June 2, 2006

Like most Americans, my sporting attention span is made up of multiple levels. Of course there is College Football and College Basketball and College hockey which are the big three to me. Just below that is the NFL and MLB (if the Royals can get their act together.) After those five, there is a HUGE drop-off to such things as the NHL (wish I had a team to follow, let alone OLN), NBA, Tour De France, Spelling Bee etc.

The sport of soccer is absolutely nowhere on this list. (Hell, it might be below spelling bee as a sport I follow.) Aside from the occasional glance at the French League 1 (where my boy Thomas has his Paris Saint-Germain team that he lives and dies with), I don't find myself giving soccer a second though. High school and college soccer is even lower on the radar.

However, ever four years, something happens to me and my sporting landscape. Every time the World Cup hits my TV screen, I am absolutely mesmerized and cannot look away. Hell, even the World Cup QUALIFYING is interesting to me, because of the huge ramifications that exist at the end of the rainbow. (Even though it takes almost 3 years to qualify most groups.) While the tournament is on, I find myself glued and on edge..especially when the Screaming Eagles are on the field. (Best you don't know who that is). I remember during the 02 World Cup, actually VOLUNTEERING to feed our infant daughter in the middle of the night, just so I could watch the games from Korea. The South Korea vs. USA game got me so fired up, I nearly lost my mind. (South Korea fans are the world "football" equivalent of Husker fans. Decked out in red, deathly silent until their team scores)

Don't get me wrong....for the most part, soccer is boring, painfully slow and quite possibly the ONLY sport on earth where you actually look FORWARD to a commercial. The players (most with pony-tails) flop around on the ground as if they were shot with a bazooka, they cry to the refs, they piss and moan about every SINGLE call. It's a dreadfully BORING game (almost as boring as baseball), with boring players and boring rules. The entire sport oozes vanilla. (At least they aren't on OLN though. Scoreboard them.)

However, despite all this, the World Cup supersedes that. While in Europe, I asked my pal Thomas if the United States making the Quarterfinals (for the first time in like 60 years or something) pissed off his French countrymen. "Oh yes" he replied. "People around the world are united as one for their hatred of the US soccer team and the fact that they were so bad, despite coming from a strong country." I added, "So they don't like it when the US wins?" "No, it kills them. Worse than anything in the world".

That is why I think even the boredom of the sport itself is not enough to stop the World Cup from being interesting. NOWHERE, not even in war, is there an opportunity to piss off the rest of the world like there is during 28 days this summer. Angolans, Croatians, Russians, Indonesians, Iranians, Mexicans, English, German...you name it will ALL be throwing things against the wall if the US even has a good showing. This event means more to them than most of the everyday things in their lives. NOWHERE on earth is the event more lightly regarded than it is in the U.S. (page 7 material in both seasons, behind whatever the Yankees, Red Sox and Barry Bonds did last night). It's all so perfect, it's nearly surreal.

We're in a no-lose situation when it comes to this event. If we suck...no matter...we're supposed to suck. Best yet, nobody even CARES that we suck. (Ok, maybe Matty, but that's about it). If we win, we spin the world into a state of rage that makes the mess in Iraq look like a trip to Adventureland. The game itself may be as boring as watching paint dry....but rest assure that the events and attitudes around it are stronger than anything on earth. If anything THAT is what draws me to the event.

You think it sucks? That's cool. Go watch your metal-bat circle jerk later on this month, or pack up the kids and go down to watch Creighton play Arkansas-Jonesboro for the 15th time in 15 years at the Q. I'm going to be watching if for any reason that next time I'm in Europe, I can look some guy in his nasty grill and say, "We may be tyrants, but at least we're better than you at EVERYTHING...even something we don't give a shit about."

Game on.


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