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Archive for July, 2010

For all you hardcore soccer fans out there, I need your help. I enjoy watching all the major American sports and with all the hoopla surrounding the World Cup, I figured I’d invest some time to see what all the fuss is about. So over the last few weeks, I watched with an open mind a bunch of the matches, including today’s final. But I just couldn’t get into it. I find watching soccer to be pretty boring and I’ll explain why.

First, a few caveats:

  • I do understand the basic rules of soccer
  • I acknowledge that soccer players are probably the best athletes of any sport out there and incredibly skilled (rivaling perhaps basketball)
  • I enjoy playing soccer and think it’s fun
  • I don’t know most of the soccer super stars
  • I acknowledge that it’s constant action (but so is watching a marathon, but that doesn’t make it exciting)
  • I don’t believe you need to score a lot of points for a sport to be exciting

Now that I got that out of the way, it seems to me that the sport of soccer seems to lack some of the elements in other sports that make for drama and excitement:

  1. The concept of risk and reward. In football, for example, if you’re down a couple touchdowns, you can try a Hail Mary of some trick play to get back in. In golf, you can try reaching that par five on your second shot. In baseball, you can try swinging for the fences. In basketball, you can try shooting three pointers. More often than not, you’ll fail but when it does work, it adds a lot of drama to the game. In soccer, I didn’t see (or don’t know if it’s even possible) to do the equivalent of a Hail Mary. What happens in the first 10 minutes looks pretty much like what happens in the last 10 minutes.
  2. The clock matters. In basketball and football, there’s added stress because every second counts. And so the rate of scoring, relative to the time left is very important. And as the clock wears down, you can adjust your strategy accordingly (see point 1). Tension and drama builds. In soccer, the clock doesn’t appear to be much of a factor. Since a goal happens on average every 40 minutes of play, if there’s 10 minutes left and you’re down 2-0, the game is pretty much over. In fact, you don’t even really know how much time is even left on the clock since the ref can add back a random amount of injury time.
  3. Match ups. Bird vs. Magic. Bonds vs. Clemens. Steel Curtain vs. Dallas O-Line. Nicklaus vs. Palmer. Ali vs. Frasier. There are classic match-ups in most sports that you want to watch, even for the casual fan. They want to witness greatness vs. greatness. But in soccer, you rarely have individual match-ups. The game is much too fluid to see one-on-one coverage for example.
  4. The build up. I enjoy sports where a play or an event sets the stage for more drama. In a tie game, the pitcher walks the first batter in the 9th inning. A football team just made a long running play and is almost in field goal range. A golfer hits a shot that allows him a birdie putt. But soccer is like a flowing river. The events that occur in one moment don’t really build up or impact another moment. With one kick, the ball is back on the other side of the field. There’s no game-winning drive. Or bases loaded come-back.
  5. Last man standing. In football, basketball, and even golf, you keep playing until there’s a winner. In baseball, you go into extra innings. In fact, part of the strategy and drama is that you start running out of players. In soccer, the match can either end in a tie or go to penalty kicks. Penalty kicks?!? That’s like going to free throws when a basketball game ends in a tie. Why not just keep playing until someone wins? If it takes six hours, it takes six hours.

I fully acknowledge that soccer is the most popular sport in the world. So clearly it’s me and not the sport that has the problem. Whenever I sit with other soccer fans and ask their help in how to appreciate the sport, all I get is, “Well, it’s exciting because you just wait and wait until someone scores.” Hmm. Surely there’s gotta be more to it.

When I was younger, I thought baseball was boring. Then I spent time with people knowledgeable about the game and now it’s one of my favorite sports to watch. I want the same thing to happen to me for soccer.

Can you help?

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