We know it’s the world’s “most popular sport”. We know that the world is consumed as if in an epileptic frenzy when the World Cup is staged every 4 years. But it’s boring. Soccer, or football as the game is known everywhere in the world outside of North America, is as interesting as watching Pong.
From its origins as a savage pastime when combatants kicked the heads around of their vanquished opponents, the game has really stayed fairly true to its roots. At a certain level, we understand the game’s primitive charm. Especially at the global level when the pride of nations are at stake during a match at the World Cup. There are few sports which stir up nations’ national spirit like soccer does. Entire countries will shut down while they watch their squad do battle with that of another. Soccer is essentially a surrogate for armed battles and which purports to demonstrate the superiority of an entire nation over another; especially if they have nothing else to brag about. It’s the one time that Cameroon can kick Britain’s ass and shame the Limey bastards on the world stage.
We can see the simple charm of the game, one which doesn’t have all the arcane rules of many professional sports. Soccer is big business worldwide, like any major sport. It is a game which small boys dream of playing in all corners of the globe and their heroes are godlike. It is still a sport for the common folk. It’s also a sport in which there is as much action in the audience as there is on the pitch.
Basketball is a sport that has evolved into a game populated by thyroid cases and freaks of nature that must be over 6 feet 6 inches in height or they’re considered too small to play. The shoes on most players can double as kayaks for midgets. The players’ hands are so large that the ball may as well be an onion. Basketball is clearly not a game for regular people.
Baseball is hardly interesting anymore either, since much of the game is spent with players standing around and spitting. The real hard core fans are statistics geeks who can rattle off ERA’s, saves, runs allowed, etcetera. Clearly a game for accountants. Cheering for a team is like rooting for Price Waterhouse to beat Ernst and Young. If baseball is too much action, there’s always cricket.
Hockey is not really a world sport because a big ice surface is not readily found south of the 49th parallel. That’s a sport for a very specialized audience. Golf; well that’s the same as hockey; use a stick to put an object into a hole. Only golf has is played in warm weather, has more rules than an IRS handbook and participants lack any fashion sense. American football comes close to the rabid fanaticism shown by soccer fans, but like basketball, as specimens, the players are generally many standard deviations removed from an average guy. They are essentially bred for the sport like racing hounds or thoroughbreds.
Soccer at least gives the pretense that the players are average people who happen to have finely honed ball skills. If only they could do away with the Oscar winning head holding and ground rolling, it would be a real man’s sport instead of a primary school recess game.