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Soccer – boring as hell or M.U.P.I.T.S? (Part 1!)

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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!!!”

Drogba. Diver. And a tool...

Frauds!

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.  

Ok, so they may have a point on the diving...

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.

Messi. Genius. (60 goals in a season. How is that even possible!?)

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!

Pot. Kettle. Black.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

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!

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About petek8

Pete Evans has just finished going 12 months without watching any sport. The journey stemmed from a sense that the balance was out-of-whack with my time and my priorities. Everything seemed to revolve around creating enough time and space to fit in the last game, games, recap shows or space to surf the net for the latest numbers and analysis. The cycle never ends - one season leads into another, seasons overlap if you follow various sports and the media's insatiable appetite for a new 'story' means that even the greatest of achievements aren't heralded for more than 3 days. So I stepped away from the machine for awhile and intentionally engaging with the journey by writing about it.

16 responses »

  1. jumpingpolarbear

    Soccer, or Football as it should be calld 😉 is the greatest sport in the world!

    Reply
  2. Lets not forget that due to such low scores, the effect of cheating takes on a larger dimension……hence why its such damn common.

    Reply
    • Watch any AFL Grand Final between 2000 and 2006 and then watch one of the past 3 years and see the amazing phenomenon that is blokes throwing themselves forward whenever they are tackled. It was a non-issue 10 years ago – only a couple of years ago it cost Geelong a spot in the Grand Final – ie, the Mooney free kick against your Saints in the Qualifying Final in 2010.

      But yes, your point holds merit – it’s even stronger when a good dive/fake can get an opponent sent of and give you an 11-10 advantage…

      Reply
  3. It’s not the score that makes soccer far less interesting than other sports. It’s the way the sport is set up to let a small number of teams dominate.

    AFL premiers since 1995: Carlton, North Melbourne, Adelaide, Essendon, Brisbane, Port Adelaide, Sydney, West Coast, Geelong, Hawthorn and Collingwood. (11 clubs)

    NBA champs since 1995: Houston, Seattle, LA Lakers, San Antonio, Detroit, Miami, Dallas (7)

    NFL champs since 1995: San Fran, Dallas, Green Bay, Denver, St Louis, Baltimore, New England, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, New York, New Orleans (12)

    NHL champs since 1995: New Jersey, Colorado, Detroit, Dallas, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Anaheim, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Boston. (10)

    Men’s Wimbleton winners since 1995: Sampras, Krajicek, Ivanisevic, Hewitt, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic. (7)

    EPL champs since 1995: Man U, Arsenal and Chelsea (3)

    Spanish soccer champs since 1995: Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Deportivo La Coruña, Valencia (5)

    Why tune in when you know that the same teams are going to win all the time?

    Reply
    • This is FAR too much research and in-depth analysis for the quality of this blog! I am humbled… 🙂

      I guess it’s the passion for the competition that continues to see leagues like the EPL doing so well, especially with juggernauts like Man U and Chelsea at the helm…

      Haven’t we seen John Cena in the main event in the last 75 out of the last 80 PPVs?!

      Am interested in your thoughts on Ben’s Champions League reply…

      Reply
  4. Good point Craig. Although I would have to say that a major exception is the UEFA Champions League, in which no team has won back-to-back titles since its new format took shape in 1992. In my opinion, that competition is the absolute pinnacle of professional sport. The 32 best teams from all pockets of Europe, playing at 8:45pm on Tuesday and Wednesday nights across 5 months. It’s the perfect spectacle.

    I agree that the EPL is slightly lopsided and the Spanish League even more so, however the Champions League is the ultimate leveler. Giant clubs facing off regularly in games where the stakes are truly high (take note cricket).

    Reply
    • The Champions League IS gold, Although my recent two forays into following it have ended in disappointment by getting owned by Barca in the finals, followed by getting knocked out in the first round this year – nice of United to mail it in when I can’t watch!

      So did my Lakers, actually… hmmmm, bring on May 24!

      Reply
  5. I’m not well versed enough in all of soccer to know the full extent of the sport across the world. But I know that pitting the best of the best against each other is a great concept. The only issue with so many competitions going on at the same time is that teams have no choice other than to rest players from one comp so they’re primed for another. But at least no-one knows who is going to win from the very start. As for Cena, that’s domination over a year or two. Not 15 years! Hang on, that was Hulk Hogan.

    Reply
    • 5-6 years for Hogan; let’s not get carried away! The Ultimate Warrior was around by WM6 and from there, it was a toss up til Bret at WM10. The fact that these awesome soccer teams have no choice at times but to rest their players adds a great facet to them – they suddenly become vulnerable against teams they otherwise wouldn’t worry too much about.

      Reply
      • I actually don’t necessarily agree that soccer teams do rest their players. I watched 4 Read Madrid games in an eight day period in January when they were furthering their lead in the league, fighting for the domestic cup and playing in the CL group stage. The starting 11 remained unchanged. I can’t remember a Barca game in 3 years where Messi has not started in. Anyways, the only other point I wanted to add was the brilliance of a multi-tiered competition whereby the lower teams can be relegated. Ask any soccer fan and they will tell you that in the closing stages of a season, the most gripping games are not fought amongst the top teams, but rather those battling to avoid relegation.

      • Yep, great point about the relegation games – for pure drama and genuine fear, there’s almost no peer… And the ex-act opposite of what 8 or so teams are apparently going through right now in the NBA.

  6. What i don’t get is the people who trudge off in the freezing cold to watch their team every week when they are no chance of winning either now, or in the future. They are not building success or developing anything successful. Furthermore, If they draft or sign a young player and coach him into a star he will inevitably be bought by either one of the big 4-5 clubs or get signed overseas. I guess the handful of wins they get every year is enough for them.

    Imagine if the AFL cold only be won by Gold Coast or GWS ? Hang on a minute…sorry just flashed forward to 2017 !

    Reply
    • How can you define loyalty?! It just exists, often without rhyme or reason. How many of us actually remember choosing our footy team!? But the lower ranked teams do have a shot at success, ie Tottenham, and their success does feed into more $$, especially the deeper they go into the Champions League. One can build into the other so they’re not completely without hope.

      As for 2017, yes – very scary. I remember eons ago Eddie Mcguire forecasting an all-interstate grand final and thinking, ‘As if’! It was upon us before we knew it…

      Reply
  7. Craig, great list of winning teams, but please amend to include the Chicago Bulls (96-7-98). Michael Jordan reads this blog, and he aint ‘ happy you dissed him. You mihgt want toinclude the Baaawston Celtics (2008), Evans probably upset you missed that one!

    Reply
    • Yes Craig, the Bulls omission is like leaving the Bombers of 2000 off Any list! Matt – you didn’t pick up on the Seattle inclusion – or am I not remembering the ’96 series correctly Luc Longley domi-nating Game 3 to pretty much seal the deal!?

      As for not putting the Celtics in, no problem with that – none at all…

      Reply

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