Cup Crazy

e-mail Pete

Every four years, like many Americans, I do my best to take part in the planet’s World Cup party. And every four years I remember that at this level, I love it. Maxi Rodriguez’ extra time goal for Argentina against Mexico sent chills. The beauty and athleticism of that one shot, like a masterpiece painting is hard to describe, but when you see it, you know.

Now, by level I mean not only the skill but the pageantry and the complete obsessive behavior of the fans. Anywhere other than the U.S., if you become a World Cup hero, you are set for life. Even Diego Maradona remains forever forgiven.

At the other end we have the horrifying tale of Andre Escobar. The Columbian defender who after scoring an own goal in the 1994 World Cup against the United States, was murdered ten days later in his own country, for that offense. Fan comes from the word fanatic.

That said it’s also clear why the sport fails to take hold in our national landscape. Many of these issues you’ve no doubt heard before. The lack of scoring, the lack of action, being completely okay with just passing the ball backwards, and of course cheering for a game the ends in a 0-0 tie (at least once they hit the round of 16 they eventually go to penalty kicks to ensure a victor).

But what gets our American dander up the most. THE FAKING AND FLOPPING TO GET A CALL. Granted, you’ll see that in the NBA all the time. But you won’t see Tim Duncan writhing on the court as though someone just shot him with a hollow point tipped bullet from the rafters. He tries to take the charge, falls down, gets back up, and on the game goes. These guys, and it’s every nation, these guys roll around on the ground for minutes feigning agony then get up and rub the wrong leg forgetting which appendage isn’t actually hurt.

It flies in the face of everything we hold dear. Can you see Brett Favre rolling over four times because Brian Urlacher clipped his jersey with his pinky as he went by? I have a vision of John Wayne sauntering over to one of the wiggling wounded, putting his knee in his back, and offering to create a real injury.

Can’t see us ever getting past that, and I can’t see how the rest of the world goes for it. Guess that makes me a jingoistic isolationist, either that or a jerk, but once this party’s over soccer for me heads back to the depths of sport alongside cricket and curling.

e-mail Pete

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