Jun 25, 2014

Why Soccer Is Stupid...

...and a Little of Why It Isn't

commentary by killre

[Editor's note: in the interest of both length and focus, I have redacted several paragraphs relating U.S. midfielder Graham Zusi to baseball player Fred Merkle, with explanation of who Fred Merkle was.  Don't say you're not loved.]

Every few years, for just a few weeks, ninety-odd percent of American sports fans are rudely reminded that the rest of the world gets all geeked for a sport they call futbol.  Please note I simply stated they call it futbol (which of course is pronounced "football" and is sometimes even spelled that way, albeit by a minority).  Had I wanted to be snarky, I'd have said something like, "...sport they insist on calling football, even though it isn't."  I didn't do that because, let's face it, calling the game futbol (or football; reader's choice) is the one thing about soccer that actually makes sense.

So, every few years, for just a few weeks, ninety-odd percent of us roll our eyes and resolve to silently endure the sudden soccer craze that ESPN so desperately wants to incite.  Then, almost like clockwork, Team USA (or whatever they're called) pulls an upset victory over some country you haven't heard of since junior high geography class and suddenly we're careful to say nil instead of nothing and match instead of game and remind ourselves that pitch and header have meanings outside of baseball, sales meetings, and slapstick-flavored mishaps.

Then, almost like someone planned it, the next game match falls on a Sunday.

Then, almost like someone planned it, Team USA (or whatever they're called) loses in a way that makes ninety-odd percent of us wonder why soccer is so... so... oh, so stupid.

I don't know about the other members of the ninety-odd percent, but I for one am tired of being told by Soccer Fan that the reason I can't appreciate the sport is that I am, in some unspecified way, uncultured.  It simply isn't true.  Uncultured I may be, in some respects, but that isn't why I hold soccer in the same regard as an unattractive sex partner the morning after they've gotten me drunk and seduced me.  (Here's hoping I didn't slip one past that goalie.)  Being uncultured is not the cause of my ambivalence.  The sport is far too primitive for that argument.

For make no mistake: soccer is, in some ways, a very primitive game.  (Mind you, I started composing this argument, in my head at least, prior to Tuesday's biting incident.)  That is both its beauty and its bane.  Its very template is as basic as it gets: a rectangular playing field with a goal at either end.  While that is a common arrangement, virtually every other pastime built on a similar frame --American football, Australian football, rugby, ice hockey, field hockey, roller hockey, air hockey, lacrosse, foosball, probably many others, and even basketball-- require more equipment and greater dexterity.  The only two things needed for a futbol game are an open, preferably sizeable space, and something to kick around.  I'm not saying there is no dexterity in soccer, just that it isn't required from the very outset at the same level as other sports.

The second, more abstract reason why soccer is a primitive game conceals itself in the tall grass of the very first rule virtually everyone learns: NO HANDS.  This rule defies evolution.  Homo sapiens clawed their way to the top of the food chain by developing bipedal locomotion, freeing their forelimbs --their arms and hands-- for other, more complicated, and ultimately more important tasks.  Futbol's no hands rule strips its players of a small portion of their humanity by banning the species' single greatest physical attribute.  In doing so, soccer marks its territory in the pantheon of pastimes not far from riding a unicycle and bobbing for apples.

Moreover, futbol too often gives off the vibe of a game that was invented yesterday by a ten-year-old with an underdeveloped sense of fair play and with whom you must now spend time.  By "underdeveloped sense of fair play," of course, I mean he changes the rules depending on whether he's winning or losing...

     So no-one can use their hands?  You realize
     that defies evolution, don't you?

     Never mind.  So no-one can use their hands?
     "Right.  Except the goalie.  He can use his hands."

     That's too bad.  If the goalie had to follow the same rule
     as everyone else, somebody might actually score.  So the
     goalie can use his hands, but no-one else?
     "Well, if the ball goes out of bounds along the sideline,
     then someone can use their hands to throw it back in."

     So most of the players, most of the time, can't use their hands.
     "Yeah.  Probably.  We'll see."

Of course, the greater problem with futbol is the clock, the clock, the stupid [expletive] clock!  For starters, it ticks forward instead of back, which is a minor pain in the posterior portion of a person who, upon wondering how much time is remaining, wants to be answered with, you know, an answer, and not a third-grade math problem... but put that aside.  A more pressing issue with the clock is, aside from halftime or intermission or respite or whatever they haughtily call it, the [expletive] thing doesn't stop.  Ever.  Not for substitutions; not for out-of-bounds; not for goal celebrations; not even for injuries.  "Oh, my goodness, his shin bone is sticking out the back of his leg... they're going to have to bring the stretcher all the way over from the other side of the pitch... how many minutes do you think this will take, Bartleby?"  Tough to say, Percival, but I'm sure the officials will pick a number at random and then not tell us what it is...

Which leads us to soccer's single most egregious stupidity: the closely guarded state secret that is additional time.  A weird enough concept to begin with (again, why not simply stop and restart the game match clock in conjunction with the on-field action?), there is something decidedly suspicious and undemocratic about the way FIFA refuses to tell the People precisely when the game will end.  I can't help being reminded of our entitled ten-year-old, changing the rules on the fly to suit his wants...

     So how long is the game?
     "We call it a match."

     Okay.  How long is the match?
     "Ninety minutes."

     (Ninety minutes pass.)

     Well, that's ninety minutes.  I guess we win.
     "No.  I'm adding four minutes of extra time."

     "Goal celebration, bathroom breaks, and that time the
     ball got kicked to the other side of the street and you
     had to wait for two cars to go by before you could bring
     it back."

     Why didn't you just stop the clock for that stuff?

     Never mind.  You figure that all took four minutes?
     "Did I say four?  I meant five."

     (Five minutes pass.)

     That's five minutes.  Game's over, right?
     "A minimum of five minutes.  It might be closer to six.
     Oh wait, we just scored.  Now the match is over."

     Anybody ever tell you what this gesture means, kid?
     "I'm number one?"

     Something like that.

P.S.... Bud "It Reminded Me Of The Time
          Harvard Beat Yale 29-29" Selig must go.

P.P.S.... Bud "No, I'm Number One!" Selig must go.

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