Thursday, June 10, 2010

A few things before we begin

My 2010 FIFA World Cup™ iPhone app tells me we're now a little more than 17 hours from this sucker getting started. I'm wondering if I pay $7.99 for the app upgrade, will it also give me a Brazil 2014 countdown clock? Because I cannot wait for Brazil 2014 to get going. I'll hold off for now. Maybe I'll buy it tomorrow.

Like many of you, I'm spending these final hours just killing time while waiting for Sepp Claus to slide down the chimney and charge $599 to my Visa account before turning the TV channel to ESPN. Having covered nearly every possible angle of the World Cup that genuinely appeals to me, I've taken to reading virulent "anti-soccer" opinion pieces from American writers online and then soaking up the slightly less articulate hate in the reader comments below. It's pretty great, if only because I never considered joining forensics in high school, and reading these things allows me to play "Spot the flawed/ignorant/misguided argument" at work. Plus, it's kind of amusing, like how after you bite the inside of your cheek and then you just keep flicking your tongue over the wound is amusing.

One thing that's jumped out at me – other than the ironclad statement as fact that there will be riots, suicides and murders in England if the U.S. wins Saturday – is the American anti-soccer voices in the comments are a refined brand of potent "Out with Johnny Foreigner-ism." I'll write it off as that particular brand of lunacy that always is found in the comments section of any online newspaper or magazine that permits unfettered reader feedback. Nonetheless, it's jarring. Imagine if these folks gave soccer a chance and actually learned it has many entertaining qualities - only to find out the filthy, cheating non-English players always dive like sneaky jerks. They'd look up the meaning of crestfallen and then be that.

Now I'm starting to embody the arrogant American soccer fan stereotype, which I've learned today is a primary reason many people don't like soccer, at least among those who commit their thoughts to anti-soccer Internet comment sections. Apparently (white) Americans who like soccer come across as too-cool-for-school and act superior to the common man who built this country with his two calloused, meaty hands, felling one tree after another until we created the concept of industry out of three blades of grass and a stick, by gum. There were some comments in there about those of Mexican, Puerto Rican and Latin American descent, but nothing about those many millions being snobby. It was a little more base, to be polite.

I'm laying it on pretty thick now, so I'll leave the Internet comments behind and extend an invitation to anyone who runs into me during the next month to have at it and ask me what's my deal with this soccer game and why is it so great. I adore the World Cup. I'm using the majority of my available vacation time from work in 2010 to deposit my butt on a barstool or couch and just watch whatever I can. I'm giddy about Spain versus Honduras. I want to hug it and kiss it and name it George – but I don't want to crush it. The point is clear, though. I'm on the enthusiastic side of things.

If you want an explanation of the offside rule, I'll give it to you. If you're polite, I'll explain the nuances of the rule. If you ask about countries, I'll discuss them with you. If you ask about Ronaldinho, I'll say, "He's not playing," and then I'll quickly change the subject. I've never looked at my obsession with soccer, football, the World Cup and all it entails as revealing anything about myself other than, well, that I'm a nutjob about soccer, football, the World Cup and all it entails. I hope my happiness doesn't tarnish your opinion of the thing that makes me happy.

To everyone else who's just dying to get this thing going: wow, hey? LOLLA-GOLLA-BOLLAWALLA!!! Ah-OOOOH-GAAHH! Ah-OOOOH-GAAHH!

It's been a long wait. Glad it's finally here.

(UPDATE: Many thanks to Howie Magner at Milwaukee Magazine for the kinds words in his latest column. Also, Brian Phillips is keeping it going at Slate. Thursday's piece explains why we call it soccer here instead of football.)

No comments: