Someone asked me once to describe one of my son’s soccer games.
“A bunch of kids chase the ball,” I said. “One of them gets the ball. The others guys try to take the ball away from him, unless they’re on his team, then they yell ‘pass me the ball.’
“Then they kick the ball. And repeat.”
I’ve tried to like soccer. No, really. I tried to like it when my son played it. Failure. Give me baseball any day. If I’m going to get a sunburned nose – and increasingly these days a burn on the top of my lightly haired head – I’d much rather watch baseball.
There’s so much more going on.
The pitcher pitches. The umpire calls it wrong. The fans moan, unless they’re cheering for the other side, in which case they cheer. Occasionally someone hits the ball, or the ball hits them. Either way, there’s someone on base.
Then there’s the cat-and-mouse game of will he – or she – try to steal a base. Will the pitcher try to pick him – or her – off? And another batter gets into the box, and repeat.
An exciting baseball game might feature one or two runs scored by one side or the other in a single inning.
Soccer? Fans go wild when the final score’s 1-0. And that’s for a World Cup match like the ones going on in Brazil. Really? Two groups of grown men, professionals, can manage to kick the bloody ball into the bloody net once in 90 minutes?
Now basketball, that’s more reasonable. A typical NBA game sees the pros score more than 200 points a game. If the score is only 90-80 at game’s end, everyone’s wondering what’s wrong with all those six-foot, 10-inch guys.
And then there’s the name. Football. I know football. It’s played by men weighing 300 pounds with either huge guts hanging over the front of their too-tight pants or shoulders that don’t really need shoulder pads.
That’s football. We call it that. The Americans call it that. The skinny guys running after the little round ball play soccer. Heck, even the Australians call it soccer. Of course, they only call it that because they play something called Australian rules football, which appears to be a version of legalized assault.
You’ve got to love those Aussies.
Now, I grant you, I’ve taken to following the World Cup, after a fashion. I nearly got out of my chair to watch the final moments of the U.S. versus – don’t tell me, Croatia, no, um – Portugal. OK, I had to google it.
U.S. up by one, seconds left, Portugal – the country, not the team – will jump into the Atlantic if they lose because they won’t go onto the next round and … Gooooooooooaaaaaaaalllllll.
That’s soccer’s version of Danny’Gallivan’s “he scores” if you don’t watch the beautiful game, as it so modestly calls itself.
Still, that’s fun. Listening to the announcer see if he can drag out a note longer than Celine Dion performing the theme to Titanic during her show in Vegas.
And the guy who bit the other guy on the shoulder? Now that was OK. I don’t mean OK, I mean OK it was something interesting. That he got kicked out of the World Cup for it, that was OK too.
My favourite? The team from Ghana refusing to play unless they got their bonuses - $3 million in all. In cash. They don’t trust their government’s cheques. A news station broke into its coverage to show the vehicle with the loot being escorted to the players.
That was OK too.
Rick MacLean is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.