Well, I realize that the aftermath of a 3-0 depantsing of the U.S. at the hands of the Czech Republic is probably not the best time for this post, but what the hell. Here goes.
For those of you in a coma or, worse, the Republican Party, the greatest sporting event on the planet is now underway -- the FIFA World Cup. Now, while I love the game tremendously, I realize that many of my fellow countrymen tend to view soccer as something that's as gripping and enjoyable as a John Tesh concert.
The chief excuse for American apathy about the game is, quite simply, "it's boring." This is such a classic, lazy complaint. And, to some extent, hypocritical. The same sports fans who can rhapsodize about a "pitcher's duel" in baseball or a "defensive showdown" in football are generally the same ones who tend to whine about how soccer's boring.
I mean, baseball's so boring they actually give the fans a break late in the game. I'm pretty sure it's part of the Geneva Conventions that crowds can only be forced to watch Chipper Jones scratch himself like a bassett hound for two hours in a row without reprieve. There's a reason so much beer is on sale at the stadiums.
And as much as I love pro football, it's a game of constant interruptions, timeouts, measurements, instant replays, and huddles. DirecTV's NFL package has a function where they they edit the games, cutting out all the stoppages and showing every single play, hike to whistle. Without fail, they manage to trim the three-hour NFL broadcasts down to 20-30 minutes. No offense, but if you can trim 5/6 of the telecast away and still preserve every single play, then maybe it's this country that has the boring variety of football.
And that's not even mentioning some of the other things that some Americans consider a non-boring sport. NASCAR is essentially rednecks making left turns for three straight hours. World's Fastest Oil Change is a pathetic entry in the Guinness Book of World Records, not something for onlookers to cheer for. Golf? Christ, even the announcers are talking in a hushed voice. It’s got all the fun and spontaneity of the Brezhnev funeral, with the fashion sense of the snob frat from "Animal House." My God, we have people who consider bowling and billiards and bass fishing to be gripping sports, but soccer? Oh no.
I think most Americans just haven't been exposed to the game at its highest form. The prevalence of youth soccer in this country might actually work against its spread, as most suburban parents have now associated the sport with the image of a pack of 9-year-olds playing in the dirt and mobbing the ball. Yeah, if I'd grown up only watching Pop Warner Football, I'd probably not want to watch the pro game either.
Other people complain about low-scoring games. (Maybe if we scored in base seven like American football, it would seem more important. You know, 14-7 instead of 2-1?) What these people miss is the fact that a low score is also a close score. A team down 1-0 has a shot to come back and win or tie. Hell, just this morning, Australia was down 1-0 for the first eighty minutes of the game, and then rocketed in goals -- not once, not twice, but thrice! -- against Japan for a 3-1 smackdown in the last ten.
Again, compare that to U.S. sports. I can't count the number of Monday Night Football games where Al Michaels has had to joke about how only the gamblers are still watching because the Colts ran up the score 28-0 in the first half, the starters were rested midway through the 4th Q, and it's all over but the crying.
I think the boredom complaints come from the fact that so many Americans don't understand that there's actually much more to the game than the goals. So much of the play rests on innovation and spur-of-the-moment adjustments. It's a game that requires, from players and fans alike, attentiveness and an appreciation for small details -- passes, assists, even single touches -- that may not exactly work in a country known for its short attention sp... Hey, what's that?
Think soccer's boring? Watch the Brazil game tomorrow. Or hell, just stick with your original plan to watch an Ernest movie on the SuperStation and then look for sparkly stuff in the parking lot. Your loss.
Update: For reasons that should be obvious to those of you with reading comprehension skills, I changed the title from a soccer-mocking Simpsons quote to a baseball-mocking Simpsons quote.
Update 2.0: Apparently, I got the math in the "base seven" joke wrong. I'm not going to fix it in the text because, frankly, I don't want to stick the landing on that kind of joke. Fumbling that reference is like being a little too tall for the nerd ride.