Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Hangover Part III: The Aftermath of World Cup Soccer

Historically, the day after the MLB All-Star Game is the slowest day of the sports calendar year, so it’s no surprise that grown men in America have become completely obsessed with a combination of the two things they usually couldn’t care less about: Soccer and Women’s Sports.

The United States Women’s National Team (or #USWNT for all you @kerrancejames followers) has given us an epic ride over its past two games.

But whether Abby and the Flying Wambachs end up winning or losing in the World Cup Final on Sunday, it’s safe to assume that we won’t much care within 48 hours of its conclusion. That’s nothing against women’s sports or soccer, it’s just a statement of fact.

Case in point: I think we all remember Landon Donovan’s goal from last year’s Men’s World Cup. But do you remember what country he scored it against? Or by which country we were eventually eliminated from the tournament? Do you even remember who won the Men’s World Cup in 2010? I certainly don’t; and at the time, I was unemployed and so enthralled by the World Cup that I still get slightly aroused by the sound of a vuvuzela.

I’ve come to the conclusion that, to Americans, World Cup Soccer is the sporting equivalent of a moderately successful high school reunion. You get the invitation in the mail and immediately write it off as something you won’t be attending. As people start to ask you about it, you begrudgingly remember the fun times you had back in the day and somehow allow yourself to get a little optimistic about the proceedings. Then the big night arrives and it starts out rather slow and awkward; until you start drinking. Then people gradually become convinced that they’re having the time of their life and that they still have the same amount of school pride they always had, if not more now than ever. By the time it’s all said and done, you feel as though you’ve rekindled old friendships and you make tentative plans to hang out more regularly with the old gang.

Then you wake up in the morning with a hangover and are immediately reminded why the hell you stopped talking to those assholes in the first place. Perhaps you try to make good on your drunken promise to keep in touch, so you call up one of your best buds from yesteryear, but the phone conversation inevitably ends up in a 0-0 tie and you forget all about him until that next reunion invitation comes in the mail, at which point in time you’ll fondly remember that one night on which you all had a good time.

Lather, rinse, repeat every four years.

The World Cup is an amazing sporting event, but once it’s over and the patriotism and beer goggles fade away, it doesn’t take long for us to remember why we don’t watch this shit on a regular basis, unless you consider a few weeks over the course of a four-year cycle to be a regular basis:

There are just way too many flaws with the game.

Feel free to tell this wanker to sod off, but I’m pretty sure a lot of Americans agree with me. I’ve got the television ratings to prove it.

First off, for a sport to succeed in America, you need to be able to compare teams throughout a season and throughout history, you need to be able to compare individual players throughout a season and throughout history, and you need to be able to keep an ample amount of statistics so that the comparisons have enough leeway to result in barguments.

You think Cristiano Ronaldo is the greatest player in the history of soccer? Prove it. How does his +/- compare to Pele’s? What about his WAR or his VORP in contrast to Wayne Rooney’s? If anyone knew how the fuck to calculate QB rating, I’d throw that one in here too. The point being, the only individual stats you can really turn to in soccer are goals (maybe assists or saves?), and the only team stats are goal differential, wins/losses/ties, and championships. I don’t care enough to look them up, but I’m sure with the limited amount of statistics in soccer, you could definitively prove that one particular player and one particular team is the best that ever existed, and then effectively end that conversation.

Here in America, we don’t like ending that conversation. At the end of the day, we don’t care who’s the best; we just care about the debate. Why else would we air hours’ worth of shows like First Take, Around the Horn, and PTI every single day? Do you really think anyone would still be watching baseball if we didn’t have countless statistics to debate the comparisons of players and teams to those of decades past? (Note: MLB viewership is also helped significantly by the fact that football, basketball, and even hockey are all inactive for more than half of the baseball season.) There’s nothing to debate in soccer. I firmly believe this is why the most dedicated of fans in England just get drunk and beat the shit out of each other during the parts of the day that Americans sit at home in front of their TVs wishing they could beat the shit out of Skip Bayless.

And what the hell is the deal with relegation? You think it benefits the game to just remove fan bases from existence every year? I know a few Browns and Supersonics fans who would vehemently beg to differ. Believe me, I like the idea of penalizing a team instead of rewarding them with a high draft pick for finishing at the bottom of the standings, but that’s just messed up.

But the biggest problem is and always will be that I can watch 22 grown men run around in circles for 90+ minutes without anyone being declared a winner. For soccer to ever become watchable to the masses in America, it needs to steal a page from the NHL and end every regulation tie with overtime and penalty kicks, if necessary. You can’t routinely leave games unresolved and get away with it. No one will ever forgive Bud Selig for letting the 2002 All-Star Game end in a draw, yet we’re supposed to just accept that these are regular occurrences in soccer? Poppycock.

But alas, I’ll watch the Cup Finale against Japan on Sunday, and I will cheer or scream my heart out depending on the circumstances, because we Americans always manage to take national pride in anything that can be considered a battle for country supremacy (see: Joey Chestnut vs. Kobayashi). I hope they win the game, and I really hope Hope Solo is scantily clad on my doorstep shortly thereafter.

But once the game is over, hand me 2 Advil and a big glass of water and don’t expect me to watch any more soccer for a few years.

No comments:

Post a Comment