The World Cup is upon us again. Every four years, Americans pretend to like soccer so that they can watch ESPN and chant USA! USA! USA! It’s similar to the idea that we should all care about speed skating, curling, bobsledding, etc. when these sports are all packaged together on NBC as part of the Olympics. The one advantage the world cup has is it’s an excuse for young people and middle aged men to get drunk during the day at local bars. Otherwise, I find it even less appealing than that silly spectacle we were subjected to in Russia several months ago.
Let me count the ways…
1. FIFA is notoriously corrupt. The (obviously corrupt) State known as Brazil, stole $14 billion (that it acknowledges) from its citizens to build a bunch of shiny new soccer stadiums while the majority of its people live in poverty. FIFA stands to make a $2 billion profit. This is not something to celebrate.
2. You’re supposed to root for your country. I used to get really into this idea of cheering on National teams in international competitions. I loved to watch USA basketball and hockey in the Olympics much more than I was interested in the NBA or NHL. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just fucking dumb. It seems more and more like collectivist nonsense. Some guy grows up thousands of miles away from me in another state, possibly speaks a different language, worships a different God, loves the President I hate, but we’re both inside some invisible lines that separate us from Mexicans and Canadians so we’re somehow on the same side in the Olympics and World Cup. The USA is too big and too diverse for this to work, I’m sorry. It’s also worth mentioning that only 32 countries are represented, almost half from Europe, so most of the world has no one to root for anyway. At least most countries are “represented” in the Olympics to one degree or another.
3. We have to hear a bunch of lectures about how Football (soccer to us stupid Americans) is the most popular sport in the world and therefore the best sport and we need to start liking it if we want other countries to like us. This calls for a sub-list to discuss further:
- Just because it’s popular in other countries doesn’t mean I, or the majority of Americans should like it. In the previous century much of the world was enthralled with fascism or communism at some point, but those weren’t really good ideas.
- Why is it important for some people to have some sort of Universal sports culture that encompasses the whole globe anyway? Like FIFA in Europe, MLB and the NFL are always trying to make their sports more popular in other countries, but guess what, I am going to like baseball whether people in Australia like it or not.
- While soccer does certainly seem to be the most overall popular sport in the world, the whole thing’s still wildly exaggerated. We already know it’s not all that popular in the USA or Canada. But even in Russia, it’s debatable whether it’s more popular than hockey, and basketball is running a very close second in China now. Plus I’m sure there are hundreds of millions of people even in Europe or South America who don’t give a shit anyway, just like there are millions of people in the USA who couldn’t tell you who won the Super Bowl last year.
4. Flopping. This has started to take hold in basketball as well in recent years, but these soccer players take it to new lows. Why do we need all the theatrics? You’re trying to draw a foul rather than just play the game like a good sport. I get it. That’s part of the strategy, but a game that involves grown men fake crying is stupid.
5. Penalty kicks. These are bad for 2 reasons. First off, there’s a good chance a game can end with a score of 1-0 with the lone goal scored on a penalty kick. So some guy trips, cries like a little bitch, then gets a free kick right at the goal and that decides it. That just doesn’t seem right. The second reason is if the game ends in a tie (often 0-0), the teams will take turns shooting at the goal with only the goalie (keeper in the rest of the world) having a chance to stop it. Well guess what? The goal is way too big for him to stop it. So he just jumps in 1 direction hoping that happens to be the exact direction the opponent kicks it. The first goalie to guess right and actually manages to block a kick usually ends up winning. This has nothing to do with the rest of the game! It’s more or less just dumb luck, but after 2 plus hours of running up an down the field, passing, dribbling, etc. this stupid rule decides things. (Note this only applies to the world cup I’m told).
6. Stoppage time. Why can’t they just count down from 45 minutes for each half and stop the clock when play stops like they do in every other sport? Why do they count up and then leave it to the commentators to guess how much time is left after they reach the 90 minute mark? I just don’t understand it.
7. Ties. More than half of soccer games end in ties. The first round of the World Cup is like this as well. Ties suck. Just play sudden death overtime and put an end to this nonsense.
8. Low Scoring. I think the field might be too big and the ball might be too difficult to control. As a result, it’s just too easy to defend and break up scoring chances. To me that’s an inherent flaw with the sport. It would take some major structural changes to fix.
9. The first round of the world cup is just dumb. It’s not about winning the games. It’s about not losing too many and not giving up too many goals. The USA went 1-1-1 and moved on to the second round while Portugal who was also 1-1-1 went home. The USA apparently had a better goal differential. The USA gave up 5 goals and scored 4. Portugal also scored 4, but gave up 6. It just seems kind of arbitrary to me. I almost would have preferred to have neither of them advance. They both kind of sucked. It goes back to the whole deal where half the games end in ties. If there were less ties, you’d probably have to go to these stupid tiebreakers less often. It also bugged me that we were told the USA vs. Germany game was the most important game in the history of USA soccer. (We’re now being told the same thing about the Belgium game tomorrow). But the USA lost and still advanced. That kind of crap just doesn’t do it for me as a sports fan.
10. Violence and Rioting. A significant portion of soccer fans in many countries are psychotic thugs. Spectators of American sports like football (American style) are known to engage in occasional violent and immature behavior. But I think anyone would agree we have a long way to go before we devolve into what South American and European fans have been putting up with for decades.
Well anyway, in a couple weeks I can go back to pretending soccer doesn’t exist outside of a game little boys and girls play into their early teens before they move onto better sports or just realize they’re not athletes.