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The World Cup? Meh.

June 22, 2010

We are now underway with the 2010 World Cup!  Soccer’s (or football’s if you want to get all worldly about it) premier showcase!  The event that unites the entire world in a celebration of sport!

I don’t get it.

I mean, sure I want the United States to win the World Cup.  Why wouldn’t I?  I’m an American, and if the U.S. wins, that makes our country – and by extension, me – better than other countries.  But to me, my desire to see them win is about the same as my desire to see the U.S. curling team win the gold in the Olympics.  It would be nice, but win or lose, I’m pretty much going to forget about it immediately afterwards.

Like many of my generation, I grew up playing soccer.  I started off early, getting enrolled in a pee-wee soccer league at the age of five.  I continued to play throughout my childhood, all the way up until high school.  By that time I had become a pretty good defender for my league team.  Actually, I was a somewhat dirty player.  I would slide tackle all over the place, and often take out people’s legs.  Opponents didn’t like that too much, and I actually got punched in the back in a game.

Despite my success, I never went out for the high school team.  I don’t recall why exactly.  I think I didn’t want to deal with all the running.  My coach told me I should have at least tried out.  It remains a regret in my life.

Although I had played soccer as a youth, I never got the urge to follow the sport professionally.  One problem was that soccer games weren’t readily available for me to watch.  I didn’t have cable TV until I was in the 7th grade, and the broadcast networks certainly weren’t showing any games.  Even if I could have seen games, I’m not sure they would have appealed to me anyway.  For me to want to watch a sport, it needs to either be entertaining or I need to have a rooting interest. 

I’m sure some people will argue that soccer is the most entertaining game ever invented, but to me, it’s kind of boring.  You can claim that watching masterful dribbling and expert passing is more exciting than seeing a bunch of goals being scored.  But some people would also argue that the And1 basketball tour is more exciting than watching an actual basketball game.

For those unfamiliar with the And1 tour, here’s a clip:

Since the sport in general doesn’t excite me, I would need to have a rooting interest to watch it regularly.  But what team would I root for?  Maybe if Philadelphia had a Major League Soccer team when I was younger, I would have gotten behind them.  But they did not, so I never felt any urge to follow the sport.  And since I don’t follow the sport on a regular basis, should I really care about the World Cup?

Despite what ESPN would have me believe, I think the answer is no.

Aside from the above mentioned issues, here are some of my biggest quibbles with the sport of soccer:

Tie games

That USA vs. England game was hyped up so much, and then it ended in a tie.  Really?  You’ve got this monumentally huge game and you don’t even get a winner out of it?  What the hell is that all about? 

I know that you get a certain number of points for a win, and a certain number for a tie, and your point total determines who advances.  But why can’t they adopt a system similar to the NHL? 

A few years ago, the NHL (finally) figured out that ties – even in the regular season – sucked.  So they started doing shootouts at the end of overtime.  They awarded two points to the winning team, and one point to the losing team.  It leads to some exciting finishes. 

I know that some soccer games do indeed end with a shootout.  So why not adopt a similar strategy for every game?

Landon Donovan

Landon Donovan annoys the crap out of me.  He has been touted for years as being the best American player.  And yet, with him leading the way, American teams always seem to disappoint in international competitions.

A few years ago, he was unhappy and struggling playing in a European league, so he came to MLS and became the league’s showcase star.  This is probably the equivalent of Joakim Noah going to a French basketball league and becoming their biggest star.  The competition levels just aren’t the same.

Plus, when David Beckham came to MLS and joined his team, he got all whiny about it, complaining that Beckham got all the money and attention, but wasn’t as good a player.  Continuing with the above scenario, it would be as if Shaquille O’Neal went to Noah’s French team and Noah got jealous of all the attention Shaq received.

Sorry, Landon, but Beckham is an international star.  Maybe if you were more of an appeal, MLS wouldn’t have had to bring him in to raise the league’s profile.

Maybe I just don’t like him because of his name.  Parents, please don’t give your children names like Landon.  It doesn’t do them any favors.

People Who Cheer for Other Countries

If you’re originally from a different country, or even one generation removed, I can understand cheering for your home nation.  But if your family has been in America for a couple of generations, then your #1 team should be the good old USA.

I get that people of Irish or Italian descent like to cheer for those countries, even if they have never visited them and couldn’t even locate them on a map.  So if you want to keep them as a secondary focus, I suppose I’m cool with that.

But to cheer for them over your home country is wrong.  If America is playing them, you should be rocking the red, white, and blue.  After all, if the two countries went to war, which side would you be on? 

And don’t pull this “I cheer for them because America isn’t good at soccer” crap either.  That’s like the kids who grow up in Washington but say the Cowboys are their favorite football team because “the Redskins aren’t any good.”   Sorry, but geography should be the primary decider of what team you cheer for.  It may seem unfair, but that’s how it goes.

Anyway, I guess the U.S. team has to beat Algeria in order to advance into the next round of the World Cup.  I suppose I’ll be pulling for them, and I might even smile a bit if they do win.  But will I really care?  Nope.

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