Way back in the olden thymes, when the World Cup was held in the United States, I went to the games played on Foxboro. I happened to be at the airport when the Greek team arrived, so I got to see them buying Marlboros at the gift shop. Seeing a bunch of swarthy guys chain smoking outside the terminal is my main memory of international soccer. That and how all of them were glaring at every women in sight. It was as if they just got out of prison. Little dogs and little men have no control of their sex drive.
That said, it was a good time in Boston during the World Cup and I had fun at the games I attended. Soccer is boring, dull and tedious on television. The fake injuries are so absurd and embarrassing it is hard to tolerate. In person, the game is better. When Raul collapses in a heap, acting like he took a cannon ball to the knee, the crowd roars in unison, thus making it more like a stage play than a sporting event. You lose that watching on TV, so it comes off as absurd.
Watching soccer live is also better than TV, because you get to see the players that are not involved in the play. They are often chatting with one another like they are old friends bumping into one another on a stroll. On TV, the camera follows the ball and the players all look busy. Live, you also get a better sense of what’s really happening. The strategy comes into focus sooner than on TV. Since most of the games are fixed, it all makes more sense when you get to see all of the action.
World Cup soccer and Olympic soccer are fun because so much is at stake. The Little League World Series gets big TV ratings in the U.S. for the same reason. People don’t watch little kids play baseball, unless it’s their kids. Put the same kids in an international tournament and suddenly the nation gets interested. There’s also the fact that the World Cup features the best players in the world. The fact is, Mesi and Neymar kicking a ball around will always seem more thrilling than two unknown guys.
Now, what has always turned me off about soccer is the cultural angle. When I was a boy, our betters in America tried to force soccer and the metric system on us. The people doing it were all loathsome snobs. Worse yet, all of them were the children of working class people who should have known better. But, their parents sent them off to the state college and they came back thinking they were sophisticated citizens of the world, so they loved soccer. Yep, soccer was a Boomer fetish.
Even all these year on, I still think of those smug assholes of my youth, whenever soccer comes to my attention. I associate it with the ridiculous poseurs who turn up in every Progressive cultural fad. I’ve probably heard “it is the most popular sport in the world” a million times in my life. That is the sort of thing stupid say when they want to sound sophisticated. In most of the world, soccer is the sport of the poor and lower classes. That means our bourgeois bohemians are aping the mores of chavs.
A recent development, one that I find most irritating, is the fake passion of cosmopolitan men for Premiere League teams in Britain. They saw videos of Euro guy with his hands on his head in agony over a soccer match and now they are pretending to have had a lifelong passion for a soccer club in England. I have a friend who used to call soccer “fag ball” until about a decade ago. He became a vegan and started following soccer and he now wears a Man U jersey. He says “footie” now.
It is all a pose, of course. What’s odious about the poseur is he turns his self-loathing into your problem. The poseur apes the styles and attitude of others because he hates himself and cannot stand the sight of himself. His comical pretensions force everyone else to play along, in order to be polite. Everyone knows the poseur is full of crap, but the guy who says what everyone thinks, risks being castigated for being rude. These people turn our virtues into vices. They deserve to be hated.
One other thing that turns me off is the “you don’t understand the complexity of the sport” line from people who probably don’t understand the sport at all. Soccer’s appeal is based in its simplicity. Real fans know this, but poseurs prattle on about the complexity in order to shift the focus from their misplaced and irrational love for a foreign sport, onto the skepticism of their critics. In other words, they don’t really like soccer, they just want to signal their membership in a group they believe is superior.
Anyway, that’s my problem with soccer.