Beautiful… as Long as You Like Soccer
Over the last few weeks, my morning routine has involved waking up, tiptoeing down the hallway to avoid waking everyone else up, putting the coffee on, and catching a World Cup match before work. It has been delightful, and I am already dreading the end of South Africa 2010. This morning’s game (a 2-1 win by the Netherlands over mighty Brazil) had it all—colour, drama, suspense, amazing skill, some great goals, a bit of nastiness, and the right result! I can’t wait for the other three quarterfinal matches today and tomorrow.
Of course, we North Americans have long lagged behind the rest of the world in our appreciation and understanding of football. Happily, there are signs that this might be changing. The USA team’s performance in South Africa seemed to capture a good deal of attention south of the border, and the addition of two MLS teams in Canada (Vancouver and Montreal) over the next few years can only help the advancement of the game in our neck of the woods. I remain hopeful that I will see our Canadian team make a second appearance at a World Cup in the not-too-distant future—possibly even Brazil 2014!
At any rate, I came cross an article this week by ESPN writer Bill Collins that sums up what I have long felt about the beautiful game—sentiments that have only been reinforced over these last few weeks:
I love the Cup because it stripped away all the things about professional sports that I’ve come to despise. No sideline reporters. No JumboTron. No TV timeouts. No onslaught of replays after every half-decent play. No gimmicky team names like the “Heat” or the “Thunder.” (You know what the announcers call Germany? The Germans. I love this.) No announcers breathlessly overhyping everything or saying crazy things to get noticed. We don’t have to watch 82 mostly half-assed games to get to the playoffs. We don’t have 10 graphics on the screen at all times. We don’t have to sit there for four hours waiting for a winner because pitchers are taking 25 seconds to deliver a baseball.
The World Cup just bangs it out: Two cool national anthems, two 45-minute halves, a few minutes of extra time and usually we’re done. Everything flies by. Everything means something. It’s the single best sporting event we have by these four measures: efficiency, significance, historical context and truly meaningful/memorable/exciting moments. You know … as long as you like soccer.