First, some background: I’m about as far from a sports dude as you can get. I will voluntarily watch the olympics (apart from curling and ice dancing) and the soccer World Cup and that’s it. Any other game will require a gun to the head.
Obviously, soccer has had a hard time raising interest in the States, but now that the U.S. is participating and has a decent chance of making something of it, Americans who’ve never cared about the game before are giving it a go. Which is great. Soccer, when played at world-class levels, is a sublime sport.
But from the chatter I’m seeing and hearing, the most common complaint is that the games are too low-scoring.
0-0? 1-2? What the hell? This is boring.
And sure, there are few goals in soccer when great teams are playing—they don’t let themselves get scored on. Goals come about from defensive screw-ups. A tight defense means you don’t suffer a goal from the other team. You want to see goals aplenty? Subject yourself to watching bush-league soccer and you’ll get your plenty of goals. But the teams in the World Cup are far too good for that.
Obsessing over the number of goals is a misunderstanding of the game: goals are few and far between, but that doesn’t matter because what you’re doing is watching the game unfold. It’s all about watching the players react in real-time to fluid situations and making non-stop tactical decisions, including attempts at goal.
What you pay attention to are the situations on the pitch. Even in a low-scoring game, there are tons of situations to watch and be carried away by.
The goals are cherries on top.
It’s easy to see why Americans not used to soccer fail to understand this. If you look at the typical American sports, especially baseball and football, they have two things in common: constant stop-start with measurable results, and micro-management.
No, no, bear with me.
Look at baseball: Each pitch is as a mini game of its own with a clearly defined beginning and end. The pitcher is told how to pitch. The runners are told when to stay and when to run. For all their physical skill, they are pawns for the coach, executing his tactics. And you know when each mini-game is over, since the players go back to staring into space and scratching their balls and the TV switches over to a commercial. Baseball—oh yes, and football—is a background sport where you can talk to your friends and drink a beer and be alerted whenever something’s actually happening. You are not encouraged to pay attention to the whole game. Although from the baseball I’ve seen on TV, you sure are encouraged to drink a lot of crappy beers.1
Compare to soccer, where the coach of course has a plan and has drilled his players in how he wants them to perform, but when it comes to the actual game, the players don’t execute plays, they execute strategy. The coach can do little but yell while the players are on the field. Which means they are infinitely more autonomous than baseball or football players. Their plays are their own, and above all, soccer is designed to let those plays unfold in the time they need.
So when you watch a high-caliber soccer game, if you sit with your nose in your beer2 until you hear a whistle, you are missing the point of the game—which is what happens between goals during the play. Which is completely unpredictable. Which makes it compelling.
So if you want to watch a game where you can let your attention wander and know that you’ll be alerted whenever something happens that you should see, stick to baseball and football. If you want to watch a game where two teams fight it out on a pitch using only their wits and cunning, keep watching soccer.
I don’t understand why this is so hard to understand: Bud Light, Miller Light, Coors Light, etc. aren’t beers. They’re cat piss in a can and they are making the original German beer masters spin in their graves enough they’re an energy source that will make Germany the first Green nation.↩
Please at least make it a good beer, alright?↩
Posted Sunday, 20 June, 2010 by Nic Lindh
Another book roundup, including some stellar athletes and soldiers, what might be the most jaded, soul-weary protagonist ever, and some grimdark fantasy.
The Internet is getting creepy, and Nic is breaking out his tinfoil hat after newspaper paywalls push him over the edge.
Nic is tired of tech sites obsessing over Apple’s financials and business strategy. So very tired.
Nic reads a book about the processed food industry and is incensed.
Computers are complicated. This brings out the irrational in people.
Nic proposes the loan word Rechthaberei be incorporated into American English.
The Core Dump is back! Books were read during the hiatus. Includes The Coldest Winter, Oh, Myyy!, Tough Sh*t, The Revolution Was Televised, The Rook, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, Gun Machine, Fortress Frontier, Standing in Another Man’s Grave, and The Memory of Light.
This site will return in February.
From a true patriot to a world-weary detective, a dead god, and a civilization about to sublime from the galaxy, this book roundup spans the gamut. Includes Where Men Win Glory, Wild, Inside the Box, The Black Box, Three Parts Dead, Red Country, and The Hydrogen Sonata.
Springsteen gives a concert in Phoenix. It’s fantastic.