Soccer, Explained Away

From time to time, the “staff” here at Bart Takes on Sports Cliches will come upon other fledgling sports writers doing their part to fight the good fight against ESPN. For instance, I highly recommend you check out former The Post assistant sports editor Rob Mixer’s blog, which never shies away from taking shot or two at the sports “news” giant. But, I digress.

Seeing as it is the first meaningful day of the 2010 World Cup (at least here in the good ‘ole USA), I thought it appropriate to take an in-depth look at the beautiful game. Alas, famed sports writer Cal Biffney beat me to it. So without further ado, “Soccer, Explained Away.”

Soccer, Explained Away

Soccer, the game the Europeans call “football” and the Americans call “tedious”, is gearing up for its quadrennial cluster- flock which they oh-so pretentiously call the World Cup.

While we Americans brace ourselves for a month-long diversion from Real Sports and face the threat of having portions of actual televised games inflicted on us if we let our guard down — a brief primer on this sport — like competition is perhaps in order.

Soccer is a game in which 11 players on a side kick a spherical object down a 110 meter rectangular field toward a defended goal. It is believed to have been invented by the Scots in the Eighteenth century. However, with the demise of their short-lived Highlands Boulder League in 1803, many hoped the game would be lost to civilization. Eventually, as with all things Scottish, the game was stolen by the British and refined over the centuries to its current level of abject boredom.

While the goals themselves are large enough to park two garbage trucks bumper to bumper, even the most elite teams are utterly incapable of scoring more than two goals in any 90 minute game. On those rare occasions when three goals are scored in a game, Parliament goes into special session and Euro Disney opens its turnstiles to all. While four goal games are virtually unheard of — during the last recorded instance, a 4- 0 trouncing of Liverpool FC by Real Madrid in 2004 — it is well documented that the silly looking guy on the back of the 50 pound note actually shed stigmata tears.

While Soccer’s irredeemable vapidity sets it apart, it does share one sports attribute with a full- blooded American sport: NASCAR racing. These two pastimes, to the exclusion of all other respectable sports, have sold out their image and their outerwear to soulless corporations: Chelsea to Samsung, Arsenal to Emirates Air, Real Madrid to… the shameful list goes on.   Even the once proud Manchester United Club —formerly the inspiration to kit and kin throughout The British Empire— now bears the satanic mark of “AIG”. Nothing bespeaks soccer greatness like, you know, single-handedly causing the collapse of the world’s economy for a goddamn generation!

Like many other elements of the game, soccer’s penalty scheme is particularly egregious. Yellow card cautions are liberally dispensed when one player brushes the shoestrings of another, causing him to forthwith dive onto the turf and spend five minutes writhing in faux agony. The red card, on the other hand, is handed out when one player actually does trip another, who forthwith dives onto the turf and spends ten minutes writhing in faux agony… until shuffled off the pitch on a gurney to the solemn strains of Greig’s Funeral March.

But of all the penalties in all the sports in all the world, nothing compares to “offsides” in soccer. As far as can be ascertained, “offsides” is the penalty that is called when a goal is scored at a critical point in the game, which threatens to make the game marginally interesting or competitive. To avoid such a catastrophic outcome, soccer officials have been painstakingly trained to call this penalty judiciously– irrespective of the positions of actual players on the field– and to wave off any pesky goals that might have the unwelcome effect of invigorating the crowd.

Deprived of any opportunity for a goal or a change of momentum in the game, the soccer fan (live or tuning in on TV) returns to his slumber.  Those who brought knitting projects to the game return to their craft. Those who did not, well, they drink excessive amounts of beer and sing …sort of… a raunchy, post- apocalyptic collection of bawdy tunes generally categorized as “football songs.” These “songs” are worthy of anthropological study—so that future cultures can enact rigorous laws to prohibit their public rendering.

But perhaps nowhere is soccer’s’ futility more succinctly expressed than in its roster of so-called “football heroes.” Not since the Mussolini Regime have such a collection of self-important, over- compensated and outright annoying individuals occupied such a lofty perch on the European stage.

David Beckham serves as a prime example. With all the loyalty and fidelity of a Somali Pirate, Beckham consistently abandons flag and country to mindlessly follow the banner of greed across international boundaries. After a stint at Manchester United in the (so-called) Premier League, Beckham tinkled on the Union Jack and signed with Real Madrid in 2003. Dissatisfied with the huge sums of money offered up by the Spaniards, Beckham bid them “buenos dias” for the sun and surf of Southern California to sign with the L.A. Galaxy.  Thus far during his L.A. stint, he has led the Galaxy to previously unattained heights of mediocrity. Not content with even this level of brazenness, Beckham then sold out LA to play midfield for Italian giant AC Milan, which, dear reader, brings the Mussolini analogy to full circle.

Other examples of unworthy soccer heroes are abundant: Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo , Roberto Carlos… the list goes mercilessly on.  Unlike their American counterparts— Kobe Bryant, Alex Rodriguez and Bret Favre, for example—who labor hard in relative obscurity for love of the game alone, these footballers are unworthy icons of corporate greed. They are a bane to our youth and should be banned from our shores until they have publicly renounced their vile sport and earnestly asked forgiveness.

So as this year’s World Cup winds laboriously on, we Americans can actually take pride in the fact that we do not excel at this lackluster, overrated sport. For us, defeat in soccer is Victory!

But in the event that any of my numerous readers actually find themselves inexplicably drawn to watch the Cup, to you I say:” USA!” “USA!” “USA!”


3 Responses

  1. As a proud subject of the Queen, I take great offence at Mister Biffney’s blustery critique of European football.
    As today’s USA v England World Cup match shows, we British are fully capable of competing with the Americans and, just because we only scored one goal, and a pathetic one at that, … that does not mean that all of our basic assumptions about British supremacy (and perhaps life itself) will come crashing down around our shoulders.
    Does it?

  2. I love foooooot ball

  3. nice article,

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