Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Back and Forth

"Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.  Seriously folks, I am more entertained by the shutters blowing in the wind than a 2010 World Cup soccer match.  In fact, the creaks and groans that come from my back door offer a greater variety of sound than those vuvuzela horns.  Two days into the tournament I am positive that my initial ho-hum reaction to this competition was merited."

I wrote the above a week and a half ago.  At the time, I had nothing else to write so I didn't publish it.  Then I sat down and watched Chile move the ball against Argentina in a much more exciting way that a European team ever would.  Then Serbia tied heavyweight Germany in their match.  Then I complained when the American goal didn't count as the decider against Slovenia (the most watched soccer game in ESPN history).  Then I read up on the tournament.  Suddenly I'm into this thing. 

Let me give you a brief history of my soccer knowledge:

- 6 years old; played soccer in Sioux City Iowa.  Scored one goal.  Retired.
- 23 years old; heard about a guy named Beckham on Sports Radio.  Turned off the radio when I realized they were talking about soccer.
- 26 years old and freshly married;  The country my wife loved was in the World Cup.  Tried to get into it until Croatia was eliminated in the first round.
- 28 years old; living in Croatia and no access to baseball.  Declared myself a soccer fan and watched every second of Croatia's involvement in the Euro-Cup. Croatia lost to Turkey on overtime penalty shots in one of the semifinal games.  Renounced soccer for the rest of my life. 
- 30 years old; Reread introduction to this post.

The funny thing is, I usually stick to my guns.  I've been a Cubs fan since '84, a Buffalo Bills fan since '90.  I haven't give up on those teams despite their depressing inability to win.  I am still a fan.  In addition, I will always love baseball and always hate golf.  It's as simple as that.

But I can't figure out how I feel about soccer.  On one hand, I don't understand how a team (like '08 Croatia) can look like the better team for 112 minutes (2 overtimes), lead the game 1-0 then see the opposition tie in the last second (122nd minute) and win the match on penalty shots.  The better team clearly can lose on any given day - even if they've been the superior team for the vast majority of the game!  How can a legitimate sport allow this to happen?

On the other hand, I love the idea of watching two completely different styles of play go head-to-head.  I'm fascinated by the international story-lines.  I'm drawn to watching a potential power-house get beat by a traditionally weaker team. 

So where am I today?  I'll be watching with interest when America takes on Algeria.  Whoever wins is guaranteed a trip to the next round.  A draw would make Group C even more interesting.  Landon Donovan may be the best American ever to play soccer.  Algeria has never made it past the first round.  There's plenty to keep me interested. 

How will I feel by the time the tournament is over?  I may be more disinterested than before. 

I know; back and forth.  Back and forth.  Back and forth.

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