Loving the Futbol

Soccer (or futbol, or football – a much more appropriate name than American Football considering they actually use their feet in this one) is the most popular sport in the world and an estimated one billion people watched the final game. People are crazy about it and I’ve always sort of wondered, “What’s the big deal?”

Well, I gotta say, I’m starting to get it. It all started on the plane to London. There were little TV screens on the back of the seat in front of you, so you could choose which of the available programs you wanted to watch. One of the stations had the history of the World Cup as seen through the eyes of the nation of Brazil so I gave it a shot. It. Was. Fascinating.

And I was hooked.

At Gatwick Airport in London, they had a big screen TV set up near our gate so I sat down to watch Netherlands and Ivory Coast go at one another. As the game went on, more and more people crowded around until finally we had a legitimate gallery on our hands. It made viewing the game all the more exciting and it was an appropriate way to watch my first game with new eyes for the sport. I just love that it’s such a big deal that the airport had set up a TV. Does that even happen for the Olympics? The Super Bowl?

Even in Zambia, we were driving through one of the slums and if there was a television in a tavern, there was no question as to what it would be tuned to. The little 13″ TV in the house we stayed in had an antenna that picked up only one station. The only thing it ever broadcast was a poorly produced news program or the World Cup if there was a game.

I suppose there are as many reasons for its popularity as there are people who tuned in to it, but one that strikes me is its simplicity in terms of equipment. All you really need is a simple ball. It doesn’t even have to bounce that great to work sufficiently. No need for gloves, rackets, bats, a hoop…or ice. (Ice, now there’s an impediment to a sport’s migratory abilities.) Just get a ball and start kicking it around. It’s actually a lot of fun.

So why hasn’t it caught on here? It seems that every one plays soccer as a five or six-year old and then we drop it like it’s hot. As far as not liking it is concerned, I’m sure there are as many reasons as there are people who didn’t tune in.

But the one I’ve heard mentioned the most is that it’s boring. “Ninety minutes and it ends 0-0? That’s boring.” I’m sure it could be, but it could also be an exciting and nail-biting 90 minutes as well. I can see why someone would be bored or unimpressed with watching World Cup games if they turned it on expecting the sort of entertainment they’re used to from watching NFL or NBA games. Those sports are intense and exciting because there is big play after big play. You don’t have to wait very long to be wowed. Soccer (and I speak as a fan with exactly nine games of viewing under my belt) is about the nuance. You can’t watch it with the same eyes that you watched the Mavs edge the Spurs in Game 7 with. It’d be like going to a symphony concert expecting to see and hear the Rolling Stones. You’d be like, “What’s up? There wasn’t even an electric guitar.”

Here’s a short-cut to deciding if you should give the World Cup another chance when South Africa hosts it in four years. When you watch a baseball game and it’s 0-0 in the top of the 9th, are you saying to yourself, “Wow! This is an incredible pitching duel!” Are you hanging on each at-bat, loving the game within a game that is every single pitch? If so, June of 2010 is just around the corner (and qualifying begins long before). If not, Dolphins v. Steelers, Thursday, Sept. 7th.

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6 thoughts on “Loving the Futbol”

  1. Oh, geez, I remember getting up on Saturday morning (at the crack of dawn, it seemed like, and coooooooold) and going to watch you and LL play soccor when you were little. Never thought much more about it other than that.
    Of course, it’s got to be more intesting than NASCAR where they just keep “making left turns”. 😉

  2. :) I agree with Sissy on that one….gotta be better than NASCAR…sorry mom! I love watching Tennis…and that is just a ball going back and forth back and forth….I’ll probably give Soccer a chance next time 😀

  3. I was surprised to see Larr get into the world cup, too, B. He’s never mentioned any kind of interest in the sport, but then again, he’s also been known to watch things like bowling, darts and dominoes. :p You guys are just a sporty family, I guess. And you can expect to see your nephew playing in the next year or so. I know T-ball starts at the age of 3, and I think soccer may be the same. Good times!

  4. Go very fast & turn left, excuse me!!! 😉 Yes… soccer came and went very quietly in our house. Saturday mornings were meant for sleeping… & not early bicycle rides either Kari!!! 😉 Every sport has it exilerating moments, just depends on what eyes are seeing it. That is what makes it a sport… otherwise it would be chess.

  5. Well, at least one good thing came out of you guys going to Africa. I’m kidding. I’m happy that you have a new found appreciation of a great sport. I bet those wee african kids are hardcore fans..?.. You have to love the sport of futbol, and I agree, it is a much more approriate name, they should call soccer, futbol (in an English accent) and football, tackleball or pigskinball or something. I wish I had more time to watch and not work, next year will be different. We’ll set up a projection screen or something at our future place and you guys will have to come over to watch a bit.

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