It Was the Best of Teams; It Was the Worst of Teams

Yesterday, the best soccer team in the world played what should have essentially been a warm-up scrimmage against the absolute worst, bottom-of-the-barrel, no-business-being-there team in the World Cup.

It was #1 versus #105. Brazil vs. North Korea.

I was getting tired of watching soccer games where only one or two goals were scored, so I had been looking forward to watching this match. If there was ever going to be a blowout, whatever that looked like in soccerland, this was sure to be the game that delivered it. You couldn’t find more disparity in all of soccerdom. This was the best against the worst. I figured I would see at least five or six goals scored as Brazil took it to the North Koreans.

The final score was 2-1.

To me, this highlights the essential and inherent problem with the game of soccer. When your absolute best can’t score more than two goals against the absolute worst, and when they can only win by a one goal margin, please tell me somebody higher up the FIFA ladder is thinking, “That’s not right.”

Think about it: North Korea was ranked 105th. There’s nothing comparable in American sports that matches this disparity. This isn’t like the New Orleans Saints not getting up for a game against the Detroit Lions. There’s only 32 teams in the NFL. No, Brazil playing North Korea would be akin to the Saints playing a pop warner football squad and needing a last second field goal to pull out a one-point victory.

This would be like pitting the Yankees against a Little League team and the Yankees winning by one point in extra innings.

We can’t even compare it to the NCAA tournament, because there the best against the worst would be #1 against #64. And number one seeds consistently beat number 16 seeds by 40 or 50 points. College football? Forget it. There are 119 Division I college football teams, and if Texas or Alabama ever played the worst college team out there the line would have to be -50 or so. I mean, c’mon – Texas came down and played my Wyoming Cowboys last season and whooped us 41-10. The Cowboys are bad, but we’re nowhere near the worst. (We even had a winning record last year!)

So what’s the deal with soccer? How in the world can North Korea hang with the Brazilians? How could Brazil only manage two goals against the worst soccer players in the World Cup?

Some people are trumpeting the close result as a positive thing. As parity in the game. But honestly – do you really want this kind of parity in any sporting event? I mean, we talk about “any given Sunday” in the NFL, but that’s only 32 teams and everybody understands that it doesn’t really mean any given Sunday. What’s the point of practice and hard work if the 105th ranked team can still hang with the best team in the world?

It is simply too difficult to score in soccer, and the Brazil vs. North Korea matchup proves it. The solution would be simple: make the field smaller and get rid of the offsides penalty. Transition soccer from a sport of defensive posture to one of offensive posture.

Then, athleticism might actually mean something and better teams would actually have an advantage over horrible teams like North Korea.

It Was the Best of Teams; It Was the Worst of Teams

Yesterday, the best soccer team in the world played what should have essentially been a warm-up scrimmage against the absolute worst, bottom-of-the-barrel, no-business-being-there team in the World Cup.

It was #1 versus #105. Brazil vs. North Korea.

I was getting tired of watching soccer games where only one or two goals were scored, so I had been looking forward to watching this match. If there was ever going to be a blowout, whatever that looked like in soccerland, this was sure to be the game that delivered it. You couldn’t find more disparity in all of soccerdom. This was the best against the worst. I figured I would see at least five or six goals scored as Brazil took it to the North Koreans.

The final score was 2-1.

To me, this highlights the essential and inherent problem with the game of soccer. When your absolute best can’t score more than two goals against the absolute worst, and when they can only win by a one goal margin, please tell me somebody higher up the FIFA ladder is thinking, “That’s not right.”

Think about it: North Korea was ranked 105th. There’s nothing comparable in American sports that matches this disparity. This isn’t like the New Orleans Saints not getting up for a game against the Detroit Lions. There’s only 32 teams in the NFL. No, Brazil playing North Korea would be akin to the Saints playing a pop warner football squad and needing a last second field goal to pull out a one-point victory.

This would be like pitting the Yankees against a Little League team and the Yankees winning by one point in extra innings.

We can’t even compare it to the NCAA tournament, because there the best against the worst would be #1 against #64. And number one seeds consistently beat number 16 seeds by 40 or 50 points. College football? Forget it. There are 119 Division I college football teams, and if Texas or Alabama ever played the worst college team out there the line would have to be -50 or so. I mean, c’mon – Texas came down and played my Wyoming Cowboys last season and whooped us 41-10. The Cowboys are bad, but we’re nowhere near the worst. (We even had a winning record last year!)

So what’s the deal with soccer? How in the world can North Korea hang with the Brazilians? How could Brazil only manage two goals against the worst soccer players in the World Cup?

Some people are trumpeting the close result as a positive thing. As parity in the game. But honestly – do you really want this kind of parity in any sporting event? I mean, we talk about “any given Sunday” in the NFL, but that’s only 32 teams and everybody understands that it doesn’t really mean any given Sunday. What’s the point of practice and hard work if the 105th ranked team can still hang with the best team in the world?

It is simply too difficult to score in soccer, and the Brazil vs. North Korea matchup proves it. The solution would be simple: make the field smaller and get rid of the offsides penalty. Transition soccer from a sport of defensive posture to one of offensive posture.

Then, athleticism might actually mean something and better teams would actually have an advantage over horrible teams like North Korea.

Futbol and College Football

Continuing with the sports theme for another post here… we are now seven games into the 2010 FIFA World Cup (with the eighth game being played between Germany and Australia as I type). The first three games I watched were not exactly stereotype-smashing as South Africa battled to a 1-1 tie with Mexico, France and Uruguay fought to an exhilarating scoreless tie, and the US ended up tying England 1-1. Nothing says, “Hey, you just wasted 90 minutes” like watching a sporting event where nothing is determined by the outcome. I still can’t believe they end the games so simply in a tie like that — especially the France-Uruguay one. They played soccer for 90+ minutes, nobody scored a single point, and then everyone just walked off the field and went home.

Here’s the inherent problem I see with soccer, now that I’ve watched several games: at some point, FIFA (and whoever else controls the sport) is going to have to admit that it is just too plain difficult to score a goal. Out of the seven finished games thus far, three have seen a grand total of 2 points scores, three have seen just 1 point scored, and the seventh saw nobody score at all. Even if you loosened the sport up a bit to where final scores were regularly 3-2 or 4-2 or something, that would be so much better. As it is, whenever a team scores a goal or two you pretty much know they’ll be the victor or the game will end in a tie. That’s just not exciting.

It just shouldn’t take watching 12 hours of a sport (the time it took to play the first seven games) to see a grand total of 9 points scored. That’s an average of one goal every hour and twenty minutes. Ugh.

(And of course, in typical ironic fashion, as I typed those last two paragraphs the German team scored two more goals to increase their lead against Australia to 4-0. Go figure. Heh. Now this is a more fun match to watch.)

Even with all that, though, I should add that watching the games has been more fun than I thought it would be. Filling out a bracket helped, I think, as it gave me vested interest in the games. Reading the backstories of the teams helps a lot. Knowing that for the U.S., battling to a tie with England was actually a really good outcome for us helps shine up the dull result a bit. I’ll continue to watch for the next few weeks, hoping for more matches end up like the Germany-Australia one rather than France-Uruguay. Heh.

In other “football” news, the U.S. college football expansion rumors continue to be fleshed out, and it turns out that the so-called “Big Mountain” conference might be running into a few roadblocks. The MWC made it known that they were wooing Kansas, K-State, and Missouri to join Boise St in expanding the conference. This was quite a surprise, as many pundits expected them to aim for Iowa State, not Missouri. Missouri is certainly a stronger program than Iowa State, and another interesting connection is that Dave Christensen, the current Wyoming football coach, was the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Missouri a couple years ago.

That would make the Mountain West quite a formidable conference. But there’s problems – specifically with Kansas. Evidently, they want to play in a BCS conference – Bill Self even told reporters, “We are gonna be in a BCS conference.” And while the MWC will most likely become a BCS conference in a couple of years, we aren’t one yet. So the prospects are dimming slightly…

All of that, however, also seems to be contingent upon the remainder of the Big 12 staying together. It seems like everybody expects the conference to dissolve — everybody, that is, except Kansas and a few of the other schools that would be left out of a PAC-10 migration. The Big 12 commissioner is begging Texas to not leave the conference, while the PAC-10 has their guys out begging TX and OK to join theirs. In the end, I think money will drive Texas and Oklahoma to the PAC-10 and the Big 12 will dissolve, forcing Kansas’ hand. The Big East is reportedly interested is scooping Kansas and K-State up, and that would match Kansas’ requirement to be in a BCS conference, but the travel for those games would be crazy ridiculous. My bet is that they see the MWC is on the verge of breaking into the BCS and chooses to come here. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

In other interesting news, Baylor is still getting left out in the cold and has no idea where they will end up. Their best hope right now is that the Big 12 stays together at some level, because it doesn’t seem anybody else wants them. UCLA says they will veto any attempts to have them join the Pac-10, and TCU says they’ll do the same if the Mountain West tries to add them. Baylor and Iowa State (now that the Mountain West has revealed we’re not interested in them) may be the only two teams in the former Big 12 left homeless after this reorg. It’ll be interesting to see where they end up.

Futbol and College Football

Continuing with the sports theme for another post here… we are now seven games into the 2010 FIFA World Cup (with the eighth game being played between Germany and Australia as I type). The first three games I watched were not exactly stereotype-smashing as South Africa battled to a 1-1 tie with Mexico, France and Uruguay fought to an exhilarating scoreless tie, and the US ended up tying England 1-1. Nothing says, “Hey, you just wasted 90 minutes” like watching a sporting event where nothing is determined by the outcome. I still can’t believe they end the games so simply in a tie like that — especially the France-Uruguay one. They played soccer for 90+ minutes, nobody scored a single point, and then everyone just walked off the field and went home.

Here’s the inherent problem I see with soccer, now that I’ve watched several games: at some point, FIFA (and whoever else controls the sport) is going to have to admit that it is just too plain difficult to score a goal. Out of the seven finished games thus far, three have seen a grand total of 2 points scores, three have seen just 1 point scored, and the seventh saw nobody score at all. Even if you loosened the sport up a bit to where final scores were regularly 3-2 or 4-2 or something, that would be so much better. As it is, whenever a team scores a goal or two you pretty much know they’ll be the victor or the game will end in a tie. That’s just not exciting.

It just shouldn’t take watching 12 hours of a sport (the time it took to play the first seven games) to see a grand total of 9 points scored. That’s an average of one goal every hour and twenty minutes. Ugh.

(And of course, in typical ironic fashion, as I typed those last two paragraphs the German team scored two more goals to increase their lead against Australia to 4-0. Go figure. Heh. Now this is a more fun match to watch.)

Even with all that, though, I should add that watching the games has been more fun than I thought it would be. Filling out a bracket helped, I think, as it gave me vested interest in the games. Reading the backstories of the teams helps a lot. Knowing that for the U.S., battling to a tie with England was actually a really good outcome for us helps shine up the dull result a bit. I’ll continue to watch for the next few weeks, hoping for more matches end up like the Germany-Australia one rather than France-Uruguay. Heh.

In other “football” news, the U.S. college football expansion rumors continue to be fleshed out, and it turns out that the so-called “Big Mountain” conference might be running into a few roadblocks. The MWC made it known that they were wooing Kansas, K-State, and Missouri to join Boise St in expanding the conference. This was quite a surprise, as many pundits expected them to aim for Iowa State, not Missouri. Missouri is certainly a stronger program than Iowa State, and another interesting connection is that Dave Christensen, the current Wyoming football coach, was the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Missouri a couple years ago.

That would make the Mountain West quite a formidable conference. But there’s problems – specifically with Kansas. Evidently, they want to play in a BCS conference – Bill Self even told reporters, “We are gonna be in a BCS conference.” And while the MWC will most likely become a BCS conference in a couple of years, we aren’t one yet. So the prospects are dimming slightly…

All of that, however, also seems to be contingent upon the remainder of the Big 12 staying together. It seems like everybody expects the conference to dissolve — everybody, that is, except Kansas and a few of the other schools that would be left out of a PAC-10 migration. The Big 12 commissioner is begging Texas to not leave the conference, while the PAC-10 has their guys out begging TX and OK to join theirs. In the end, I think money will drive Texas and Oklahoma to the PAC-10 and the Big 12 will dissolve, forcing Kansas’ hand. The Big East is reportedly interested is scooping Kansas and K-State up, and that would match Kansas’ requirement to be in a BCS conference, but the travel for those games would be crazy ridiculous. My bet is that they see the MWC is on the verge of breaking into the BCS and chooses to come here. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

In other interesting news, Baylor is still getting left out in the cold and has no idea where they will end up. Their best hope right now is that the Big 12 stays together at some level, because it doesn’t seem anybody else wants them. UCLA says they will veto any attempts to have them join the Pac-10, and TCU says they’ll do the same if the Mountain West tries to add them. Baylor and Iowa State (now that the Mountain West has revealed we’re not interested in them) may be the only two teams in the former Big 12 left homeless after this reorg. It’ll be interesting to see where they end up.

FIFA World Cup – One Day Away

So the World Cup begins tomorrow – the first one ever that I will actually be watching in my quest to see if I can make myself enjoy soccer. It starts with South Africa vs. Mexico tomorrow at 10:00 8:00 am, followed by Uruguay vs. France at 2:30 12:30.
Yes, as you can see, I have learned how to recalculate official FIFA time (I’m assuming they list the games for the South African timezone?) back to good old American Mountain Time (subtract 6 hours 8 hours). [Note: apparently I have not learned to recalculate the time difference… thanks, Nate! I’m an idiot.]
I’ve also come to grips with the fact that the rest of the world apparently writes their dates backwards (and yes, I’m aware of the irony that if the rest of the world does it who the backwards ones are), so when FIFA says the matches will take place on 11/6, it doesn’t mean five months from now. (Major tipoff: the next games in Group A will be played on 16/6. Unless everyone else has gone to a 16 month calendar…)
And the rest of the world wonders why Americans don’t watch soccer. When you have to work this hard just to figure out when the games are going to be played, the final product isn’t worth it! Ha!
I’ve been reading up on these matchups, and apparently this match is going to be huge for South Africa tomorrow. FIFA has been trying to take the World Cup to the continent of Africa for decades and have finally achieved that gooooooooooal (sorry, little soccer humor there – it’s an acquired taste). However, South Africa has been derided worldwide as the worst team in FIFA history to be rewarded as a World Cup host country. The world rankings bear this out – South Africa is ranked 83th, which is indeed the lowest ranking of any host country in history – and they are the lowest ranked team in Group A. Adding to the pressure for South Africa is the fact that no host country has lost an opening match in FIFA World Cup history. (In fact, there has never been a host country that has failed to make it to the second round of the tournament. It would be a minor miracle if South Africa even makes it out of Group A and into tournament play.)
So South Africa will be attempting the near impossible against a 17th ranked Mexican team who will be battling for their own tournament lives. They’re matched up in Group A with 9th ranked France and 16th ranked Uruguay, and only two of the four teams will make it out of group play. So this match tomorrow is pretty much a must-win for Mexico, too.
That will make for some good drama leading into the game, but I don’t think anyone expects South Africa to actually win the thing. For actual in game drama, the second match of the day is the better bet as two great teams in France and Uruguay square off.
In the 80 years of World Cup tournaments, only seven countries have actually won the championship. (The Cup has been pretty much dominated by Brazil, Italy, and Germany, who have 67% of the titles between the three of them.) France and Uruguay are two of those seven teams who have actually tasted World Cup victory before, though (Uruguay in 1930 and 1950, France in 1998). In fact, France took second in the last World Cup, falling to Italy in the final.
But there is controversy surrounding the French team this year, with some saying they don’t even deserve to be in the tournament. A clearly blown call by a ref (glad to see that doesn’t just happen in American sports) in a qualifying match against Ireland gave France the victory (and World Cup berth) and kept Ireland out of the tournament.
As France will be attempting to quiet the detractors, Uruguay will be looking to recapture some of the glory of its past. Despite winning those two World Cup championships, they haven’t made it out of group play since 1990, and this year might represent one of their best chances of doing so.
The last time Uruguay and France played one another, the game ended in a scoreless 0-0 draw. Here’s hoping against hope that doesn’t happen again. At least knowing the storylines behind these teams will make the games that much more interesting to watch!


P.S. I picked Mexico and Uruguay to make it out of Group A, so I’ll be cheering for them tomorrow. It would be kind of neat to see a major upset by South Africa, though! According to ESPN, most people have picked France and Mexico to make it from this Group.

FIFA World Cup – One Day Away

So the World Cup begins tomorrow – the first one ever that I will actually be watching in my quest to see if I can make myself enjoy soccer. It starts with South Africa vs. Mexico tomorrow at 10:00 8:00 am, followed by Uruguay vs. France at 2:30 12:30.
Yes, as you can see, I have learned how to recalculate official FIFA time (I’m assuming they list the games for the South African timezone?) back to good old American Mountain Time (subtract 6 hours 8 hours). [Note: apparently I have not learned to recalculate the time difference… thanks, Nate! I’m an idiot.]
I’ve also come to grips with the fact that the rest of the world apparently writes their dates backwards (and yes, I’m aware of the irony that if the rest of the world does it who the backwards ones are), so when FIFA says the matches will take place on 11/6, it doesn’t mean five months from now. (Major tipoff: the next games in Group A will be played on 16/6. Unless everyone else has gone to a 16 month calendar…)
And the rest of the world wonders why Americans don’t watch soccer. When you have to work this hard just to figure out when the games are going to be played, the final product isn’t worth it! Ha!
I’ve been reading up on these matchups, and apparently this match is going to be huge for South Africa tomorrow. FIFA has been trying to take the World Cup to the continent of Africa for decades and have finally achieved that gooooooooooal (sorry, little soccer humor there – it’s an acquired taste). However, South Africa has been derided worldwide as the worst team in FIFA history to be rewarded as a World Cup host country. The world rankings bear this out – South Africa is ranked 83th, which is indeed the lowest ranking of any host country in history – and they are the lowest ranked team in Group A. Adding to the pressure for South Africa is the fact that no host country has lost an opening match in FIFA World Cup history. (In fact, there has never been a host country that has failed to make it to the second round of the tournament. It would be a minor miracle if South Africa even makes it out of Group A and into tournament play.)
So South Africa will be attempting the near impossible against a 17th ranked Mexican team who will be battling for their own tournament lives. They’re matched up in Group A with 9th ranked France and 16th ranked Uruguay, and only two of the four teams will make it out of group play. So this match tomorrow is pretty much a must-win for Mexico, too.
That will make for some good drama leading into the game, but I don’t think anyone expects South Africa to actually win the thing. For actual in game drama, the second match of the day is the better bet as two great teams in France and Uruguay square off.
In the 80 years of World Cup tournaments, only seven countries have actually won the championship. (The Cup has been pretty much dominated by Brazil, Italy, and Germany, who have 67% of the titles between the three of them.) France and Uruguay are two of those seven teams who have actually tasted World Cup victory before, though (Uruguay in 1930 and 1950, France in 1998). In fact, France took second in the last World Cup, falling to Italy in the final.
But there is controversy surrounding the French team this year, with some saying they don’t even deserve to be in the tournament. A clearly blown call by a ref (glad to see that doesn’t just happen in American sports) in a qualifying match against Ireland gave France the victory (and World Cup berth) and kept Ireland out of the tournament.
As France will be attempting to quiet the detractors, Uruguay will be looking to recapture some of the glory of its past. Despite winning those two World Cup championships, they haven’t made it out of group play since 1990, and this year might represent one of their best chances of doing so.
The last time Uruguay and France played one another, the game ended in a scoreless 0-0 draw. Here’s hoping against hope that doesn’t happen again. At least knowing the storylines behind these teams will make the games that much more interesting to watch!


P.S. I picked Mexico and Uruguay to make it out of Group A, so I’ll be cheering for them tomorrow. It would be kind of neat to see a major upset by South Africa, though! According to ESPN, most people have picked France and Mexico to make it from this Group.

World Cup: My Bracket is Set

Five or six years ago or so, I convinced my great friend Jon to join a fantasy football league that I had started. Despite not following football at the time, he acquiesced but with a disclaimer: “I don’t know anything about football!”

Well, he knew enough because he ended up winning the league that that year.

Two months ago, our group of friends completed NCAA March Madness brackets. Jon’s wife Sandra had not watched college basketball for years prior to filling out her bracket. She ended up beating everyone.

I know now roughly how they both must have felt, and I’m hoping for similar results! This evening, despite literally never having watched an entire soccer match in my life, I completed my FIFA World Cup fantasy bracket over at ESPN.com.

The World Cup is crazy to attempt to predict because of the group play that starts the event. The 32 teams are placed into eight groups of four, and those four teams play one another round-robin style. The two teams with the best record after that group play get to advance to the actual bracket tournament.

Here’s where things get amazingly tricky to predict, though: not only do you have to pick the top two from each bracket, you have to pick them in the correct order! The one seed and the two seed from each group get placed in specific places in the tournament bracket. So your bracket could very well be screwed before the tournament even begins! It would be akin to filling out a March Madness bracket before the selection committee drew up the official seeding. Insane.

Anyway, after I finished guessing my way through the bracket I had created, I ended up with a Final Four (can you call it that in soccer?) of England, Brazil, Argentina, and Italy. I had no idea whether that was decent or not until I looked at the so-called “World Bracket”, ESPN’s aggregate of all the brackets submitted from around the globe. The world bracket contained England, Brazil, Argentina, and Italy as their Final Four as well. Sweet.

I have Brazil beating Italy for the championship. Here goes nothin’!

All you soccer watchers and lovers out there — what are your picks? How do my picks look to you?

World Cup: My Bracket is Set

Five or six years ago or so, I convinced my great friend Jon to join a fantasy football league that I had started. Despite not following football at the time, he acquiesced but with a disclaimer: “I don’t know anything about football!”

Well, he knew enough because he ended up winning the league that that year.

Two months ago, our group of friends completed NCAA March Madness brackets. Jon’s wife Sandra had not watched college basketball for years prior to filling out her bracket. She ended up beating everyone.

I know now roughly how they both must have felt, and I’m hoping for similar results! This evening, despite literally never having watched an entire soccer match in my life, I completed my FIFA World Cup fantasy bracket over at ESPN.com.

The World Cup is crazy to attempt to predict because of the group play that starts the event. The 32 teams are placed into eight groups of four, and those four teams play one another round-robin style. The two teams with the best record after that group play get to advance to the actual bracket tournament.

Here’s where things get amazingly tricky to predict, though: not only do you have to pick the top two from each bracket, you have to pick them in the correct order! The one seed and the two seed from each group get placed in specific places in the tournament bracket. So your bracket could very well be screwed before the tournament even begins! It would be akin to filling out a March Madness bracket before the selection committee drew up the official seeding. Insane.

Anyway, after I finished guessing my way through the bracket I had created, I ended up with a Final Four (can you call it that in soccer?) of England, Brazil, Argentina, and Italy. I had no idea whether that was decent or not until I looked at the so-called “World Bracket”, ESPN’s aggregate of all the brackets submitted from around the globe. The world bracket contained England, Brazil, Argentina, and Italy as their Final Four as well. Sweet.

I have Brazil beating Italy for the championship. Here goes nothin’!

All you soccer watchers and lovers out there — what are your picks? How do my picks look to you?

FIFA World Cup

There are like 5 or 6 billion people around the world who, for some strange reason, absolutely love the game of soccer. But I am a stereotypical ethnocentric American who’d rather get my teeth cleaned, or yanked out one by one with a rusty pair of broken pliers, than sit through a soccer match.

If they’d make some simple changes to the game, I think I’d be a little more interested: getting rid of the offsides penalty, for example (penalizing athleticism and strategy has always seemed strange to me), and making the field smaller would be good places to start.

But those changes would only serve to scratch the surface of the major problem with soccer: it is just boring.

John Derbyshire, who grew up in England before coming to America, once wrote over at National Review:

“What really needs explaining is not why Americans do not care to watch soccer, but why the rest of the world does. With the probable exception of cricket, it is the most boring game ever devised… final scores of 0-0 and “penalty shoot-outs” (where an intractably tied game is settled by having single players kick at a goal defended only by the goalie) are now routine. It is amazing that so many people are willing to spend ninety minutes watching a game that frequently has no result.”

Amen. Ha!

But… some of my really close friends love soccer and get excited about it, so in the interest of community I am taking a huge step and have committed to watch the 2010 FIFA World Cup. I will try my best to honestly enjoy soccer this summer.

I’ve been preparing for the World Cup by doing what I do best: researching stuff. I now know which 32 teams are in the tournament, why those 32 are not the top 32 in the FIFA world rankings (in fact, North Korea got in as the 105th ranked team), the difference between group play and tournament play, some of the strange and bizarre rules of this worldwide phenomenon, and even the proper way to pronounce “FIFA”. I’m trying to keep my expectations in check so I’ll be okay watching 90 minutes with only one goal scored and not scream at the tv whenever someone gets called for offsides.

I’m going to fill out a bracket at ESPN.com — which should be hilarious, considering I know absolutely nothing about the teams other than their world rankings now (the U.S. is ranked 14th, by the way… Brazil is #1) — and see if that helps add a little more drama to all the 1-0 games I’m going to witness.

So here goes nothing. In a couple of weeks, I’m going to start watching soccer. On purpose. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you!

FIFA World Cup

There are like 5 or 6 billion people around the world who, for some strange reason, absolutely love the game of soccer. But I am a stereotypical ethnocentric American who’d rather get my teeth cleaned, or yanked out one by one with a rusty pair of broken pliers, than sit through a soccer match.

If they’d make some simple changes to the game, I think I’d be a little more interested: getting rid of the offsides penalty, for example (penalizing athleticism and strategy has always seemed strange to me), and making the field smaller would be good places to start.

But those changes would only serve to scratch the surface of the major problem with soccer: it is just boring.

John Derbyshire, who grew up in England before coming to America, once wrote over at National Review:

“What really needs explaining is not why Americans do not care to watch soccer, but why the rest of the world does. With the probable exception of cricket, it is the most boring game ever devised… final scores of 0-0 and “penalty shoot-outs” (where an intractably tied game is settled by having single players kick at a goal defended only by the goalie) are now routine. It is amazing that so many people are willing to spend ninety minutes watching a game that frequently has no result.”

Amen. Ha!

But… some of my really close friends love soccer and get excited about it, so in the interest of community I am taking a huge step and have committed to watch the 2010 FIFA World Cup. I will try my best to honestly enjoy soccer this summer.

I’ve been preparing for the World Cup by doing what I do best: researching stuff. I now know which 32 teams are in the tournament, why those 32 are not the top 32 in the FIFA world rankings (in fact, North Korea got in as the 105th ranked team), the difference between group play and tournament play, some of the strange and bizarre rules of this worldwide phenomenon, and even the proper way to pronounce “FIFA”. I’m trying to keep my expectations in check so I’ll be okay watching 90 minutes with only one goal scored and not scream at the tv whenever someone gets called for offsides.

I’m going to fill out a bracket at ESPN.com — which should be hilarious, considering I know absolutely nothing about the teams other than their world rankings now (the U.S. is ranked 14th, by the way… Brazil is #1) — and see if that helps add a little more drama to all the 1-0 games I’m going to witness.

So here goes nothing. In a couple of weeks, I’m going to start watching soccer. On purpose. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you!