Sunday, June 29, 2014

Must read for sports fans who don't "get" or appreciate or watch the World Cup or soccer

Why I like World Cup soccer over NFL football:

  • Pure, genuine, unbridled nationalistic fanaticism and no fantasy leagues.
  • More human drama, even if some of it is manufactured in fouls and flops and feigned dial 9-1-1 pain.
  • Simple analysis instead of breaking down incessantly the games/the draft/the quarterbacks/the free agency period/even the new schedule.
  • Players and coaches proudly and loudly singing the National Anthem.
  • Players clapping and acknowledging  their fans’ support as they come off the field for substitutes.
  • Substitutes who enter the game and stay in it until the end
  • Players and coaches rejoicing on the field when they win. Or draw.
  • The Group of Death instead of the NFC West.
  • Headers without concussions.
  • Injured players are unceremoniously carried off the field on uncomfortable hard plastic “stretchers,” and not ambulances.
  • One referee, therefore only one lightning rod for controversy, who doesn’t have to take time to explain decisions on the field to players/coaches/announcers/viewers/anyone. Play on!
  • A whole country feels it got screwed by a call instead of one team or one city.
  • High-tech replays without stopping the clock and looking under a curtain on the sideline.
  • Fans who are watching the action on the field and looking up at the stadium’s video board instead of looking down at  their cellphones.
  • Yellow and red cards and no discussion instead of penalties flags and huddles.
  • Extra time that counts instead of running out the clock without snapping the ball.
  • No sideline reporters who get in the way of the game if only to justify their existence therefore eliminating any Richard Sherman Moments.
  • Spontaneous no frills outdoor public viewing parties instead of invitation-only private Super Bowl parties.
  • No TV commercials during the match or the overtimes or reminders that “60 Minutes or Your Late Local News Is Next Except On The West Coast.”
  • No penalties or punishment for creative or excessive celebration. Ole! Ole!
  • No Chris Berman.
  • One unapologetic Alexi Lalas who, through his smugness, still gives his honest opinion.
  • Exciting tie games, assuming you judge the action and not the scoreboard.
  • The suddenness of goals, no matter how rare.
  • Several kicks needed to break a tie, not often times an anticlimactic one at the end.
  • That hot Brazilian woman in the black dress and the Kia turning football games to futbol games.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Is beating Ghana the measuring stick for USA success in World Cup soccer? Really?

So this is World Cup fever.

Beat we beat Ghana and everyone is suddenly going gaga over USA Soccer?\

Let me repeat: We beat Ghana. It’s not like the Red Sox saying they beat the Yankees.

Ghana. The Black Stars. Their chief rival is the Super Eagles of Nigeria. They didn’t qualify for the World Cup for the first time until 2006 and they haven’t been ranked higher than 14th in the FIBA world rankings.

And yet 11 million people tuned in on ESPN to watch the USA-Ghana World Cup match, the most ever viewers ever for a soccer event on the World Wide Leader in Sports.

Why? I didn’t even know USA Soccer had a bandwagon but now every Tom, Dick and Julio is jumping on it.

This country didn’t get excited about hockey in the Olympics until we beat Russia. Now that was something to get excited about because our young amateur American team in 1980 wasn’t expected to beat the older, wiser, more experience and talented pro team comprised of Russians, our perennial Cold War rivals.

Should beating Ghana on the world stage create a similar “do-you-believe –in-miracles-let’s-chant-U-S-A-and-drape-ourselves-with-American-flags-and-paint-our-faces-red-and-white-and-blue!” vibe? 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m pumped. But, seriously, shouldn’t a team from the United States of America, the richest, most powerful nation on this planet, be expected to beat a team from Ghana, which is the size of Oregon that two years ago had one of the 10 worst economies in the world?
Sounds like a mismatch of epic proportions.

Yes, I know Ghana has beaten the USA the last two World Cups so there was a ton of frustration pent up in America about that. But is Ghana really the measuring stick for the success of soccer in this country?

Beat Portugal. Beat Germany. That’s more like it.