time again, when the rest of the international sports world tells us what's good for us, an attitude generally not given much truck in American society. (See
.) We are told that upwards of 200 billion people are watching -- in other words, the entire population of the planet minus us. Strangely enough, more and more elements -- or cells as I like to call them -- seem to have given in lately to this phenomenon.
sportscasters are saying things like, "The final score was nil-nil." Someone named
is being touted as the world's greatest athlete.
For the benefit of those of you who might have been too busy to peek in on DisneyMedia this week, here's what you have missed after one week of World Cup competition.
Nothing. (Especially if you were following the Americans.)
Let me make it clear that I'm not some kind of soccer-hating philistine. I was a midfielder in high school (back then we called it halfback, before international organizations like had infiltrated American society, monopolizing athletic fields so that certain middle-aged guys can never reserve a softball diamond on Saturdays). Unfortunately, soccer is one of those games, like men's tennis and professional poker, that become less interesting as it is played at the highest levels.
The one essential fact is, hardly anyone scores. Hardly anyone even shoots. I know, I know -- all that endless passing and deft footwork is evidence of supreme athleticism and strategy that we foolish Americans aren't sophisticated enough to fathom. But the point is...there is no point! It's like watching an endless game of tic-tac-toe in which no one ever wins.
We're told, with the usual foreign haughtiness, that it's an epic battle of endurance. Big deal. So is the
, but would you watch it for three hours? More to the point, if they'd let the teams substitute freely, like we Americans do in all our vastly superior sports, maybe the players would have some energy and not be content to wander aimlessly on the grass all night.
And what is it with the clock? Here in America, even fourth grade basketball leagues have figured out how to stop and start a clock. But in soccer, when time has expired, they keep going! Exactly how much time's left? We don't know! They keep playing until the referee thinks things have gone on long enough, or somebody's mother yells "Supper's ready!" Or something.
And then they have the nerve to lecture us that soccer isn't constantly interrupted by commercials. I don't know about you, but after 45 minutes watching 20 guys play keep-away, I want to know what those
lizards are doing. I could even listen to that idiotic Amigo song one more time. Honestly, if they played a
and no one advertised, would it really matter?
Now about this world's greatest athlete business. This may come as a shock to our friends overseas, but sometime in the last couple of billion years, our species developed an opposable thumb. It's the thing that separates us from the other species. We've long acknowledged that good old American sports like baseball, football, basketball and
are valuable developers of hand-eye coordination. It's how we won the
. So how excited am I supposed to get about a sport in which you can't use your hands? I absolutely refuse to recognize as the World's Greatest Athlete someone who might not be able to respond to a simple "Pass the ketchup."
Now a few words about the proliferation of youth soccer, which I see as the last great unreported conspiracy in America. There is irony, of course, in the fact that a game that is essentially working-class and supported by roughnecks and hooligans in much of the world has been embraced by suburban moms and dads as a nonviolent alternative to red-blooded American sports like football and baseball.
Consider this. In Washington, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman
is aghast that our soldiers might some day fall under the leadership of
commanders. Or that American businessmen could be enslaved by the
International Monetary Fund
. Yet, at this very moment, schoolchildren are running home to their soccer moms, crying out innocently, "Mommy, we tied, nil-nil!"
What else are they learning?
The metric system? International currency?
Can socialized medicine be far behind?
Did I mention how difficult it is for a group of guys to find a softball field on a Saturday morning?
Somebody find these kids a pool hall. Until then, here's my advice for watching the World Cup:
Michael Katz is a novelist, screenwriter and producer who lives in Los Angeles. Previously he has worked as a banker and financial analyst.