Will the World Cup and Univision Teach me to Grok Soccer?

I hate not liking things that have proved to make millions, even billions, of people cheerful. I want every reason for good cheer, and I’m sad that I dislike bluegrass, harpsichords, NASCAR, hotdogs  PBJs and pina coladas. But history has proved that I can learn and stretch and change:I was wrong to loathe country music and Gustav Mahler, for two. But I’ve never felt any  more enthusiasm for the Beautiful Game than I do for golf. Or watching paint dry. In fact, I prefer watching paint dry, because then I’ll know when I can hang my pictures

My two favorite sports are tennis and hockey — games that don’t have anything in common except for edge of the seat speed and technique. I’m fond of baseball,  NBA final basketball, and Pairs figure skating.  I don’t get to watch enough badminton or high hurdles or caber tossing. What’s impossible to avoid are games played with a large ball on grass.

I come from a football family: my parents were fans, and watched every NFL, CFL and college game. Heck, if they’d has cable back in the day they’d  have watched Australian Rules.I watch the Super Bowl and that’s it. One game a year.  Huge men so padded and helmeted they could be prototypes for Ironman’s suits. That’s not true with soccer — the lads are out there in shorts and jerseys, but they can’t throw a pass or  tackle, they run up and down a giant pitch for ninety endless minutes and the score may be nil/ nil. Where’s the beauty? Where’s the excitement? I’m thinking cricket would, in comparison, be a thriller.The only big ball game I like is rugby. It’s the best of all football worlds:

  • It’s unapologetically brutal.
  • Shorts and jerseys, no pads
  • Tackles
  • Lateral passes
  • Footwork
  • No injury time outs, so substitutions

For me soccer, or (better) futbol is:

  • Boring
  • Endless
  • Boring
  • Endless

But I do understand the great world gathering that is the World Cup. I was in Ottawa in 2007 when the FIFA U-20 was played and was astonished –that staid city was electrified. My father’s house is ten blocks from the stadium and we couldn’t park on the street for the traffic overspill. Cars roared by flapping Panamanian flags. The earth moved from the roars. Every hotel room for a hundred miles was sold out. It was deeply cool to be there.

So today I forced myself to watch the USA/England match on ABC. because I wanted to understand the power of this game that mesmerizes the whole world. I wanted to love it, to feel the passion, to figure out why I can’t get all cheerful because it’s World Cup. My neighbor kids have been out day and night playing footie in the streets and on the lawns.

Well, I felt bad for Green for flubbing that save, but I have to say that is was the same old same old. Men running about, treating the ball to their heads and feet and knees and nothing happening. For ninety minutes! I expressed my disenchantment on Facebook  and my buddy Ivan said: “Watch it on Univision.” I flipped the channel and it was an alternate reality.

Same teams, same boring sport, and, to my shame, I don’t speak Spanish. But the pure passion of the play-by-play reminded me of watching a Habs game on French CBC. I was glued. Maybe Univision will provide the path to a cheap and cheerful sporting enthusiasm for me. Maybe if I watch enough matches I’ll figure out why this dud boring game is called The Beautiful Game. I hope so, so bad.

If any of my Spanish speaking friends could provide me with a crib sheet of Spanish soccer speak, I’ll be forever in your debt. I’m going to try so hard to love soccer: maybe I’ll some day appreciate the Blue Mountain Boys. Or calves’s liver.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Will the World Cup and Univision Teach me to Grok Soccer?

  1. Alex

    Think chess on grass. (And wouldn’t it be fun if a chess grandmaster fell to the ground writhing in fake agony when one of his pieces got captured?)

  2. Alex, I love, love LOVE all that fake agony and writhing.

    But let’s switch to the Blackhawks’s Duncan Keith, who lost a quarter of his teeth, got stitched up and was back on the ice after 2 shift changes.

  3. Kim Shook

    I’m with you on this, Marlene. When Jessica was little and played the couple of seasons of obligatory little league soccer (we called it ‘Clump’ because no matter the assigned positions both teams just surrounded the ball at all times), I was bored out of my mind and wished we could afford riding lessons (I like dressage). I still find it mind numbingly dull.

  4. Kim, apart from the writhing histrionics, I am SO with you. (Um, Marlene is the OTHER Canadian blogger. 🙂 )

  5. Kim Shook

    Oh, good grief! I had just been on her website and responded to some comment of her and I guess my fingers just went automatically from M to arlene! I’m such a goober.

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