Well, perhaps I should qualify that and say that I do get it and I don't get it. I offer these explanations for the snotty, wine and cheese swilling, self-loathing Americans who love soccer and decry football (how's that for some stereotypes? Well, these people are just as crude as anyone. We'll get back to them later). To wit:
Things I Understand About Soccer/The World Cup/Soccer Fans
I understand that it is the most popular sport in the galaxy. I also understand the soceital function of sports in the places where soccer is popular. It is the sport of the masses, the common people. In England, for example, rugby was the gentleman's game and soccer the game of the common man on the terrace on a Saturday afternoon. I understand all of that.
I also realize that football, our football, will never displace soccer's prominence on the world sporting stage. Fine, so be it. I could frankly care less.
I also understand that the World Cup is merely another venue for the expression of international hatred. Just like the Olympics and the United Nations, these events serve as an outlet for national prejudices and hatreds that are admittedly better confined to a soccer field than the battlefield. The hooligans might disagree, but oh well.
Things I Don't Understand About Soccer/The World Cup/Soccer Fans
Now, a qualifier here. I am talking about most American fans of international soccer teams (because heaven forfend one support Team USA. How gauche). To return to the stereotypes of before, these people seem to be the same sort who would tell people abroad that they are actually from Canada and that America is a dying empire and oh, isn't George Bush a monster and on and on.
They seem to take great pride in looking down their noses at American football fans in their general program of America-hatred and, by implication, self loathing. They view football as a violent sport, watched by legions of fat beer-swilling morons on Sunday afternoons. These people must have short attention spans because there are so few games and the scores have to be fast and often because they understand nothing else. The violence? Well, don't you see? It just underlines the fact that Americans are violent and warmongering and could not possibly see the grace and sportsmanship in "the beautiful game."
So why the popularity among these people, you ask? It is their craving for anything that seems to distance them from America, any shred of an adopted foreign identity that can clease them of the stink of the U.S. and have them born anew as expatriates in all things but the fact that they still live here.
Why I Don't Care That I Don't Get It
To answer these perceptions that I have been getting throughout the course of "World Cup Mania," I offer these observations.
I think that football is a game that combines the full panoply of human emotion and nature in a way that soccer does not. Football can be rough and violent, but isn't the world? You can have the perfect plan of action, only to be taken down from the side and mashed into the earth. At that point, you must pick your self off and continue to press on. How more of a reflection of the general human condition could there be?
There is a certain brutal grace to the game of football that is utterly mesmerizing. From the soaring arc of a field goal as it sails through the uprights to the graceful movements of the running back weaving his way through danger and destruction in search of glory. It combines the planning of a military attack and the orchestration of a ballet. The game is a symbol for life itself, with its brutality balanced with the artful skill that makes the human race a wonder to behold.
Even beyond that, it is the whole experience of the game. At the field, during the autumn and winter months, the mellow tones of fall gently slip away under the gathering cold and bluster. The people there realize, at some level, that they and their game are a part of the eternal rebirth of the seasons passing and that the game is as much a reflection of this nature as the seasons are for the entire world.
The camaraderie of the football experience goes almost without saying. All that need be said is that talk of football is as close to a national language (at least for men) as we are ever likely to have. All are brought together to witness the terrible beauty that is football.
Now, I know that all of this will sound like so much flowery nonsense and that it's just a game and who are you anyway. In a way, that's right. Football doesn't ask for much and can be enjoyed on so many different levels, almost as many as there are people. Perhaps this is why I don't like soccer. It does not seem to have that depth, or at least it is afraid to show it.
Are we, as a nation, ever likely to become a soccer place? I doubt it. Oh, people will tell you that soccer is the most popular youth sport and that with more and more immigrants from soccer parts of the world that may change. Why I think not I have tried to express above.
As for the American soccer fans, I'm sorry you think so lowly of football. Try to see it as I see it and for the great experience it is. Try to understand (and I know it is hard for you) that violence is as much a part of life as peace and the sooner we deal with it, the better off we will be as a whole.
If you refuse to try and see my point as I have tried to see yours, I have only one thing left to say.
Go straight to fucking hell you snotty little pricks.
Time capsule, Bubby edition
5 weeks ago