2010-06-24 / Sam Bari

Soccer: Explaining the World Cup

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand
By Sam Bari

The USA has already tied England and Slovenia in World Cup matches, yet the biggest question asked by most Americans concerning the tournament is: “The World Cup of what?”

To which, an army of suburban soccer moms respond with: “How can you be so ignorant?” but never actually answer the question.

The moms are upset because for three decades, they have been driving kids to practice and games under the delusion that the U.S. will join the rest of the world and recognize soccer as an important athletic event.

This major inconvenience has cut into their shopping and spa time, and they resent the intrusion, as well as the lack of positive response to their efforts by American males.

I’m sorry to say this ladies, but it ain’t gonna happen!

In this country, kids play soccer until they are old enough to date or play real football. Then, they hand their gear down to younger siblings who follow suit.

Americans will not accept soccer as a big boy sport until the rules change. When officials allow the players to commit assault and battery on the field with impunity – as they do in real football – the game might enjoy semi-serious consideration.

At soccer games throughout the rest of the world, the violence and riots happen in the stands and after the contest. They do not involve the players, lest one of them suffer a boo-boo. The fans absorb the injuries so the players are always available.

In most soccer matches, if a player looks as if he might have been brushed by an opposing player during the course of the action, he immediately does a face plant in the middle of the field, writhes in agony and cries real tears.

If an official imposes a penalty, the fans from the side of the field supporting the penalized player incite a riot and attack each other.

Why they do this has always baffled me.

One might think they would attack the opposing team’s fans, but that does not appear to be the case. Those fans are too busy celebrating the call in their favor to be involved in a ridiculous riot.

Despite the inequity between the sexes caused by dads who are too busy or too lazy to take their children to practice and games where everybody, no matter how bad, is allowed to play, the World Cup exists for important diplomatic reasons.

Before I reveal the earth-shattering facts, I must also mention that nobody keeps score at these contests because the losers might suffer from low self-esteem. This alleged training is to prepare the little nonathletes for the real world, where competition is fair, non-confrontational and above all, ethical.

The real reason the World Cup exists is so that little countries with names that sound like “Stealagoalania” are recognized by the U.S. These are countries that are unknown to most of the planet, but quickly become well known whenever they need money or troops.

Some of them I’ve never even seen represented in the Olympics. If a team just has a neighborhood without a country and cries loud enough, the International Olympic Committee will let their athletes compete.

In the World Cup, they can play against a U.S. team and actually stand a chance of winning, but only because they are playing soccer.

Other than at the World Cup, if their leaders or diplomats want recognition from our government, they have little hope. They stand a much better chance if they go to a Chicago playground when the president goes home to the old ‘hood for a visit. There, they can join him for a game of pick-up basketball.

For years, kids have been vocal about aspiring to play in the NBA (National Basketball Association), MLB (Major League Baseball) and the NFL (National Football League). Parents have encouraged their gifted offspring to pursue their dreams, and we as a country have benefited from the practice.

If a kid told his parents he wanted to be in the NSA when he got older, the parents would think their child was looking forward to a career as a spy in the National Security Agency. That could be unnerving. Never would it dawn on them that the child wanted to play professional soccer.

Unfortunately, until soccer allows the violence permitted in football and hockey, the World Cup will remain a small cog in the wheels of a system we can’t understand.

Return to top