Thursday, June 24, 2010

Football Ain't Round!

 I've got a bit of a problem.

I don't like soccer.  Football.  Whatever.

It's not that I'm just not a big sports fan, although I'm not. 

I actively dislike the game. 

There is nothing about soccer that I like.  The finesse is lost on me.  It's not a Beautiful Game.  It's slow and dull and I'd rather stare at a wall painted two years ago and think back to the day I watched it dry.  To me, it's just kicking the ball around and not scoring. 

And I'm sorry, a draw is not a result.  A draw is the lack of a result.   

Normally, this leaves me out of a fair few conversations at the pub or the barber shop, but I get by.  That was before the World Cup. These days, I can't seem to find any sort of human contact with less than 50% soccer content. 

I thought I'd managed to dodge a bullet when Ireland didn't qualify.  There was a bit of grumbling, and railing at the unfairness of the universe in general and the French in particular, but it blew over fairly quickly, and I could be sure there would be no local favorite to support.  There might be fairly universal support for whoever might be playing England or France at any given moment, but it looked like I was to be spared the full force of the World Cup experience.  To further discourage diehard fans, I decided to respond to any soccer comments with the phrase “Aw! Cute!”

Then the US started playing well.

Now, as I understand it, "well" is a relative term.  They didn't suck badly enough to fall at the first hurdle.   And “not all that bad” turned out to be good enough.

As a result, I'm expected to care.  I'm expected to cheer with the national pride denied my neighbors, to somehow take credit for the American team's success, referring to them as "we" and "us."  I’m supposed to run through the streets draped in the stars and stripes chanting “USA! USA!” and generally feeling quite good about myself because a bunch of guys with passports that look like mine weren’t as bad as expected.

Sometimes, I try to take the path of least resistance and just play along, nodding and smiling noncommittally as friends and acquaintances attempt to bask in the glow of my excitement.  That only works if they're willing to leave well enough alone.  Once they start asking questions, start looking for details and juicy morsels, I have to confess my apathy.  Everything I know of the World Cup, I learned in 10 word headlines before tuning out. 

To be honest, I sort of hope the American team doesn’t win.  I’m not being unfaithful or unpatriotic, and I don’t actually wish them ill.  I just think victory would mean more to another team. 

You see, I'm not alone.  The generation behind me grew up playing soccer, and it's far more popular than it was in years past, but as far as I can tell, the US still doesn't care about soccer.  I don’t see that changing any time soon, so I'd rather the winning team returns home to a heroes' welcome, not some half-hearted national pat on the head.