5 Things I Have Learned While Watching the 2010 World Cup

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.

5) The vuvuzela is an instrument that to my American ears is about as appealing as Chinese Opera (though Farewell My Concubine is an excellent movie).

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.

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14 thoughts on “5 Things I Have Learned While Watching the 2010 World Cup

  1. I totally agree with you about the commercial free part of soccer! Absolute bliss. Cricket here has many commercial slots – b/w running, b/w bowlings, every single available slot used.

    Soccer can be rigged – was having an interesting conversation the other day about how simultaneous matches prevents bookies rigging matches. Sigh! Apparently Cricket and Soccer are not rigged. The fans believe it until they are proven otherwise

    • When you see such a large cluster of bad calls, it leads to the belief that the matches are rigged. Maybe you’re right and they’re not…I dunno.

  2. Pingback: Quite an interesting place to be « Jeena's Blog

  3. This made me laugh out loud! Rob would correct you and say that it’s the players from South America who are the “actors” for injury. He claims they are the most dramatic. He’s one of the few American I know who regularly watches football. One time we had to stand in a bar to watch England vs. France for a Wold Cup Qualifier. Also, I still don’t get the “friendly” matches. Rob will watch those too.

    • I will say that Rob is probably correct; that the ones who flop the most tend to be from South America. And then they’re up!

      As far as Most Dramatic that has to go to the French team this year. Nothing compares to that fiasco/scandal/meltdown.

  4. Are you sure is commercial free??? Maybe the broadcast that it is brought to english speaking countries…
    Although, yes, there are not traditional cut for commercials, there are constant commercials in the fútbol games, at least around here in Argentina.
    Those are mostly recordings, like the old school radio, and sometimes, a little superimposed image, video, etc on the lower corner of the screen.
    The commercials on fútbol are a MAJOR issue around here, since the government has control of broadcasting of (local) major games, all of the “commercials” actually government propaganda.

    • The broadcasts we get for the World Cup games here in the U.S. are live and commercial free. And on those rare occasions that a station like ESPN will broadcast a game from the MLS (our fútbol league), it’s also commercial break free.

      Wow, so in Argentina the games are NOT broadcast live? So the government can run commercials? That sucks.

  5. Nope, maybe I wasn’t clear… The matches are live, and there are no interruptions, not real ones, but, when, there are a few seconds of dead game -like when one of those moments when someone is hit and is laying flat on the ground, moaning for the magic spray and making time-, they place a really short ad, that doesn’t block the game, just blocks the audio with the message of the sponsor, and there is a small video superimposed on a small portion of the screen.
    Now, since our government took over the business of broadcasting the games -All of them, not only the ones of the now gone Mundial- there is no more business oriented ads, but government propaganda.
    Small clips showing how many housing projects they -claim- they’ve built, for instance.

    • That’s bizarre! OK, so I did a bit of research and found out why:here and here.

      Here most of the games have been on cable TV (ESPN) with a few of the games being on network (free) TV. Of course, our government station (if you want to call it that) is PBS, and that’s all news and educational programming. And that station only gets a small portion of its funding from the government.

  6. I don’t want to get into politics (specially not using a foreign language), but, yes, those links somehow represent the whole thing.
    The Mundiales were, AFAIK, always free, and broadcasted over the air and on cable, the matches that were not shown were special matches, like, for instance, something similar to the Super Bowl, I guess.
    The whole thing about this “Fútbol para todos” as it is called down here, is that it is a mighty powerful weapon to broadcast a message, as every living soul watches the games.

  7. A little bit I liked regarding the USA and their relation with soccer:

    “The other “moment” is the Empire State building sporting the colors of the Spanish Flag. Now, this is the best evidence I can think of to prove to my still skeptic US readers that soccer IS the world sport, even now in the good ole US of A. You are cornered, give it up!”

    Taken from:

    http://daniel-venezuela.blogspot.com/2010/07/corny-moment-of-world-cup-ikers-tearful.html

    BTW, that blog is quite good too.

  8. Thank you for your awsome post. I’ll keep an observation about your website, i allready added it to own list 🙂

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