10 June 2006

La Coupe du Monde. Sigh.

Post Number 200! Woo hoo!

As a few Americans are dimly aware of right now, the World Cup officially started this week. For those of you who don't know (or, like me, don't care), this is a monster world-wide soccer tournament. This year, it's taking place in Germany, but it may as well be right outside my window for all of the noise it is generating here. You see, Europeans LOVE soccer ... I mean, football. Trust me, this is one generalization that flies. Every time there is a soccer game on TV, I don't actually have to watch it because the bar down the street explodes when the favored team gets a goal ... I mean, a gooooooooooooooooooooooooal!!!! It doesn't matter if the game is Trinidad and Tobago versus East Timor. People around here are just nutty about watching and playing the game.

Unfortunately for me, Colin is "one of them." Since he grew up playing soccer, he is now reveling in the sport, which comes on at least twice a day now. Not only do I get regular updates on the action from him (which I don't understand), but I have to put up with a constant roaring sound from the TV set because the fans in the stadium are singing some goofy song, beating drums, or otherwise just being crazy.

Probably the oddest thing I've witnessed yet happened just a little bit ago on TV. After 90 minutes (that's an hour and a half for you non-math-majors), the game ended and NO ONE WON. Seriously, they ran like crazy on the biggest field ever conceived by man or beast, sustained many painful injuries ... and in the end, were in the exact same place that they started! Better yet, one team was totally thrilled, i.e. "Yea! We didn't lose!" and the other team was dejected. I even saw a male fan of the latter team weeping like a little girl in the stands. Seriously, if that isn't bizarre, I don't know what is.

I teased Colin that I was going to buy a t-shirt that I saw down the street from us that says, "Je detese le foot" (I hate soccer). His response was the most heartbroken, crushed facial expression I have ever seen.

Don't call me the soccer mom ... call me the soccer widow.

And now, since I KNOW he's going to rebut....


I don't know about Amy or our faithful readers but, on July 9th, I will be joining a billion other people on this planet to watch the culmination of the biggest sporting event in the world. Yes, I said a billion, and no, that's definitely not hyperbole. That's how many watched the 2002 World Cup final.

If you're not in on the madness yet, there are three things you can do to figure it out:

1) Start watching some of the games. Pick your home country, just so you have a little investment in the outcome.
2) If that fails to inspire you, read this article from Time Magazine about how soccer is being used to make the world a better place. If nothing else, it'll make you feel better about being part of a really big thing that's changing the world.
3) If you still don't understand why people love the game, read the chapter about soccer in Adam Gopnik's Paris to the Moon. It's a very well told and pretty funny story of an American living in Paris during the 1998 World Cup (which was not only hosted by France, but won by them). He gives a really insightful description of what to watch for and why it gets so addictive.

Here are a few of my favorite things about the beautiful game (cue the music...and):

  • It's so simple. There are only 17 laws to the game, of which you only need to read 10 to understand how to play (the others have to do with official field size, official ball size, and stuff like that). The laws are the same everywhere around the world, so everyone's talking the same language.
  • It's a game for anybody that you can play anywhere. The leagues I've played in have been for boys/girls/men/women/co-ed. Leagues are usually split into an age category, ranging from little kids to the "over 45" leagues. In Paris, for example, you'll see pick-up games on the streets and in pretty much every park that has a small stretch of grass.
  • The fans are awesome and incredibly knowledgable (not hard, since it's such a simple game). Half the fun of watching a game—outside the US at least—is the crowd (especially if you're in the middle of it).
I could tell you lots of funny and inspirational stories about my personal history with soccer, but I won't (unless people start asking). Instead, I'll just say this: if you're already a fan of the beautiful game, enjoy the World Cup action. If you're not a fan yet, get together with a group of friends and have a World Cup party, watch a couple games (especially toward the end of the first round and in the elimination round), then start playing yourself!

Someday, I'll convince Amy. The only trouble is that, on principle, she refuses to like anything that's popular. Yet, every once in awhile, I see her break down and enjoy some of the spectacle that is the World Cup. So, the question now is, how can I convince her to let herself enjoy the most popular sport in the world?

At the very least, at least she has finally agreed to let our kids play soccer (once we have kids).


At 10/6/06 20:53, Blogger croust said...

Since Amy just added that snarky comment about tonight's tie between Sweden and Trinidad & Tobago, here's an explanation:

Think of the first round of the World Cup as a 3-game campaign. In their group of four teams, these teams are ranked #2 and #4 (respectively). Since Sweden tied tonight, they can't afford to lose either of their other games (including a game against one of the best teams in the world, England). That's not a good spot to be in, and that guy in the blue foam viking hat knew it.

For Trinidad & Tobago, this tie is huge. Since it's not a loss, they actually have a chance of moving on to the second round (I believe for the first time ever). All they have to do is beat Paraguay and hope that everything else shakes out in their favor. In the unlikely (but definitely possible) event of a tie or a win against England, they'd definitely be into the second round.

This is what the first round is all about. Everyone expects certain results from every game, when those results don't come to pass, things get very exciting and teams play with ever-increasing desperation or confidence. Go Trinidad & Tobago, great game tonight!

At 11/6/06 04:43, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not only would it be a first for T&T to get into the second round -- I believe this is their first time to even be IN the World Cup!

Amy, you have much to look forward to as a future soccer mom -- shivering in a parka, trying to control your umbrella during a gale-force rainstorm, watching your kid lie motionless on the field after a particularly vicious collision. And did I mention, it's a lot of fun? Today it was 55 degrees with a 20 mph wind and light rain here, and there's a major soccer tournament in town. On days like this, I always remember how much Colin enjoyed playing in this kind of weather!

SD Mom

At 11/6/06 10:50, Blogger Joe said...

One of my coworkers was talking about the World Cup on Friday, and ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Sorry, dozed off there for a minute. Le foot tends to have that effect on me.
Now Baseball, there's an exciting sport to watch on television! (Well, as long as you are drinking a beer and reading a book or something while watching it.)


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