Thursday, May 17, 2012

Soccer = Vanilla Ice

With the buzz related to the exciting finish to a championship soccer game in England last week, we get to be treated once more to accusations that Americans need to get on board and appreciate soccer, to be point of elevating it to a major sport.

This is a good time to address a few common misconceptions regarding Americans and soccer:
1.  If Americans would just give soccer a chance, they'd enjoy it more than baseball, football, or basketball.
Look, it's not like Americans haven't tried. First, we played it in both organized (league) and unorganized formats as a kid (Exhibit A: note all the youth soccer leagues throughout the nation). I played it for 3 or so seasons myself. In fact, I played it as young adult in a league for one season. I've attended games by local professional teams (I live in the 4th-most populated area in the US, and we have a couple to choose from). I've had my kids play in leagues. I have watched it on TV.

And yet, with all that, I still find it extremely uninteresting to watch, and marginally fun to play. I feel I have given it plenty of opportunities to grab my interest, but it fell short.
2. The atmosphere at a game in Europe or South America is infectious. Once you experience it, you'll be hooked. 
One could say the same about any sport with a good crowd that's really into it. Heck, there are probably political rallies, Amway conventions, and great sermons which also lead to an powerful experience. But this assertion completely misses the point: either the game itself is interesting, or it isn't.

3. Soccer is the most popular sport in the world.
The fact that large quantities of people like something does not mean I should, nor does it mean it's good. Vanilla Ice sold millions of CDs, but that CD still sucks.One can think of many cases where the masses showed themselves to be profoundly stupid.

4. Soccer players have to run for 90 minutes, and therefore are superior athletes to the ones in baseball or football, with their frequent stoppages in action. 
Just because one sport's athletes have more endurance doesn't make that sport any less boring. Coal mining may be more demanding than soccer, but it's not a good spectator sport. Probably.

Look, we Americans don't go around telling the rest of the world they should like football, baseball, hockey, or basketball more than they do. Hopefully, soccer fans will show us the same courtesy.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Star Wars vs. that other movie

Lots of folks are being clever with today's date, and associating it with Star Wars. (May the 4th = May the fourth be with you: get it?)

When Star Wars made it to theaters in 1977, I was 12. I went, got so bored I barely made it to the end of the movie. A few weeks before or after, a movie called "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" came out, and I loved it. It was a powerful story, far superior to Star Wars.

To this day, I don't get why, of those two movies, one became iconic and the other is barely remembered. I have never seen another Star Wars movie since, although I may sit down and watch them since my boys are about old enough to get into them. Hopefully, I'll find them more interesting than I did the first time.

I'm sure that Star Wars is more popular because of the effects, the use of music, the bad guy you love to hate, the light sabers, and the talking robots who seem human.  Sadly, the thing that is missing from Star Wars is the human-ness. 

Give me this mashed potato scene from Close Encounters any day. Dreyfuss' character breaks down and says he has a dream, and has to follow it. His family watches him, wonders what has happened to him, and, knowing their thoughts, he says "I'm still Dad." There's more genuineness in that scene than in all of Star Wars.