(Editor’s note: Please welcome my good friend Tim Landrum to the 18to88 fold. He’ll be our official soccer correspondent through the World Cup this summer)
As many of you know, the 19th FIFA Wold Cup will kick-off on June 11th in South Africa. In most of the countries that are participating, life will grind to a halt when their team takes the field. If they win, the nation will rejoice. If they lose, they will mourn, some more than others. Some of the most soccer-obsessed countries will slide into a period of depression when their team gets knocked out of the tournament. If previous years are any indication, close to 1 billion people will be watching the final match. I want you to be one of those people. Why? I love soccer and the more people that watch, the more likely that I’ll be able to talk soccer with random people that I encounter in Indianapolis. That’s definitely a simplification of how I feel, but its not really that far from the truth. In no particular order, I have compiled a list of the 18 top reasons that 18to88.com readers should watch the World Cup.
1. You love America
Foreign readers of 18to88.com can ignore this first one. (Are there any?) Ed. note-Um, yes. there are a lot of us. For those of you that don’t know, the USA is one of the 32 teams competing in the tournament. (Although, I imagine that the readership of this blog watches ESPN regularly and if you’ve been watching ESPN regularly you’ve likely seen one of the World Cup commercials that are on endless rotation.) If you’ve ever had a patriotic bone in your body, the thought of our boys competing on the biggest stage in sports should give you goose bumps.
2. Its a great excuse to skip out of work in the middle of the day
South Africa is six hours ahead of the Eastern Timezone. Games will be on from between 7:30 AM to 5PM for a solid month. If you’re like me, then you’re always looking for a convenient excuse to take a long lunch break.
3. It’s kinda like a World War, but with out all of the dying
If you compared international sporting competitions to armed conflicts, then the World Cup would be something akin both World War I and World War II happening at the same time, but with more involvement from South America. The Olympics? That’s more like the U.N.
4. Because you like to see bone shattering tackles.
5. Clint Dempsey is raptastic!
Clint Dempsey (aka “Deuce”), has one of the best stories in American soccer. He will be on the field for the US in South Africa and he scores big game goals. Mostly, though, he’s known for his skills behind the mic.
6. International soccer is home to a wide variety of fascinating hair styles
Pint-sized Argentine forward Lionel Messi is at the top of his game and is arguably the best-player in the world at the moment. A dominating performance in the World Cup this year could propel him into the pantheon of soccer greats like Maradona, Cryuf, and Pele. Messi moves with the ball at his feet like few other players ever have, like its on a string or pulled in by a tractor beam. He was brilliant for Barcelona this past season (again) and everyone is waiting to see what he’ll do in South Africa. Here’s a decent goal compilation from this year.
8. Because Thomas Jefferson once said “The tree of national soccer pride must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
OK, so that’s not exactly how he said it, and it’s a little bit inflammatory, but you get the picture, right? The US has its opening game of the tournament against England at 2:30PM that Saturday. Its the first time that we’ve played them in the World Cup since 1950, when we gave them a shock, 1-0 upset. Has there been a better reason to root against England since the Revolutionary War? Its not like we get that many opportunities to be on the opposite side of a conflict with them anymore.
9. Everybody loves controversy, right?
The World Cup is run by FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association. FIFA is to corruption and scandal like Mr. Rogers is to wholesome. The 2010 World Cup already has had all kinds of controversies swirling around, from all sorts of shenanigans in the organizing of the event to unscrupulous handling of the qualifying process in Europe. Its like driving by a car wreck, you can’t help but watch.
10. There’s not any other football on to watch in June
Its the NFL off season. You’ve gotta get your football fix somewhere. Does it really matter if the ball isn’t oblong? Remember, football fans, Indy’s minicamp ends June 7th. This starts the “dead zone” of the year where there is no news about the Colts for a month as everyone (reporters included) goes on vacation. The Cup starts June 6. It’s the perfect way to burn off a month of sports frustration while you wait for the 2010 season to kick off.
11. US Coach Bob Bradley looks suspiciously like a young Grand Moff Tarkin from Star Wars Episode IV
The US probably won’t win the World Cup this year, but by the time Bradley finishes his transformation into the commander of the Death Star we’ll be ready to blow up Alderaan, metaphorically speaking.
12. France vs. Mexico is like another Cinco de Mayo
I’m not a history expert, but I know that the Cinco de Mayo has something to do with Mexico kicking the French out of their country and then drinking cheap, frozen margaritas. Mexico plays France on June 17th. Who doesn’t want to watch our favorite regional rival upset a woefully under-performing team Frechmen? Don’t get me wrong, I like Franc Ribbery and co. as much as the next under-age French prostitute does, but I like to cheer for my neighbors (unless they’re playing us, of course). Somebody get me a slushy machine and a bottle of Cuervo!
13. The US Men’s National Team is like a multi-ethnic rainbow of awesomeness
Homogeneity sucks. America is a melting pot of peoples and cultures and right now the national team represents the reality of that like not many other things in the sporting world. Jesse Jackson wishes he had demographics like they do: African-America, African-Hungarian-American, Latino, Caucasian, Scottish-American, Hawaiian-Chinese-American, first and second generation immigrants, upper-class, middle-class, working-class. I was going to dig up a whole slew of links for this one, but one of the writers at Pitch Invasion kindly did the perfect piece to point you to just the other day.
14. Everybody loves crazy sports fans
Crazy fans are like Christmas decorations; that’s not the point of the event, but its pretty sweet if you go way over the top. The world cup is the ultimate reason for fans to dress up like idiots and go crazy when they see themselves in the jumbotron. There’s a certain logic to displaying your national pride by strapping on a string-bikini that we can all get behind. How can you not watch when there’s a chance of catching that during a crowd shot?
15. The chance to watch a player transcend the game
The best players in the world step their game up to the next level and that can be a thing of beauty. Two games before the infamous head butt that tarnished the end of his career, Zinadine Zidane put in a masterful performance against Brazil. By the end of the game, the Brazilians looked half-scared to even get close to him when he had the ball. He has since retired from soccer altogether, but the World Cup is where performances like this happen.
16. Because, let’s face it, your attention span could use some work
There are no TV timeouts in soccer. In fact, there are no timeouts at all. The clock doesn’t stop when the ball goes out of bounds. Its just two 45 minutes halves where the seconds never stop ticking away. Not for injuries, fights, and fans streaking the field. The ref gets to add some discretionary time at the end of each half to make up for any interruptions, but, in general, the play doesn’t stop. After being constantly saturated by sports and TV shows that stop the action every five minutes to tell you what to buy, isn’t it time to challenge yourself with something that will make you focus? You’ll still get all the commercials you can handle before and after the game and during halftime. And if that’s not enough advertising for you, every conceivable surface in the stadium will be plastered with corporate logos from around the world.
17. Because you love your family, even if they act weird sometimes
Football and soccer share the same roots, as do rugby (both types) and aussie-rules football. The generally accepted historical narrative is that the modern sport developed out of the Shrovetide mob-football games played primarily in England as far back as the thirteenth century (which are still played in some places). When colonists came from Europe to the New World, they brought their ball games with them. The rules developed slowly and really began to be formalized in schools and universities through out the nineteenth century in both England and America with the result being the distinct sports that we have now. It’d be nice of you to get to know your weird cousin a little bit better.
18. Goals like these
Some are pure joy. Its why the game is watched and how the game is won. They can be pure class or wholly criminal. It doesn’t matter if its ten in a single game or the single goal scored in a game in the final moments. If there’s one reason to watch, this is it.
Thanks Tim. Tim will be back regularly from now until the end of the World Cup.