Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Way Out of My League . . . Soccer, er, Football

OK, I could be writing about the usual stuff, e.g., Obamacare, the Euro, Fast and Furious, Obama's war on the American economy, the EU's war on the European economy, on the need to crush militant Islam, etc. But, no. I am going to try my hand at writing about soccer, football, or futbol, or whatever you call that game with guys in shorts running up and down a field trying to kick a ball into a goal the size of Rhode Island.

I know virtually nothing about the sport, and my traditional attitude towards it was what one American comedian (can't remember who) said, "I prefer sports where something happens." You watch something for nigh on two hours and end up with a zero-zero score . . . hmmm.  That said, however, I have spent much of my life in places where soccer is an obsession. My wife and two oldest sons were born in Spain, where it long ago supplanted Catholicism as the national religion. Those two sons, despite being very conservative and believers in the creed of "insult-America-and-I-will-punch-you-in-the-face," are soccer fanatics. They suffer with the failure of soccer to take off in the US (at least, among men) and always hold onto the hope that maybe "next time" the US national team will make it into the big leagues of international soccer.  Poor kids . . . I hope there is medication available for that.

Anyhow, they talked me into following the Euro 2012. Since I thought it was a discussion on the future of that malignant currency, I started to watch. Well, turned out it had nothing to do with the Euro, but everything to do with calling into question the idea that Europe is anything more than a geographical expression. Lots of tribalism at work: flag-waving, name calling, and national press outlets indulging in all sorts of insults and smearing of other nationalities. It was a sort of ancient pre-warfare ritual. It was good stuff.  It reaffirmed my faith in my view of humanity, and put the lie to those who see mankind as yearning for peace and some sort of nanny world government. People like conflict. They like "us vs. them." They like winning, beating their opponents . . . "to crush your enemies, to see them fall at your feet . . . and hear the lamentations of their women." The Great Kahn could have been a soccer fan.

The individual games themselves seemed to vary in quality. As noted, I am no expert, and relied on my sons to explain the rules, the strategy, and the tactics involved.  I will confess, however, that I became a fan of the Spanish team. My wife and sons, of course, were big fans all along. I was impressed by the precision with which they could pass the ball, almost as if the thing had a GPS installed. In addition, unlike some of the other teams, the Spaniards seemed to be having fun and were not out for individual glory. They actually played as a team. I watched the Italy-Spain match last Sunday, and am glad to report that I correctly predicted the winner. At the end of the game the Spaniards seemed to be very gracious winners. They tried to overlook the lamentations of the Italian players and fans and, as far as I could tell, no Italian players or fans were executed on the field--the Great Kahn would not have approved.

Congratulations to Spain, and may you have as much luck in the other Euro battle . . .


  1. I think the key is your caveat "at least, among men". American men have trouble taking seriously any sport which we normally see being played by our five year old daughters.

    1. Cruel, very cruel, but funny and true.

    2. And yet they'll pay good money to watch baseball, a game which can (and should) be played with a beer in one hand. At least in metric football, there are more than two players participating at any given time.

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  3. Acknowledging the presumptive wisdom of Michael Ryan's comment, the problem is at that age many of the girls are more athletic and skilled than boys, and men holding otherwise are basically guilty of sour grapes or practicing denial.
    Fortunately, as girls mature an overt aggressiveness and competitive drive to be more physically capable than males tend to be driven from their psyches by mothers more interested in future grandchildren than a desire to see their daughters win the world series. Thus our male world is safe.