I’m not sure why, but I never really latched on to soccer (or “football,” as those kooky foreigners call it). I mean, to be honest, I didn’t latch on too hard to any sports at all in my youth. I was too involved with comics and TV and whatnot. But even as I started to get into the athletic arts, soccer never really hit with me. Maybe it was the memories of my youth league soccer team, wherein our coach cursed at us to turn us into men (I told my parents about this immediately). I think we won the Arundel Cup that year, but I am one hundred percent sure that it was despite my involvement. I probably spent the whole season spinning around in a lonely corner of the pitch, thinking about Harry Potter and what snack we would get after the game. Good times. But some people actually care for soccer. Some people care so much that they go on to play professionally. And every four years they compete in a tournament that the majority of the United States pretends to care about. The good news is, as of 2:30 pm today, our long national FIFA nightmare is over. Until 2018.
Germany and Argentina faced off for the title of World Champion today in Brazil. It was the culmination of a month of play, and years of preparation. It was also the only game I sat down to watch in the tournament. “What?” you’re saying to yourself, “He didn’t even watch the US Men’s National Team play?” I didn’t. And in about a week you’ll forget that you did too, so stop looking at me with those disapproving eyes.
It might sound like I’m being dismissive of soccer. That’s not my intention. It is obviously an internationally relevant sport with billions of fans worldwide. It’s just that only like twelve of those fans live in the United States. Unfortunately those twelve people think that gives them the right to look down on everyone else for not “getting” their sport of choice. I don’t understand the need to place one sport above any other, but it has spawned countless arguments that I have been forced to smile and nod through (it’s especially confusing since the obvious order of quality is baseball > hockey > American football > Unamerican football > basketball). If I had the time and the spite I would learn cricket and then criticize all of the soccer fans in my life for not being able to understand the emotions involved in a similarly relevant world event.
But I have managed to look past the pretension of US soccer enthusiasts to watch the final game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It was an experience that I was kind of looking forward to, since I expected it to only to take about two hours and I was waiting on my laundry anyway. As I sat down for the game I started to acquaint myself with the sides. I’m not a complete shut-in, so I knew all about Germany’s trouncing of Brazil earlier in the week. They seemed to be the odds-on favorite in this match, even though they lost a player before the game because he forgot to stretch. Argentina on the other hand barely got into this game after penalty kicks, so they didn’t do a whole lot to earn my respect.
Nor did they impress me during the match itself. So many just-missed opportunities. And what about this Gonzalo Higuaín guy? A complete choke on one attempt, and an unnecessary offsides transgression on the other? The next four years are going to be pretty rough for him. He should probably call his family and tell them to move immediately.
Even though no actual scoring occurred in the first half, I was actually enjoying myself, and if Mike Tirico had asked me during halftime if I was becoming a soccer fan, I might have said yes. I didn’t even mind the British announcers, as they helped me keep everything straight during the game. And they were a little sassy, which more sporting events could use, honestly. But then the second half started, and it was like all of the energy had been sucked out of the stadium. I get that it’s a long game, but come on. Get it together fellas!
Finally, in overtime (after an extra time investment from yours truly), young Mario Götze (“Super Mario” to his friends, “goatse” to his enemies) scored a goal for the German side, and that was mostly that. Sure, Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi got one more chance to make his dad proud, but he failed like so many of us do on a daily basis. And then the game was over. And the Germans proceeded to run around Brazil as if it were 1945 again.
In the end, I wasn’t too impressed with this “soccer” thing some of my co-workers rave about. Here’s the deal: football has it’s merits, but it also combines all of the things Americans hate about even our favorite sports. You get the flopping of basketball, the ignorance of head injuries from football, the low scores of hockey, and the stretches of seeming inactivity from baseball wrapped up in a spherical-yet-angular package that you can’t touch with your hands. It’s okay though, because now soccer will be largely absent from our shores for the next four years. It will be long enough for people to trick themselves into thinking they liked it last time, even though they haven’t thought about it at all in the meantime. Classic US-World Cup syndrome. Until then I’ll leave you with my famous catchphrase: “keep dribblin’ (your soccerball) (with your feet) (not your hands) (on grass, not asphalt).”