I’m Canadian and grew up with hockey and baseball as my two primary sports. While I played soccer as a kid – I’ve never followed it and can only cite Real Madrid and Manchester United as teams I know off the top of my head.
Nevertheless, I like sports – so I planned to watch some World Cup games this past weekend, and not because of some romantic notion for the “old country”. Yes, I have English family and distant, distant ties to France. But I’m Canadian. I’ll cheer more seriously for the Montreal Canadiens or Ottawa Senators than a country from which I’m once removed.
But I still want to watch and see what soccer is all about. (Yes, soccer. Not “football” as much of the North American media now refer to it, in what seems like a contrived attempt to fit in. “Football. See, I respect your sport. I’m cultured and worldly just like you!”)
Firstly, I think the World Cup tournament lives up to its name much better than Major League Baseball’s World Series. According to the World Series, the U.S., Canada, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Korea and Japan are the world, which is maybe also how Disney envisioned things when they wrote “a small world after all”?
The second thing I’ve realized watching some games, goals are as rare as an albino platypus and corner kicks as ineffective as putting a cap on the BP oil leak, leading to failure 9 times out of 10.
In a hockey game, shots generally come at a goalie consistently, creating lots of goal chances. In soccer, it seems just kicking the ball on net is an accomplishment. The majority of the time the ball sails over, around or beside the net or just bobbles around in front of the net without the goalie touching it.
I quickly began to understand how scoring a goal in soccer is more of an engineering feat than scoring a goal in a hockey. It’s the equivalent of launching a space shuttle versus starting a car.
So many things have to go right in succession. A good pass, a good run or ball handle, a good view at the net, and a good kick on goal. Then it’s still no guarantee.
As a fan – you’re constantly disappointed. A good pass – yeah!, A good ball handle – holy fuck, yes!! – And then the ball is stolen. Shit!
The farther each sequence goes, the more brutal it gets without a goal:
A good pass – okay! A good run or ball handle – shit yeah! a good view at the net – Yes, yes, yes!! Oh, but he kicks it 50 feet over the goal.
I felt like I’d developed blue balls, experiencing one failed climax after another.
In response, I began to lose enthusiasm for each good step, the longer the game went on:
A good pass – big deal!, A good run or ball handle – whoop-tee-doo he’s just gonna screw it up! a good view at the net – Whatever!! Sure enough, it would end with another ball rocketed into the crowd.
And then, finally – miracle of all miracles – like a photographer trying to capture a rare species that comes out once every 25 years between 8:12 and 8:13 during a full lunar cycle with an easterly wind and low tide – it happens.
The ultimate release.
I thought, of course, announcers scream it like this. They’re having an incredible orgasm, having been thwarted by 30 minutes of false promises.
Now that I understand pent up frustration is central to being a soccer fan, it makes sense some fans apply twenty pints of beer to the pain.