Inkspots: The cup that held a world of hope
by RICK NORTON Associate Editor
Jul 13, 2014 | 279 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“When I meet a European, the first thing I say is, ‘I’d much rather watch football than football.’ But I’m just teasing them, and they know I’d really rather watch football than football.’”

― Jarod Kintz

American Author

From, “The Days of Yay are Here! Wake Me Up

When They're Over”

———

And now for a few words about something I know absolutely nothing about.

It isn’t the first time. Probably won’t be the last.

Later today, two of Planet Earth’s finest soccer — also known as “football” and also known as “futball” — teams will square off in that sport’s granddaddy of all showcases. It’s the championship game ... match, whatever, we’ve been down this road before ... of the wondrous World Cup.

I don’t plug the word “wondrous” facetiously. Even folks like me who enjoy watching the World Cup, but who don’t know the difference between a “strike” or a “dive” or a “foul” or an “off-sides” or a “pass” or why “red cards” bring out the worst in coaches, will be the first among viewing novices to concede, “I kind’a like this stuff.”

Granted, some don’t agree.

One detractor even admitted, “I hate soccer ... but I do like the World Cup.” For him, I think it’s patriotism. The U.S. team qualified for the World Cup and fared well in the Brazil-based tournament before being ousted by Belgium. Like thousands or maybe millions of other Americans, he was rooting for the U.S. lads. And that’s as it should be.

I enjoyed watching the Americans as well, but I liked watching other matches better. That’s because I was pulling too hard for the underdog Americans. That game where they lost the lead to Portugal with less than a minute remaining was heartbreaking. I don’t do well pulling for favorite teams. I want them to win so badly that when they goof up I start pulling my hair out. That would explain the larger-than-life forehead.

From all accounts I heard ... as a soccer novice ... the American team did well. Given that our guys won only one of four matches, I think you have to understand the context of the review. By record, the U.S. was 1-1-2. That’s one win, one tie ... er, draw, excuse me ... and two losses.

But they were competitive. That’s what turned some heads.

The fact that I’ve embraced the World Cup over the past month — my infatuation actually began with the last World Cup four years ago — should be a shocker.

Here’s why.

1. I never played the sport.

2. I don’t understand half the rules ... although I’m slowly catching on the more I watch it.

3. I could write a book on ways they could improve the game, but then again I should remember soccer’s been around a heckuva lot longer than I have. Besides, it’s not my role to question the rationale, but to recognize that the world of futball purists just might know what they’re doing.

4. I’ve never written about the sport; at least, not until two weeks ago when I used this column space to try my hand at assessing the game, its lingo, the people who watch it and the naysayers who say they “hate it.”

That column attracted the attention of some soccer fans. Without exception, they welcomed me into their fold.

I was thankful. They were happy I was thankful. I was happy they were happy.

“Your INKSPOTS article in today’s newspaper was most enjoyable and I wish to congratulate you on having joined the ranks of us soccer enthusiasts,” one dear old friend said in an email. She’s a native West German whose love for the American soccer team goes something like this, “... USA! USA! USA!” Her email gave me a history of European soccer and a personal account of West Germany’s bid for the FIFA World Cup back in the day.

She’s no stranger to sports. In her youth, Aggie Scott was a world class athlete. I’m not sure I was supposed to use Aggie’s name. If not, she’ll let me know Monday.

“Glad to see you’re expanding your horizons!” one good-natured gentleman offered a couple days later. “You’re still an American, but now you’re even more ... you’re part of the world.”

“Like ... an Earthling?” I mused

“Exactly!”

Still, there are reasons I’ve enjoyed World Cup soccer and some aren’t exactly flattering toward many of today’s professional athletes who compete in leagues of their own.

One, World Cup soccer players appear to be more team-oriented; there’s less spotlight on just one or two superstars.

Two, World Cup soccer players seem to be among the best conditioned athletes in the world ... always running; heck, I’ve seen more walking in an NBA basketball game.

Three, World Cup soccer players practice sportsmanship; when was the last time you remember seeing an NFL player help an opponent to his feet?

Four, World Cup soccer players ... obviously, with some exceptions ... don’t engage in a lot of trash talk. In one match, I did see a Netherlands goalkeeper get in the face of a Costa Rican shooter during a penalty kick. That was a turnoff. But then, we see it in American sports daily.

Five, World Cup soccer fans are rabid ... but in a good way; they understand the game and most probably hate losing more than they love winning.

Six, World Cup soccer players give hope to young men suffering premature baldness. Just because they’re stricken with a male pattern hairline doesn’t mean they can’t soar like Michael Jordan in his Chicago Bulls prime. For example, the Netherlands team has this guy named Robben. He’s the spitting image of Jean Luc Picard, captain of the Enterprise from “Star Trek: Next Generation.” Robben runs like an antelope and kicks like a bronco. I can’t speak for Picard. But both are snowcone heads.

Seven, World Cup soccer is a tribute to the game — not the player.

Best of luck today to Germany and to Argentina. May the best team win. May the contest sustain soccer’s legacy of being the most popular sport on Earth.

Guys, it’s your Super Bowl.

And it’s America’s honor to watch.

Oh, and since you asked ... I’m picking Germany — by 1-0 (I think that’s called “nil”) or 2-1 or by penalty kicks. But not 7-1. Not this time.

Why Germany? Didn’t you read the lead to this column? I know absolutely nothing about this game ... but I’m learning to love the World Cup.

Go world.