- Let's start with a few positives. The athletes themselves are somewhat amazing. Their endurance, ball skills and toughness are unquestioned by this viewer. For the most part, the games were very close, often settled in extra time. Extra time is not be confused with stoppage time, which actually is extra time added on to a period. There is no overtime, there is only extra time, even though many games went into overtime. Anyway, I digress. The athletes are indeed world class and deserve all the respect in the world. The game USA goalkeeper Tim Howard played against Belgium was one of the great individual efforts I have ever watched in any sport. Without his Herculean effort the stars & stripes would have lost by 5 or 6 goals. He was simply brilliant.
- Which brings me to my first problem. I understand that USA soccer fans truly desire for the sport to become as popular here as it is in the rest of world. I understand that USAmericans get very patriotic about sports when it comes to these international events. I read article after article and tweet after tweet about how proud we should be of the USMNT (the fact that this had nothing to do with Mutant Ninja Turtles was a bit of a bummer) and just how CLOSE we are to becoming an elite soccer nation. Close? We won one match. We tied one match. We lost to eventual champion Germany in a game we really needed but that meant almost nothing to them. We lost to Belgium in a match that would have been a total embarrassment if not for Tim Howard. Seeing the USA as a rising soccer power requires some seriously patriotic rose colored glasses. I'm sorry, but we are not playing the same sport as the powerhouse nations yet. And for all but the most fervent of USAmerican soccer fans, the sport will not matter for another 4 years.
- I loved the pageantry of the event, the wonderful diversity of the crowds and the passion of the fans. The traditions of the event make it one of the world's great spectacles. The sport itself is, however, a little lacking. The flopping and diving is actually worse than in the NBA, which I didn't think was possible. Every slight bump requires a player to fall and grab his shin hoping for a call from the referee. I actually saw two player slam shoulders into one another while jumping for a header and fall to the ground grabbing their shins! Usually the actors are healed by that miracle cold spray the trainers bring out, but on occasion they have to be carted off the field on a stretcher- usually to instantly recover and come back into the game. They cry wolf over and over and over and no one seems to care. It's so bad that when the great Brazilian player Neymar was seriously injured and carried off on a stretcher the people (including myself) in the restaurant I was in all laughed at what seemed like a terrible acting job. It's simply ridiculous. And the referees far too often buy the act- hook, line and sinker!
- The refs also have way too much control of the matches. Actions that warrant a yellow card one minute are not even a foul 5 minutes later. They can remove players from the game or cause them miss the next one all with random discretion. I hate when any competition is settled more by the officials than by the players. That happens in soccer far too often.
- Why are you allowed to have a dozen or so extra players but only 3 substitutes in a game? I assume there is a logical reason. Well...maybe...after all, this is the same sport that makes substituting for a player as complicated as the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
- I know hardcore futball fans will thumb their noses at me and call me ugly names, but the games would be 1000% more interesting if the offside rule did not exit. It seems in many of the matches every exciting play was called back for offsides. Removing the rule would open up the field and allow for teams to actually score goals on occasion. Soccer fans seem to think it is suspenseful and exciting to enter the 88th or the 118th minute of play with a scoreless tie. On the many occasions when we reached those points because nothing of interest had happened, the lead up was not suspenseful. It was hard to stay awake. As one of the announcers in the unbelievably boring Holland/Argentina match said as the end of regular time approached, "Eventually something has to happen." He didn't mean it in the way I took it, but it simply cracked me up. After watching this World Cup, that is my new definition of the sport. Eventually something has to happen.
- Another positive: One of the announcers sounded a lot like Ringo Starr. And I love their references to leagues and teams that make the average viewer in this country say HUH? The English use of the plural form of "to be" with teams is also very enjoyable. Imagine Jon Gruden saying "New England are giving it a good go today." It's very quaint. And you have to love how excited the broadcasters get any time there is even a hint of offense. because they know it only happens a few times in most games. "Oh my...the Dutch may have something going now!" And that was just when the ball would pass midfield...
- Jimmy Fallon told a joke that sums up my deepest feelings about watching the World Cup. He pointed out that at Universal Studios in Orlando last week people stood in line for 7 hours to ride the new Happy Potter ride. Jimmy said. "those people were waiting 7 hours for 2 minutes of action. Other people call that watching soccer." I love the athletes, the event and the passion. I just cannot tolerate the sport. Howard Wolowitz (on The Big Bang Theory) once said to Sheldon Cooper that he felt like Sheldon thought he was bad at his job. Sheldon said that was not true, that Howard was quite good at what he did. It's just that what he did was not worth doing. And that, my dear soccer loving friends, is my conclusion. The game is just not for me. Any sport where half the game is spent passing backwards makes no sense to me. Any sport where you can be forced to play a man short for the rest of the game because of a judgement call is not for me. And any sport where never scoring is the norm is not for me. You are well within your rights to say. "But Carl....you just don't get it!" You are absolutely right. I don't. And I never will.
Have a happy Monday!