I’ve watched a few football matches so far in the World Cup, lots of nil-nil scores out there on the pitch.
I have tried to get into the sport a few times over the years and it never really has clicked. It’s extremely fun to play, no issues there. But why the US and myself is in the minority of the world when it comes to opinions on soccer (I’ll call it soccer to limit confusion) I have no idea.
As I write this I’m still not sure where I’m going. It’s not that it’s slow—my favorite sport is baseball, people accuse baseball of being slow all the time.
It’s not low scoring—I love a good defensive struggle in any sport. I thoroughly enjoyed that 3-0 Steelers v Dolphins in the mud a few years ago. Nothing beats two pitchers or goalies trying to outlast each other.
People writhing in pain and popping up two seconds later. I don’t like that, and don’t tell me it was a hard tackle. That’s kind of a cultural thing, American sports heroes are when Dick Butkus plays on with a broken leg or the Steelers not being able to win much for decades, but still knocking the snot out of everyone that they played week in and week out. I’m not saying Americans are tougher, Rugby is a big international game too and they knock more than snot out of one another.
Unspecific foul calls aren’t high on my list. This one was highlighted by the disallowed US goal in which there was no one who committed a foul—for the US at least. In pretty much any American sport referees have to cite who committed the foul. Not that they always make the right call (Bill Cowher used to yell “WHO!?” louder than anyone on the planet), but when there are so many players going at it I don’t see any advantage to keeping calls anonymous. Referees should be judged—by the league, not the fans—on their performances as well.
Ties. I challenge you to find anyone who will say, “I liked the NHL better when they had ties instead of a shootout.” Soccer is the only sport I can think of that has ties—maybe that’s for a reason. Come to think of it, sudden-death soccer would be kind of cool.
The nonchalant pace and timing is perhaps a better way of saying that it’s slow. In concept, I don’t really have an issue with this. Often the most enjoyable games happen in the backyard when nobody cares about time or what the score is. Not everything has to be structured like American sports that are very much reliant on the clock.
That being said: I was watching a match, pre-World Cup, where at the end of regulation the ref threw up four minutes of extra time. Because a few players went down during the extra time and the game had to be halted, the ref gave 30 more seconds of what was apparently extra-extra time. One of the teams, which was down 1-0, got a free kick in this extra-extra time which turned out to be an excellent scoring chance. It could’ve completely changed everything and they only got the chance because the ref felt like tacking on a few more seconds. Even the announcers commented that it was an awful long period to continue playing the game.
What if this had happened during March Madness? The refs keep making foul calls on nobody in particular and add three more seconds. Somebody makes a shot and ties the game as time expires. They’ll be burning couches in West Virginia for eight months.
So maybe it is cultural. We’ve been trained to enjoy sports a certain way. Like I said before though, my favorite sport is baseball. There is no clock, it could literally last forever. Soccer and baseball seem to share that something big could happen at any moment. Someone could steal the ball and go streaking down the sidelines or one pitch could determine an entire season. The difference eludes me.
That’s all I got. They are admittedly not very strong reasons. I’ll tune in to more games as the World Cup continues, but other than rooting for the US simply because they are the US, it won’t be easy to really get into the game. Soccer fans are certainly no-less passionate about their sport than Americans, that I know for sure, and there are many more of them than there are of us. I don’t understand it, but I’m glad somebody is having fun.