Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Welcome to the World Cup

On Saturday, I made a fateful decision: I would watch the World Cup.

Italy vs the United States. I couldn't wait to see our team play. I really like that short guy with all those moves, and that fast guy who, um, kicks the ball, and those other little fast guys, and the one big guy.

Go U.S.A.!

The great thing about soccer is that play is continuous. Well, except for the sixty-four stoppages of play in the first half. And with those stoppages averaging out to nearly fifteen seconds each, and only two minutes added on for stoppage time, the forty-five minute half became a thirty-one minute half.

Italy had two legitimate shots in the first half. One went into our goal. One went into theirs.

I called Gloria at halftime. "I'm watching the World Cup," I said.

"How's that going?" she asked.

"Italy's tied with itself one-one," I said. "This game is much more complicated than I thought."

"Are you enjoying yourself?" she asked.

"Kill me," I said. "I want you to run me over. I'll go stand in the driveway."

In the second half, Italy was unable to score in either goal and the game ended in a tie.

I want to like soccer. I like the concept of soccer. I like that the whole world plays soccer. I like that the fans love soccer. It's just that when I watch soccer, all of the things I like tend to be overwhelmed by what I'm actually seeing.

Like defense. There are apparently two primary ways to play defense in soccer. The first is to foul the player with the ball as soon as it looks like there is any possibility of him doing something interesting. This is known as the "professional" foul.

The foul itself is quite interesting. The defensive player pretends to be making a play on the ball. The offensive player pretends to be hurt--hurt so badly, in fact, that amputation appears to be a legitimate medical possibility. The offensive player will be carried off the field on a stretcher, and thirty seconds later he will bound back onto the field like a frisky colt.

In some cases, the defender will be given a "yellow" card. This is a warning. He must take that card, roll it into a tube, and tape it together. Then if he gets another yellow card, he must link the two cards into a chain. If he accumulates enough yellow cards to make a full necklace, he misses the next game.

The second way to play defense in soccer is the offside trap. This strategy involves defenders sprinting forward like seven-year old girls running toward home base in a game of "tag." If they get in front of the offensive players before the ball is passed, the offensive players are "offsides" and they lose possession of the ball.

I've never seen a sport where defenders get rewarded for running away from the offense. I'm open-minded, though. This is the world's game, after all. I just think that a player who uses it should be required to wave his hands in the air and yell "Ollie ollie oxen free!" as he runs forward.

Other than that, soccer is a fine game, and I plan on watching more of the World Cup.

Here's my problem, though: I need a new team. We suck. In two games, the other team has scored more goals for us than we have. Our best player hasn't scored a goal in international play since 1987 or something. And we're kind of whiners, and our coach acts like a jerk. And the referees hate us. Oh, and so does the rest of the world.

Not that they don't have their reasons, obviously.

Obviously, Canada was my first choice, but they didn't make it to the World Cup. Norway would have been my next choice, but they didn't make it, either. England has too much soccer tradition, and I always root for the underdog.

So that brings me to Australia. They're underdogs, they're the third largest DQ readership internationally (behind Canada and England), and I like kangaroos. Plus yellow is one of my favorite colors.

If you have a compelling case for another team, let me know. Otherwise, Thursday at 2 p.m. CST, I'll be in front of the television supporting the Socceroos and yelling "Stop running forward like a little girl!"

Site Meter