Friday, June 09, 2006

World Cup, Here I Come -- Be Gentle With Me

I don't understand all the rules, I barely know a yellow card from a Green Card, and I have railed against the sport for most of my adult life, but guess what?

I'm giving the World Cup a chance.

For some reason, I'm discovering soccer. I'm growing to appreciate the game, and I want to learn more about it. I'm hungering for some headers and corner kicks and even uneventful play in midfield.

I watched a little bit of an MLS game last night, to give my new-found interest a test drive. This wasn't some casual tuning in, on my way to the Food Network or the Travel Channel. In the past, those channels would have trumped soccer tenfold. This time I watched, intently, absorbing the announcers' jargon and studying the movements of the players on the -- damn, it's huge! -- field. I saw a yellow card held aloft by one of the officials, who then wrote something on it. For all I know, the words were, "Bad boy!"

I had to get used to a game clock that counts up. I had to get used to the game clock never stopping. But it was welcome; no TV timeouts or breaks. It was like I was watching the game on TiVo -- with the commercials lopped out.

When I tuned in, the LA Galaxy were trailing some team that was abbreviated "CHV" on the scoreboard, 2-1. And the Galaxy were playing their first game under a new coach. Even in soccer do coaches get the "ziggy" in midseason, apparently. And ESPN even gave us an interview with the new coach -- LIVE, while the big white ball was being kicked and tossed around harmlessly, hundreds of feet from either goal.

"Well, we're in the game," the new coach (I forgot his name) said, in a typical British accent. All soccer coaches have British accents. Just like all football coaches have southern accents, and all basketball coaches have New York accents.

The field reporter asked about the dude from CHV who had both their goals.

"We talked about keeping everything to his right foot," coach said. "He has a lethal left foot."

I wanted the reporter to ask how in the world you keep everything to one's right foot, when both legs are running and kicking, but I guess that's why the other Galaxy coach got fired. Maybe the players didn't keep things to one of the other star's feet well enough.

And you can't fire the team, so...

So anyhow, that's my soccer story, and we'll see how it goes, and how much World Cup soccer I actually watch.

It's not exactly Bud Light's Ted Ferguson Daredevil stuff, but it's as close as I'll ever get to "forcing" myself to watch a sport.

Hey, if a player in soccer kicks the ball straight on, is he labeled a "football style" kicker?

Just in case it comes up.

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