So we are now thirteen days into what has been billed as the biggest sporting event in the world – The World Cup. Even here in Canada, where hockey takes centre stage for 10 months of the year, soccer (or football, if you prefer) is a huge sport. The simplicity of the sport has a lot to do with it's popularity. Really all you need is a ball. Unlike most other sports where you need hundreds and even thousands of dollars of equipment, anybody anywhere can cobble together a ball and have a game of soccer. I also like the fact that for 3 years and ten months you also hear very little about the sport. Than there is a big flurry of excitement during the World Cup and then poof, nothing again for 3 years and ten months. The players go off and begin another run up to the next World Cup in the shadows of Major League Baseball, NFL and Hockey coverage.
Even while watching matches on television you can see why the sport is so popular. It has everything. You get to see the drama of the underdog pulling off a win over the favourite. The bitter taste of defeat for the loser and the rejoicing of the winners. You've got suspense, mainly because of the interminably long times between goals and the large numbers of close misses. Comedy comes from the invariably British commentators and their dry wit and cutting comments. Then there are the ridiculously insane fans who dance and sing and make fools of themselves on world wide television. All in all what more can you ask for? Perhaps less acting?
If you have even seen a soccer match on television for twenty seconds while channel surfing, you've probably seen what I'm talking about. One player bumps into another and the second player falls to the ground in a wonderful exhibition of dramatic acrobatics and flailing. Then they begin acting -- clutching their foot, ankle, shin, knee, thigh, arm, head… really any body part that comes to mind. Then we get to watch them roll about on the ground moaning and keening about their injury for several minutes. In some cases you think to yourself – 'Wow, that guy is really hurt.' It even goes so far as to require the medical team to run out onto the field, stretcher in hand to check out the injured actor, uh um, make that player. Sorry. Finally, miraculously, the player stands, shakes the offending body part and runs off to continue play.
Don't get me wrong, soccer can be rough. I remember a friend who played having his nose broken during a match. Ankles get sprained and broken, and muscles pulled and strained. We were always taught to play hard, do your best and play it straight. If you went down with an injury you had better be injured or the coach would pull you out of the game and you spent the rest of the day warming the bench. Why not make it the same World Cup play? If a player goes down and then miraculously, after a huge show, can continue playing with no ill effects – off he goes. He should be done for the game. Period. These guys are supposed to be the best players in the world. If they can't win by playing their best, too bad. Try harder next time. If they want to perform they should go to their local community theatre group or to Hollywood. At least in Hollywood they give out trophies for outstanding dramatic performances.