The World Cup... Eight Years Ago


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Eight years ago, I wrote about the World Cup.  I didn't know much about soccer beyond the basics then.  I still don't.  But with Spain losing an hour ago, I thought I would re-post this for those who are into this so-called "soccer" or "football," or "Spain."

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No More Goals
July 13, 2010
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This year's version of the World Cup, a month-long tournament of soccer that ended in a championship by some country called "Spain," has left many soccer fans with a difficult dilemma: do they become productive members of society for four years, or do they simply wait around for the next World Cup to begin, hoping that their jobs will offer them a maternity leave for being mothers of soccer at that time?  I realize that true fans of the World Cup would never refer to the sport as "soccer," but that is exactly why I am using that word.  I won't get into the international argument of whether the world's or America's version of football is better, but I will note that a 0-0 score in the world's football -- soccer -- is considered exciting, whereas that same score in American football is known as the pre-game...

As this was the first year that I've actually paid attention to the World Cup -- the previous years, I thought that the Cup was a coffee mug with a map painted on it -- I have learned a lot over the past month about soccer and life itself.  For one thing, I learned that soccer -- even on its greatest stage -- is still boring.  And I don't mean to imply that watching soccer is like watching a tortoise lick tomato plants.  Rather, I mean to state it outright.  Don't get me wrong: occasionally someone will do something in soccer like kick a ball into a net, but that usually happens after the game has ended and the goalie has left for a snack.  And sometimes the referees will hold up colored sheets of paper, which is exciting because it leads to people yelling and pointing, but these sheets of paper never amount to much.  From what I grasped over four weeks, a player is given a yellow card if he did the equivalent to kicking a dog in the shins: "Okay, that's bad, but you know, I am sure the dog kind of deserved it, so you can stay in the game."  And then a red card is given if someone did something worse than that, like the equivalent of kicking that dog twice: "Okay, the first was an accident, but there's no way that dog deserved to be kicked in the shins a second time.  In fact, that's not even a dog, that's somebody's grandmom."  

One thing I do genuinely like about soccer is that the clock doesn't stop.  The clock doesn't care if someone fell over, if there is a fire on the field or if LeBron James is holding a press conference to tell everyone that he has a dental appointment, or even that LeBron left his family dentist for a dentist with flashier fluoride.  Granted, time is sometimes added at the end of regulation in soccer, but the clock keeps ticking, and television channels are forced to hold off commercials as a result of that.  In America, only presidential speeches hold that kind of power, and even in those situations, the president is forced to make a plug every so often for Frosted Flakes...

I also like the support that soccer fans have for their teams.  Of course, for every true soccer fan, there is another fan wearing a Netherlands jersey who didn't realize Netherlands was a country until a week ago, but most soccer fans are pretty adamant about rooting for their teams, even to the extent of blowing annoying horns non-stop over a month and turning typically harmless surround sound into a feeling of getting stung by bees.  As for the life lessons I mentioned earlier, I learned that using your head in soccer sometimes leads to achieving goals.  I learned that nobody in professional soccer scores into his own net, which is unfortunate because that would provide a good laugh.  And I learned that soccer is a lot like every other sport: there are winners, there are losers, there are highs, there are lows -- and if you don't pay attention closely enough, it's hard to distinguish between any of them...

But I digress.

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