Another wasted column on the football vs. fútbol debate
When the U.S. got knocked out of soccer’s World Cup in Germany, it was like a dagger in my heart. Not only did Uncle Sam suffer the embarrassment of a first-round routing (with a 3-0 loss to Czech Republic, then a 1-1 tie with Italy, and finally a 2-1 loss to Ghana), but millions of Americans are now deprived for four more years the experience of trying to learn why we should like soccer. Not even the Olympics waits four years anymore.
I say this with sarcasm, of course. As a sometimes sports fan (I can’t sit long enough to watch a whole game … of anything), my credibility in sports criticism is like Barry Bonds lecturing about the dangers of steroids, but every four years soccer begs us to pay attention, and every four years we respond by looking the other way. Over the decades, it has started to get annoying. Soccer has become the drunk guy at the bar hitting on every woman who walks by – soccer just can’t take a hint.
This issue has created some real strain between my colleague Jeremy Evans and myself. Jeremy defends the sport and backs it up by spending the best days of his Lake Tahoe summer sitting in front of a television for three-hour periods, watching teams like Ivory Coast and Sweden kick a ball long distances and fake ankle injuries. I just can’t get on board with that.
He could not be reached Friday because he had decided to wait until 2 p.m. to watch the replay of Argentina and Germany. He turned off his phone and wouldn’t even leave the house for fear of overhearing the score. As if anybody else was watching.
Of course Jeremy’s sports resume is better than mine. He played Division 1 soccer at Marquette University, one of the better programs in the country, while I was playing Division 1 microbrew at the University of Oregon. He’s also a sportswriter and plays fantasy football. But despite his credentials, Jeremy is on the wrong side of this issue, and here’s why:
— Soccer can only be played outdoors because the field is too long.
Winter soccer? Forget it. Pick-up soccer? Forget it. Inner-city soccer? … Maybe.
— Soccer is joined only by Hacky-Sack and jogging as sports that don’t use the advantage of opposable thumbs bestowed on humanity by the process of evolution (or creationism, depending on whom you believe). Ironically, Hacky-Sack is the official sport of the University of Oregon.
— The French love soccer, and are better at it than us.
Any sport where the French are better has to be fundamentally flawed.
— Soccer is the world’s game.
Football is America’s game. Soccer is kind of like the metric system – even if it’s better, we still don’t like it.
n In the best-case scenario, the total scoring in a 90-minute game can be counted on one hand. In the worst-case, it can be counted with a fist.
Jeremy can watch re-runs of “The View” as far as I’m concerned, but it is a difficult experience sharing office space with a soccer fan. It’s kind of like living with a heroin addict. You want to give the addict counsel, but until the drug runs its course, the addict cannot be helped. Soccer has that effect on some Americans, Jeremy included.
There are many more reasons not to like soccer, but some may consider writing about it a waste of column space. As for me, I’ve got better things to do, like watching the Tour de France every day for a month and waiting for next year’s America’s Cup of sailing. Cycling and sailing, those are real sports. I doubt Jeremy would agree.
– Jim Scripps, managing editor of the Tribune, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.