Friday, April 3, 2009

Soccer: 60 Fantastic Seconds, 89 Boring Minutes, 1 Billion Annoying Fans

There are a lot of things about soccer that are annoying. I can get over the lack of scoring, after all, I am a baseball and hockey fan and the scoring is similar. That isn't the problem. Nor is it that I don't understand the finer points of the game. I understand it quite well, but that does lead to problem #1 for me and soccer: that because I am not obsessed with it, I therefore am too brutish and ignorant to understand it. Basically, it is soccer pundits (so to speak) that make me want to hate the game.

There is such a thing as a boring soccer game. There is such a thing as an exciting one. And when soccer people finally come to grips with the fact that 90% of their games are boring, but the other 10% is generally spectacular, the world will be a better place.

USA Soccer released a video to the web that highlights the Team USA shutout of Trinidad & Tobago from Thursday. It is over seven minutes long. There were three goals scored. Here is a link to the video, but you don't need to watch it. Here's the rundown of "highlight" plays: Game starts, we run down and lose the ball. We miss a shot. We score (+two replays). We miss. We miss (+replay). They miss. Their goalie catches a ball kicked from midfield with only one player within 20 yards (+replay). We get an easy save, play extends to when one of our guys gets fouled at midfield. We miss a wide open goal (+replay). We hit a great header that slams into their goalie's chest, lucky save (+replay). We miss (+replay). They have a shot saved and a rebound saved. We score (great play +two replays). We score (slop goal, probably illegal because we looked offsides, then lazy defense +four replays). The End.

So the highlight reel featured three goals, four shots saved and six shots missed. For seven minutes! This should have been one minute long, but soccer people think that the three possession changes, six bad passes, three completed passes and 600 yards of running preceding a goal is crucial to understanding that a dude passed it with his head and then another dude kicked it in because the goalie was out of position.

But at least it didn't show any of the other most annoying thing about soccer: constant diving, constant whining and obnoxious, showy and generally awkward celebrations (like the choo-choo train above). If you think the NFL is too hard on celebrations, watch soccer and realize that the NFL is only doing it for our own good. If you think Vlade Divac or Sasha Vujacic are annoying in basketball, just realize that they grew up in soccer-countries and have turned down the histrionics as basketball players.

But the good news is that Team USA rolled and Jozy Altidore (the latest young American who is supposedly good enough to play for another country) had a hat trick. And I think we qualified for the World Cup, so we all get to hear how this is the greatest sporting event in the world and we should care because everyone else in the world does. But really, do I want to pattern myself after the interests of European people? Do I want to wear nothing but tight, horizontally striped shirts, capri pants and something tied around my neck? Do I want a faux-hawk? Do I want to wear funny little athletic-ish shoes. I think not, my friends. I think not.

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