July 22, 2010

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World Cup snooze: how to make (boring) soccer exciting

The 2010 World Cup is now history, and like all good Americans, I find history dull and boring. I tried to pay attention to the game; I really did. I thought, “Billions of soccer fans can’t be wrong.” Right?

I even wore an orange shirt (left over from my five minutes as a Flyers fan) to support my new favorite team, the Netherlands. I rooted for them over Spain because: 1. They’re not into bullfighting, and 2. They were once a colony of Spain. And of course, host country South Africa was once a colony of the Netherlands. You really would need an encyclopedia to keep track of all the colonoscopies that have occurred throughout human history.

While I wasn’t invested in the game quite enough to watch it from the couch with a giant bowl of Fritos, I was willing to watch it from a treadmill at the “Y”. I found a spot in front of the only TV that had the World Cup on, plugged in my earphones and scanned the audio channels until I heard a European-sounding accent: “Valverde has now switched places with Lubberding, and the pack has split once again, with Hanegraaf and Vaan de Groot starting to make the move to the lead group.”

It all seemed rather vague and lackluster to me, but I persevered, determined to be a good citizen of the world. The announcer droned on: “The gap has ballooned out to six minutes. Alberto Contador is attacking the break, and there’s only one more 28-mile lap to go.”

I couldn’t quite figure out what all the talk about ”gaps” and “laps” had to do with what I was seeing on the field, and in fact, as I later found out, I had been listening to the wrong audio channel. What I was hearing was a bike race, not the soccer game. The strange thing is, it really didn’t matter.

I began to suspect that soccer was not really a sport, or a game, or in fact anything other than a cruel illusion. I decided to call my old friend, Professor Ludwig Von Limburger, the noted statistician, at the Berne Institute of Nuclear Goings-On (BINGO). He confirmed my suspicions.

“Yes, Jim,” he said, “we have analyzed the films of thousands of soccer games, and we determined that there is no empirical evidence to differentiate this activity from any other random movement of molecules throughout the universe. In fact, we found that if you just leave a ball in the middle of an empty soccer field, it will — through a series of natural occurrences like continental drift — eventually end up in the net quicker than it would in an actual soccer game.”

Wow! Well there you go. Statistics don’t lie. But don’t despair, soccer fans, I have some changes which might turn your so-called “football” into a real sport:

•A bigger net. Forty feet high, a half-mile wide, and no goalies.

•Ban crying, kissing, hugging and all that girlie stuff that players do on the very rare occasions when they score a goal.

•Allow dogs on the field. Soccer is basically chasing a ball; right? Dogs love that, and it would make the game much more enjoyable to watch.

•Announcers need some hip phrases to call the goals. Just screaming the word “goal” for a minute-and-a-half is neither catchy nor tolerable. A few ideas:

a.(short and sweet) “Got net? You bet!”

b. (rustic) “Heads up, Granny, there’s a BEAR IN THE OUTHOUSE!!”

c. (literary) “Hark, what light through yonder window breaks... GOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!!!”

Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I’m convinced that by making these simple changes, watching soccer can eventually become almost as exciting as listening to bowling on the radio.



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