I’ve tried a couple of times now to get into soccer, but it never takes. There are the obvious drawbacks: it’s too boring, it’s too foreign, it’s too popular. But it’s so easy to just sit back and make fun of soccer. Why not look at this objectively? Why can’t I get into soccer? What could be done to make soccer more appealing?
I think a lot of the problem lies in the fact that I really can’t seem to get into any sports. Sure, I have a very limited knowledge of what’s going on in sports, generally. Like, I know that Miami won the NBA championships. I didn’t watch any games. I watched some Knicks games, but only because everyone else I knew was constantly watching them, so I kind of only knew what was going on by association. And even then, my facts were garbled and came out all wrong if I tried to repeat them to somebody else. Does anybody else remember when the Knicks got rid of their coach Dan Tony? Yeah, I thought it was kind of a weird name also.
But at least if I watch a basketball game, I don’t have to be paying too much attention to at least know what’s going on. It’s the same with other sports, like hockey. You just kind of watch for a few minutes here and there and you can kind of get the gist of how it’s being played. But every time I watch soccer I’m just so bored, like beyond bored, and I’m pretty sure that even my friends who are sports fans are also bored, but they’re sports fans, so they can’t really admit how bored they are.
And it can’t be just the pace of the game. Baseball is unimaginably slow also, but even that is at least somewhat possible to follow. Baseball almost makes it a point to be slow. They want you to only be paying attention once in a while. This way you can buy snacks and spend eight dollars on a beer. It’s the kind of sport that you shouldn’t actually try to keep your eyes on for the whole game. And chances are, even with the most limited of attention spans, you won’t have missed anything.
But soccer demands constant attention. Watching a soccer game is like babysitting a one year old. It won’t just sit there, out of the way. The one year old baby insists on crawling around everywhere, never sitting still, touching everything. Best case scenario, it doesn’t cry. But usually, it’s going to want to stick its tongue in the wall socket, you’re going to have to say no, and it’s going to start wailing until it decides that it wants to play with the antique vase at the top of the bookshelf. The whole time, you have to sit there. You can’t take your eyes off the baby for a second. Maybe, and this is a big maybe, the baby will do something adorable, or it will look you in the eye and laugh, and you’ll feel like maybe you had a brief connection with this cute little kid. But more often than not, you’re just sitting there, counting down the second until its parents come back.
That right there is the perfect description of a soccer game. I’ve only ever been to one game, but that’s exactly what it was like. All of the fans were chanting nonstop, in unison, elaborate songs and dances, not even a chance to rest for a second, not even a minute to grab a beer or buy a snack. No, you’re demanded to pay attention to every single pass, every out of bounds, every blocked shot. Most of the time the game’s just going to end in a tie, zero to zero.
I think I might be a little biased. Even I know that it’s not exactly professional to try something once and then completely write it off. I think there has to be a deeper reason for my profound dislike of soccer. I only played soccer for one year in the second grade. My coach was this huge asshole named Ben Dash. His grandson was on the team and his name was Ben Dash also. Coach Dash only ran one play: get the ball to Ben Dash. Well one time I got the ball, which, considering my complete lack of anything even remotely close to a ball-handling skill, was a minor miracle in and of itself. As soon as my foot touched the ball, I heard a shout from the sidelines. It was Ben Dash. He was screaming to me, “Pass the ball to Ben Dash!”
Not today. I went for it. I charged down the field, a blur, expertly passing all of the players in my way. I got to the goal and shot. And I missed completely. Then I heard Coach Ben Dash calling me off the field. Come on! I just had a shot! That’s huge in soccer! But it turned out that I had shot on my own goal. I turned around and realized that all of the players I had ran past were my own teammates. Everyone was laughing at me, all of the other parents, even my parents. It wasn’t my fault, it was soccer’s fault.
I’ve always thought soccer would be better played with three or four soccer balls at the same time. There also should be a three point line. And a four point line. And some traps. I also think it would be cool if somebody made a sport that was like real life foosball. They could attach all of the players to giant poles that would swing us all around wildly, allowing us to turbo-kick the ball. That would be awesome. It would be like a thrill ride and a sport at the same time.
One day I’m going to buy my own soccer team and I’m just going to order all of my players to try to pick up the ball with their hands and just throw it into the net. Even if the refs blow the whistle, just keep going, I’ll tell them, don’t stop. I don’t care how many players get ejected from the game, I’ll be paying my players so well that nothing will be able to stop them. And I’ll bring my own scoreboard to the game and I’ll count every goal that we throw in our opponents’ net. And I’ll host my own championship match, and if the other team doesn’t show up, I’ll call it as a forfeit, that we won. Eventually I’ll just be so loud and obnoxious, our victories scored higher and higher, our end-of-the-game parades more and more elaborate, that the other teams won’t have any choice but to stoop to my level. I’ll have finally made soccer interesting and watchable. And the whole world will thank me. And I’ll say, you’re welcome.