Thoughts on the 2006 World Cup

By Alun Thomas

   When something a person holds close to them is constantly ridiculed, poked at and criticized the immediate response is to stand up for that cause. After the conclusion of the World Cup final on July the ninth in which Italy beat France 5-3 on penalties the amount of unjust scrutiny and hatred that appeared in the nations media towards soccer was more unjust than usual. Every four years this attitude manifests itself among the more one eyed US sports media when they perceive soccer to be gaining a small portion of the nations consciousness, so out roll the Jim Rome's and more obscurely the Frank Fitzpatrick's (Philadelphia Inquirer) to take their shots as to why soccer is an abomination and not on par with 'American' sports. They've taken enough shots. What about the other foot?

  While at work the last week I counted three articles in the Peoria Journal Star that denigrated the World Cup as lifeless and dull, with interest low among locals. That's a stunning revelation. Is this some sort of propagandist agenda from their sports staff? The content filters through the same clichˇd material: there's not enough scoring, not enough breaks in the game, the clock isn't stopped, it's boring in general, the final was decided on penalties, the grass is too green, the cup itself is name it, it's been said. What annoys me is these observers appear to have no interest in the game or want to learn anything involved with it, so why are they plundering the papers, internet and airwaves with their ill informed opinions? Jealously? If something isn't your specialized area why would you feel the need to comment on it?

  The NFL and MLB are far superior as soccer fans in the US are told repeatedly. After all could you imagine the Superbowl being decided on field goals after a tie? Or the World Series being resolved through a home run derby? No, American's do not tolerate ties, it's not part of the moral fabric of sport in this country. Those sports have their special ways, as does soccer, so why can these biased hacks accept that? If no side was good enough to score a winner in normal or extra time then how long can you play? These players are constantly running for ninety minutes plus. No five second plays and a break here. Look at the overtime rule in the NFL, most of the time the team with the first possession wins on a field goal, the other team no chance to reply. This is conveniently ignored.

  Soccer is boring because of the low scoring? Admittedly this World Cup was the second lowest scoring of all time, but Americans are used to high scores, anything less and they lose attention. Here's an idea, should a goal in soccer be made worth seven points to gain popularity? A 3-2 game shall now be 21-14, with a penalty as a field goal for an extra point. How high scoring would the NFL be if touchdowns were worth a point with no field goal? Not high at all. The Bears would be pointless often. Why does nobody ever think in these terms? 2-1 games would be routine. And the capacity for a one hour game to last three hours plus is a drain on time. What if the game was played the hour straight with no stoppages? How quick would sides be scrambling to get their downs in? All those 340 pound linemen would be dead of exhaustion.

  It will always be tit for tat, and the whole argument is futile. But I will never understand how a journalist could write something about a sport he doesn't understand just to dismantle it. It's shoddy journalism and how in essence could you even describe yourself as a sport fan at all? The rest of the world has no interest in baseball or American football but do not feel the need to publicly humiliate them. Likewise neither do I because I enjoy them myself. It would be easy for me to rattle off every Superbowl winner and score, but your average US sport watcher could never do that for every World Cup final because it's not part of his upbringing or culture. I've come to live here so have assimilated myself into the things that America covets. So the capacity for these average watchers to call up talk radio and lay waste to soccer is ill informed, arrogant and so ignorant it sadly riles.

 It will never end, and in four years time when South Africa holds the World Cup the same names will crawl out with their same insults. I hope they noticed ratings more than doubled for this World Cup. There are people who will stand up for a much maligned sport, and I'm unlucky enough to have lived in the two most prominent soccer hating nations on earth, here and New Zealand, so it feels like my whole life I've been defending something I shouldn't have to. Why? The people attacking soccer no nothing about it. I know all about your sports. You'll never get me. Soccer is the people's and the world's game. Leave it at that.