I’m a very casual fan of soccer. My appreciation for the sport has grown slowly over the last four to five years. I did not grow up playing the sport. The handful of times I did play soccer it was in high school gym class with no explanation of the rules. Games resembled hockey matches without pads except a large ball was involved and we didn’t use our hands…There were lots of downed bodies and no “injury breaks.”
The sport I played as a child the most and the one I still love the most is baseball, with my favorite team being the Chicago White Sox.
Anyway, here are the five things I have learned so far while watching some of the matches during this year’s World Cup in South Africa.
If I had to choose between listening to thousands of people blowing those vuvuzelas and listening to orchestras play works by Schoenberg or Aarvo Part, I’d take the mass of vuvuzelas. Besides, the vuvuzelas have seemed less annoying as the tournament has gone on.
4) It’s fun to watch a sport without being interrupted five thousand times for commercial breaks.
In fact, there are no commercial breaks in a soccer match except during halftime. You get to watch, on TV, an entire half of soccer without being interrupted by a “message from our sponsors.”
Baseball has commercials in-between innings and pitching changes. The NFL and NBA have commercials during timeouts and breaks between quarters, and there there’s the whole Halftime Bonanza. Not to mention the sinister “TV Timeouts” they throw in for good measure. Because of this, the last five minutes of an American football game takes 15 minutes. For basketball, it’s even worse, the last five minutes of play will take a half-hour to get through.
All hail the commercial-break-free sport of soccer!
3) Few players who get knocked down during a soccer match are actually hurt.
These guys are much better actors than the NBA’s Vlade Divacs and Bill Laimbeer were in their primes. All it takes is a magic sponge or spray and soccer players are up and running, without limping or wincing. Meanwhile, their team has gotten free penalty kick. (More on the comparison to the NBA below.)
2) Americans who say watching soccer is like “Watching paint dry” or “Watching the corn grow” but then turn the channel to watch a golf tournament or a fishing show have no right whatsoever to critique soccer.
Fishing is a leisure activity where a whole lot of nothing happens, that takes almost no athleticism to perform (unless we’re talking about deep sea fishing but then it’s not fair to compare that to fresh water fishing).
Watching golf with those whispering play-by-play commentators, and the whole demand of absolute quiet, is annoying. Golf takes a lot of skill and mental toughness, but not a lot of athleticism. Put a soccer player and a golfer in a marathon and guess who’s more likely to finish. It ain’t the guy who has someone carry his clubs for him.
1) FIFA referees are as corrupt as the referees for the National Basketball Association (NBA).
For real fans of basketball, the NBA is unwatchable and has been unwatchable for some time. Magic, Larry, and Jordan made it bearable for much of the 80’s and 90’s. But it’s gone back to it’s partially-rigged self. What do I mean? Just look at the box score of a NBA playoff game and you can tell by which team went to the free throw line the most who was the home team. Or compare the traveling calls on someone like LeBron James or Patrick Ewing versus Unknown Journeyman player. The Unknown Journeyman will most certainly not be allowed to take those five steps on his way to a dunk.
Based on the Tevez offside goal, the disallowed goal for England, and the disallowed goals for the USA against Slovenia and Algeria, I’d say the refs are trying to outright rig the matches, or at the very least lean matches toward one team over another.
It doesn’t help FIFA’s cause that they are adamant in their refusal to entertain the idea of the Instant Replay or using goal-detecting technology. Not to mention censoring comments about these controversies on their websites.
(For an explanation of the offside rule, this Youtube video did a pretty good job for me.)
Strong words? How else do you explain so much poor officiating? One really bad call in a tournament would be one thing. But four pathetic calls and we haven’t even finished with the Round of 16?
Let’s hope FIFA gets its act together for the rest of the tournament.