Well, after a turn to Serious Town last week with two posts – 5 regrets of the dying and Fear – I don’t want this to end, a change of pace was definitely in need. And I’m not just talking about you the reader; I needed to chill out, too!
So, without further ado – Soccer – boring as hell or M.U.P.I.T.S (Most Underrated Pastime In The Southern hemisphere)?!
You see, I’ve wanted to address the allure of soccer for some time, but, just like a space shuttle launch, the timing needed to be juuuust right. A mere 37 days remain before I re-enter the sporting world and a huyuge question remains –
- Will I go back to soccer?
If you’ve stuck with the journey for a while, you will have read laments on missing football grand finals, incredible NBA Finals series, Super Bowls with my team, amazing cricket feats, even WrestleManias.
Yet early on, it was an innocuous soccer match in August that first made me question my ability to see the journey through to the end. Missing the thrills of an unprecedented 8-2 victory by United over Arsenal was rough, but obviously, not the end of it.
But since then, nothing.
As I noted in ‘U-ni-ted!’ – the second piece e-ver in this forum, being a soccer fan can be a pretty isolating existence in Australia. The game times – stupid o’clock in the middle of the night, the lack of friends who are into the sport and the absence of saturated media coverage meant that going without was pretty easy.
There’s only one mate who would send me news, so for all intents and purposes, I was in blissful ignorance.
It wasn’t until my wife’s alarm went off recently and a news report was noting Man U’s ascendancy to the top of the table that I had a clue that we were doing that well!
So … why would you go back?
You know it’s boring, right?!
Brian Phillips noted in his excellent Grantland piece that we soccer fans aren’t ignorant of the fact that, for the most part of the game, not a lot happens! The classic Simpsons episode was linked, which beautifully sums up the American/European attitude to the game –
Kent Brockman practically grinds his teeth with frustration: “Halfback passes to the center … back to the wing … back to the center. Center holds it. Holds it. [Huge sigh.] Holds it.”
One booth over, the Spanish commentator is going nuts: “Halfback passes to the center! Back to the wing! Back to the center! Center holds it! Holds it!! HOLDS IT!!!”
Here’s a friend who sums up some of the distaste to one aspect of the world game –
‘When it comes to issues like diving, like the wrestling, I am dumbfounded that such fraudulent behaviour is so easily accepted by so many. Not just by the fans, but the officials both on and off the field. Regardless of the game, its history or culture, such deceit simply to gain advantage is disgraceful. As for the game itself, when played slowly it can be the most mind numbingly boring spectacle ever.’
Or, if you’d prefer a venomous anit-soccer diatribe, then perhaps you’ll enjoy this gem –
‘So I’ve heard Soccer described as “the beautiful game”, and just like a flower it may be beautiful at first glance with it’s lovely uniforms and beautifully manicured pitches, but you won’t catch me walking around the garden and staring at flowers for 90 minutes! I once heard the Australian A-League advertise itself with the phrase of “90 minutes, 90 emotions”. Yes! Boredom! Frustration! Anger! Disappointment! Despair! Did I say boredom!?
Seriously, where is the excitement in watching a game (often in the middle of the morning for EPL fans) where you might see 3-4 highlights in 90 mins. Spare me.
What’s the point of watching a league (the English Premier League) where only 4-5 teams can win the title and the rest are guaranteed losers, where there are no finals or cut throat games? It isn’t a competition, it’s a monopoly game where unless you are Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, or Liverpool, you ain’t’ building no houses or hotels.
But hang on, they’ve got another 5 meaningless cups, where, if you’re very very lucky, you might sneak through and pinch one. The FA Cup, The Carling Cup, The Coffee Cup, you never know your luck in this big game.
Soccer, although a worldwide game, is in most cases, boring, highly manipulated by money and officials, and played by the softest and most over-entitled bunch of flowers in professional sports (insert footage of copious amounts of diving, medical teams, and miraculous recoveries here).
If you consider staring at a lovely garden for 90 minutes then this is the one for you. If you want cut-throat competition where anything can happen and where the players are inspiring and heroic in their deeds, look elsewhere.
The wait is worth it
Social experiment – if I asked a friend for the highlights of an AFL or an NBA game they had recently watched, I would think I would get 5 or so moments off the top of their heads. Obviously, there’s more than that in the game itself – you get 80 scored baskets in the NBA or 25-40 goals in the AFL, but the events memorable or special enough to actually stand out from the thousands of hours of previous viewing experience, I’d say 5 moments … tops.
It’s no different to soccer.
The beauty of a soccer goal is that it never comes easy. The odds against you are beyond belief to fit that round ball around 11 opponents into a goal area 8 feet by 24 feet. I looked this up – thank you, Google…
So it takes an incredible display of individual skill – insert any Messi clip here, or team synergy – witness Argentina at the 2006 World Cup score the best ‘team goal’ I’ve ever seen – to beat those odds and somehow conjure a scoring opportunity, let alone beat a 6’6” keeper with arms the length of a train station and actually score.
So when it happens, you do remember it!
So is the wait worth it? For many … yes. Yes it is.
For Australian and American sports fans born and bred on fast pace, big moments and explosive action – think AFL and NFL football – the pace, flow and momentum within soccer games is beyond their patience.
Yet this seems hypocritical for two cultures that count baseball and cricket among their favourite pastimes!
There are still 3 ma-jor factors we haven’t looked at yet –
- The teams,
- The rivalries, and
- The players – the out-and-out stars and the divisive cancers that can characterise a team.
Certain soccer rivalries make Carlton-Collingwood look like lifetime friendships, while some of the egotistical stars make F1 drivers appear humble and well-balanced in comparison.
But that’s for Part 2 – tune in this Thursday as a number of different fans have their say!