Monday, June 14, 2010


First of all, the avoidance of a "futbol" pun in the title was a matter of principle, because I'm a curmudgeon that way.

For most of my life I considered soccer's appeal to be a total mystery. But I have been making a real, honest effort to get into it this time around and I have to say it's hooked me a little. I don't know if its enough to hold my interest beyond the World Cup, but honestly I kind of hope it is.
Even when I was completely uninterested in soccer, I never saw the need to trash it. I have met many, many people (including many foreign soccer fans) who didn't see the appeal in (our) football. I would generally get frustrated at their unwillingness to accept that it had an appeal and that you really couldn't judge football without having a more in-depth appreciation of it.

Every four years, among a sudden surge of interest in soccer, various contrarians feel the need to dismiss it.

Here's PFT's Mike Florio deliberately stoking controversy, as he so often does:

"With this force-feeding of futbol by the Worldwide Leader in Hype, we're all supposed to conclude that the rest of the world can't be wrong, and that we should embrace a game that, through the first few days, has featured scintillating outcomes like 1-1, 0-0, 1-0, 1-1, 1-0, and 1-0... In soccer, it's a lot of open-field running and kicking and running and kicking that rarely results in anything worth actually witnessing."
To me, this is like those people who see a football game featuring a heavy dose of power running and tight defense and claim that "nothing happened" because they didn't see the 40 yard touchdown passes that so often (tragically) fill up SportsCenter. I know I would rather watch a 13-7 football game than a shootout. Forty-nine to 42 is just sloppy defense. I'm inclined to respect soccer fans' similar preferences. Is 15-12 an exciting baseball game? No, it's incompetent pitching.

Florio goes on, oh-so-Floristically, to tie this into the BP oil leak. Topical!

Hog Haven joins in as well, although in a less annoying fashion than PFT:

"I tried to force myself to watch futbol this morning, but 10 minutes of ARG vs NGA was all I could stand. Maybe if I were a fan of hockey or lacrosse I would get the point of soccer. I just don't get the point of all that running for very little scoring. Like baseball. [ed: I'm letting that one slide].

That's the reason why I prefer real football."
At least he made an honest effort to watch. I would point out that like all sports, soccer seems boring if you don't know what's going on. Again, I'm sure you've encountered non-football fans who find football ungodly boring. "Too much stoppage!" cry the self-righteous Europeans, completely missing the point that stopping and re-setting after every play is what makes the sport unique.

Since Hog Haven is highly analytical (which is why I like them), I figure Anthony might be interested in some of the soccer sites that have taught me what little I know about the sport over the last couple of weeks. If you like your Xs and Os, formations, diagrams, and so on, then maybe these sites will at least allow you to give soccer a fair chance:

Stars and Gripes - A very good site detailing the personel and tactics of the U.S. team and their opponents.

The Shin Guardian - Written by Americans, but covering all nations' teams. Very in-depth tactical breakdowns.

Zonal Marking - If you like Mike Tanier's play diagrams on Football Outsiders, then this is your soccer site.

After diving into the nuance of the sport, you will at least be able to give it a fair chance. Some people may still not like it, and that is fine. I don't object to anyone disliking it. So many people have tried to convince me of the virtues of basketball, and yet there is nothing on this earth that interests me less. Just because a lot of other people like it doesn't mean I have to. But I do accept that there is a lot to basketball that I don't see.

I am willing to make exceptions of course. It is okay to mock soccer as long as you make it really funny, like this. Thank you, Onion.

And I guess all bets would be off if soccer turned out to lead to... COMMUNISM! Thank God there's people on the lookout for that sort of thing.

But until then, give soccer a chance. Learn a bit about it. Watch a game or two with an open mind. Get into the U.S. team a little. Get familiar enough that you feel comfortable calling Oguche Onyuwe "Gooch." And if you still don't like it, then quit watching. But understand it enough that you don't feel the need to denigrate it.

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