I’m primarily a football and hockey fan, but I enjoy watching soccer, so I thought I’d offer a few counterpoints to Ann Coulter’s withering putdown of the sport. Here are some good things to consider about soccer:
1. The players don’t know when the game will end. Don’t tell me soccer isn’t exciting! The people playing don’t even know when it will be over. From the perspective of the players, every soccer game is like the last episode of “The Sopranos.”
The game ends a vague number of minutes after it was supposed to. This is why Portugal was able to score their surprise last-second goal against the American team. The Americans thought the game was over, and they were already halfway to the concession stands, hoping that one really hot Brazilian girl was still slinging burgers in the east concourse.
It ain’t over until one to five minutes after the fat lady sings. Suggestion for soccer authorities looking to create added drama to get Americans more interested in the game: put the beep-beep Clock of Doom from “24” on the screen during bonus time.
2. Limited commercial interruption. American football games contain more advertising than an entire season of “Mad Men.” This is another reason why soccer’s bonus time rules confuse American players. They naturally assume overtime will be heralded by half an hour of advertising for beer, automobiles, and sitcoms.
3. Fewer rules arguments. Most of the extensive legal battles in soccer occur after the game is over, when irate fans burn down the stadium. Soccer games can keep rolling merrily along even after a referee touches the ball. If that happened in an American football game, the resulting argument would reach the Supreme Court.
4. Penalties are personally humiliating. Yellow and red cards in soccer are brandished at the players in much the same way Van Helsing uses a crucifix to hold Dracula at bay. The only way this could be more dramatic would be to add a live choral accompaniment, singing apocalyptic “Omen”-type music. If football penalty flags were personally presented to the offending players this way, the referees would have to carry tasers.
5. Soccer contains moments of astonishing athleticism. Sure, there are long stretches of soccer games where the ball moves around like a slightly defective Roomba trying to clean a small apartment, but then you see some amazing displays of strength and coordination. I refer, of course, to the way soccer players fling themselves to the ground in an effort to get penalties called against the other team. The soccer flop is a savage ballet, an art form fusing emotional intensity with physical effort. The only sport in which contestants spend more time getting flipped to the ground is judo, and in judo the players need other contestants to help them flip.
6. You can advance in the World Cup even after losing. The American team just did this today, making it obvious that soccer should be the official game of the United States federal government, which also advances its interests through failure. Standing in the World Cup is determined by a spreadsheet containing approximately one billion lines of code, or else there’s a big spinner that randomly points out which teams get to advance – I’ve heard different stories.
This is a bit of an obstacle to increasing American fandom, because we like to know the league standing of our football teams within thirty seconds of them doing something that makes us swear we’ll never root for them again. Anger demands immediate validation! Defeat should be punished by exile, until fans can convince themselves a new coach or players will return the team to greatness. However, after today’s drama in the USA-Germany game, I think we can all agree it’s more exciting to have a tournament where the other teams can all defeat each other, and you win by default.