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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Evan Heffron: The Beautiful (Unwatched and Underappreciated) Game

Sometimes I feel like I should live in Europe. At least, that's what my friends tell me.

As i flip through the channels on a dead Saturday night, one thing always catches my eye, and makes me halt my seemingly absent-minded channel surfing. The passing. The shooting. The passion. The grace. It's the beautiful game. It's soccer. Yes I know, it sounds cliche, but this game is truly beautiful. Ever watch Tony Parker and Tim Duncan work a give and go to perfection? Or watch Brian Westbrook make a defender trying to tackle him look stupid ? I feel as if the majority of American sports fans are ready to label the previously mentioned plays as "Impressive" or "Dominant", but those very same fans would not be as awestruck watching the Portuguese international Cristiano Ronaldo pull some And-1 Mixtape tricks against two all-world defenders, and capping it off by shooting a 75mph rocket into the upper right 90 degrees of the targeted goal from 35 yards out.

Over the course of the entire 2006 World Cup tournament in 2006, matches were watched by people 26.29 BILLION times.

That's why I love this game.

The sport of soccer, incorporates the best of every sport. Speed, agility, balance, stamina, vision, strength, touch, elusiveness, leadership, heart, leaping ability, and depth perception are all important parts of this game that is so widely accepted all over the world. It truly is an all around game. The attractiveness of the game, to me anyway, comes in two waves.

The first thing one notices in any sport, but especially soccer, is star power. We in America can say one name in a sports conversation and know who is being talked about. Kobe. Donovan. Lebron. Phelps. Peyton. Wilt. Papi. The same goes for world soccer. Kaka. Ronaldinho. Messi. Cristiano. Rio. Zlatan. Totti. Henry. And its obvious, stars attract casual fans, like myself. These stars are responsible for my self admitted obsession. It's the same reason I can watch Peyton to Harrison all day, pick apart opposing defenses. It is simply beautiful .

Second, when my astonishment from seeing Barcelona's Lionel Messi dribbling a ball while doing his best Usain Bolt impression has worn off, I start to notice something else. It is something that is completely alien to the American sports culture. It's the support. The support where fans sing passionately when they are down 4-0. The support where the fans stand the ENTIRE game. Its funny when you watch the Cameron Crazies' (Duke basketball fans) videos on YouTube. All the comments read something like "OMG ! Hardest place the play in the world!", or "Best home court advantage ever!". I read those comments and laughed to myself. Ever watch the Turkish superpower Fenerbache play? The atmosphere is incredible. 55,000 people jumping, screaming and lighting flares at the same time. I don't care what sport, I want my team playing in the place where the all-time sporting event decibel level record was broken. The intensity of the crowd absolutely sucked me into following this sport. Watching Greece and Turkey duke it out, or England and Spain go toe to toe for world supremacy is on any day of the week more engaging to watch than more than half of the games that are on sports programs today.

It really is ironic to me. Even if one feels as if the sport of soccer is slow, or lacks action, the rationale behind those thoughts need to be further examined. We as a nation can watch the Ohio State Buckeyes get romped by the Florida Gators in the title game for 3 1/2 hours but we can't watch a USA v. Mexico world cup qualifier? 90 minutes, only one commercial stoppage at halftime, to decide who goes the biggest sporting event in the world; the World Cup. We as a country seem infatuated by rivalries. Duke v. UNC, Yankees v. Redsox, etc. Then not why support the grand daddy of them all? In a 2004 USA v. Mexico world cup qualifier at the feared Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Mexican fans started chanting "Osama, Osama, Osama". Really? 105,000 fans chanting that to 11 of our guys? This rivalry is one of epic proportions, ... to the Mexicans. There is no reason why American sports fans who embrace everything competitive (yes even competitive eating) can't embrace this game and this rivalry because of preconceived stereo-types about the sport as a whole. Yes there are the divers, cheaters, and whimps in soccer . But every sport has that. There is no reason to leave the beautiful game out of the mind and heart of such a sports hungry culture we have here in this country.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot my closing argument. Who doesn't love hearing a guy scream "GOOOOOOOOOOAAAALLLLLL" for 30 straight seconds without breathing?

This game deserves more respect and attention. *

1 comment:

  1. Genius.
    Fuck the rest.
    South Africa '10
    Brasil '14 - Be there...or you're gay


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