair, it’s only a couple weeks. Watching ESPN scramble
for people with English accents to fill their coverage teams is really great.
Every “round table” discussion starts with explaining who the hell the guy is
because 95 percent of the viewing audience never heard of him. It’s also great
when some underdog story emerges and people start talking about an obscure
striker from Botswana like he’s a family member.
Still, I’m not interested and not much can be done to make
me care. It’s like why some people don’t like peaches or can’t stand the color
It is what it is. Kick on without me.