Tuesday, June 18, 2002

World Cup Soccer absolutely rocks the body. How could I have denied the power of this sport for so long? This is coming from a person who never expected to say "soccer" and "rocks" in the same breath. Perhaps I need to explain.

Nothing will replace, in my mind, the thrill of American football at playoff time. That is a rule. But World Cup soccer is the next best thing. The games are exciting, the fans are insane. The competition, after the first round, calls for one-game single elimination showdowns. No seven-game series garbage.

What other sport is so world-encompassing? Every continent, excepting antarctica, is pretty much fully involved. Brazil is about to play England in a huge match. Korea just shocked Italy; Africa is represented by Senegal…The U.S. faced-down Mexico on even footing (as compared to the Olympics, where we humiliate countries in sports like basketball, with the single goal of inflating the bloated American ego).

I would say this is unifying, in a way. Of course, countries that hate each other aren't going to kiss and make up during a soccer game. But it may be the solitary passion, or culture, they can claim in common.

A sport without television timeouts is a treat. The diehard soccer fans in the U.S. have always lamented the fact that this country treats soccer about as warmly as curling, while the rest of the world embraces their ball-kickers. I say let's keep it this way. Soccer is doing just fine around the world, with or without us. Do we really need America to get its claws in this sport? We'll end up with penalty boxes, bonus kicks, 2-point goals, 4-quarter games, and timeouts, timeouts, timeouts (commercials, commercials, commercials). Don't forget inflated player salaries, bargaining agreements, free agency and holdouts. Forget all that. Go Senegal. I can't find you on the map, but your jerseys look pretty cool…