Sunday, June 27, 2010

FIFA Fi Fo Fum

Growing up I played many sports, however I was never a dominant athlete. But to this day sports holds a great interest for me. With the World Cup thrust upon us in the past few weeks I have done something I never thought I would do. I actually watched a soccer game or two.

Now, being a novice I have no idea of what the rules actually are. I grew up in and age where no one played the game, no schools had even a club team and any knowledge of the sport was left to gym class. Leaving learning up to gym class is about the same a hoping the Post Office gets it right. Likely, it won't happen. As soccer, or shall I say, futball has taken hold it was originally a game played by those who were not able to make the teams for more legitimate sports. Over the years that has changed and some of the better athletes in schools have taken to the game. Hence, as I have aged, soccer has crept into noteworthiness.

This past week I was able to watch games alongside the soccer aficionado North of 50 and one of his nephews. Said N of 50 has played and coached for years even into his fifth decade. Nephew has played extensively and seems to know the game in and out. Of course, since I know virtually nothing of the game I must take their word for the fact that they know what they are talking about.

First off, I don't see a reason to have a timed sport that when time expires the game is not over. Soccer has an untimed overtime. It's idea is there is lost time for things like injuries and penalty cards. Here's a novel idea, stop the clock. Most of what I watched was what I expected, seemingly random kicks of the ball sending it up and down the field. It wasn't until I started relating it to hockey that it seemed to make any sense at all. Germany was the only team I saw that seemed to have any type of coordinated offense. They used a short, tight 'passing' game to move the ball in close. A strategy, I surmised.

For having the world in its grasp I was disappointed in the quality of the announcers. This is soccer's biggest stage and the soccer elite have been trying to build it up in the US of A for many years. I was hoping for more detailed explanations of strategies and was left flat with none forthcoming. Fortunately for me I had N of 50 and nephew there to help me through some of the finer points.

All in all it was interesting as it is something I have never watched before. I have my criticisms such as athletes flopping around like a wounded duck at the slightest 'foul'. If that happened in American football every player would be flat on his back at the end of each play. Suck it up and play, boys! No blood no foul. I was also struck by the quality of officiating. For the biggest stage to have some of the poor calls is unacceptable. This isn't high school. You have an entire globe of referees to pick from. Pick the right ones.

Lastly, I doubt that this will ever become a game I will be interested in more than once every four years. It's like the Olympics, some of it is entertaining but I don't watch the slalom events more than twice a decade. I'll root for the US and hope for a positive outcome.

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