Fake News: Soccer is like a sport, or something

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (June 12) — Almost two dozen guys wearing knee-high socks ran around on a big field for a while over the weekend, then they went away only to be replaced by a bunch of other guys. Mostly they were chasing a ball, though occasionally they’d yell at each other, collapse to the ground or rip off their jerseys.

Apparently, the shirts are quite uncomfortable.

Known as the World Cup, soccer or the FIFA quadrennial football tournament, you can call it whatever you like but it still makes very little sense to most observers. The object of the game is to propel the ball into a three-sided netted hut using only your feet. The hut is guarded by a “goalkeeper” who tries to keep the opposing team from scoring a goal, except in the case of the English team where his role is more accurately described as “escorting” the ball into the hut. Points might also be awarded for the team that suffers the most concussions, as players frequently try to be hit in the face with the ball.

The game was invented a long time ago, and is believed to be a hybrid of kickball, rugby and wandering about like an Alzheimer’s patient. It’s a big deal in parts of the world that can’t afford baseball bats, basketballs and race cars. The contest is comprised of two 45-minute periods, unless the referee wants to extend the action a little longer so he can avoid going home to his wife.

If the game ends in a tie, then it’s definitely soccer. In some situations the draw is allowed to stand, and everybody mills around wondering why they even bothered showing up in the first place. In other cases, there may be an exchange of penalty kicks in a sudden-death session, though it’s really more like a lingering death because the whole match can take up to several hours to complete. To make matters worse, the stadium is filled with hooligans, ruffians and hoodlums, as well as huge swarms of buzzing bees whose endless drone is enough to drive you mad.

In an attempt to score a goal, players can actually use any part of their body except their hands and arms, so some have evolved a paw-like appendage that grows from their forehead. If you strike the ball with your shoulder, collarbone or scapula, play is halted while a team of anatomy professors debate whether or not the play was legal. They signal their decision by flopping to the pitch in a prone position (to indicate the strike was acceptable) or a supine position (to indicate they’ve been shot by a blowgun).

Players are allowed to trip, kick and accidentally-on-purpose run into opponents to prevent them from advancing the ball down the field. If the play is deemed too aggressive, the referees may caution fielders to “be nice” by holding up a yellow card, may ban them from the game entirely with a red card, or may test their familiarity with times tables by use of multiplication flash cards. Green cards are occasionally displayed, though this is extremely rare among the mostly illegal immigrant players. There’s also something called “offside,” which is almost as mysterious as why they don’t pick up the damn ball and throw it into the net.

Because of the proliferation of layabouts from Europe, who get up to three months vacation each year, and from South America, where the afternoon siesta is a long tradition, goals are almost never recorded. A high-scoring game would be ½ to ¼, and negative scores are not uncommon. A famous contest in 1954 resulted in a score of negative infinity for France to negative googolplex for Spain.

Three years of incomprehensible playoffs around the world have led to the selection of the 64 national teams competing in the month-long World Cup. Yesterday’s marquee match featured the Netherlands vs. Denmark, though I could’ve sworn that each country had more people than eleven each.

Following round-robin tournaments in creatively named divisions like “Group A” and “Group H,” and elimination rounds later this month, the finals match will be played in early July. When that game inevitably ends in a 0-0 tie, the nation whose army could beat up the other country’s army would win.

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One Response to “Fake News: Soccer is like a sport, or something”

  1. Paul Dixon Says:

    My familiarity with soccer is limited to a few games played back in the 9th grade, plus I actually attended one Tampa Bay Rowdies game back in the ’80s. (“The Rowdies are…….a kick in the grass” was their clever theme song.) I was only trying to make my date think that I was a well-rounded guy, not a cloistered, pale, music-major type. You just can’t fool those sports-oriented chicks, though. Almost fell asleep during the game, but in fairness, it was a hot day outside.

    Reading your piece also reminded me of some poor kid in the 9th grade PE (the goalie) that discovered that there are worse places than the face to get hit with the ball. This kid got DRILLED in the crotch and lay there for 30 minutes, crying, throwing up, yelling for his momma. The rest of us, as his empathetic peer group, were horrified, but helpless to assist.

    Despite the fact that there is no sanctioned violence (a la hockey, boxing, football, etc.), soccer is not a game for sissies. But wouldn’t you just guess that it is the English who “escort” the ball into the scoring hut. So veddy genteel, those Brits.

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