Sunday, June 29, 2014


The World Cup is here which means time for everyone to pretend they care about soccer. Literally, as I’m writing this, I’m watching my next door neighbors leap around their back deck like they have spiders in their festively-patterned bathing trunks and screaming “Goal” and slapping five and pumping fists. Why you ask? Because the Mexican National Team put a ball through the back of a net. They’ve got the TV outside, the grill going, and the above-ground pool crowded with colorful floats and tubes.

And this has been the scene every single day since the World Cup commenced and my property line turned into a Manchester tailgate party. I think they might’ve quit their jobs. Where do they get the energy to fake-root for Spain or Croatia or Brazil with such cartoonish passion and epical energy? It’s quite a spectacle. If you’re concerned about said neighbors reading this and getting offended, don’t worry. There’s far too much soccer to scream at and dance around like lunatics for to waste time reading or even putting on a shirt apparently.

But it’s not just my neighbors. It’s everyone everywhere. People who’ve never said a word about soccer before are suddenly Facebook posting about it and planning inner-office lunches to watch it. Every time the local news runs a live feed from Biergarten in Albany, there they are: hundreds of impassioned nail biters with eyes on the game, then the powder-keg celebrations when someone scores. This has to be fake, right? Nobody’s genuinely carrying on like this over soccer eight countries from here. Anything to be involved.

I can’t flip a switch in my brain and transform into super-duper-uper soccer nutcase fanatic just because it’s World Cup, and in a week it'll be over. I don’t know anything about any of the teams or the players or the rivalries. I'm not a fan. But I am a fan of the NY Giants, because I love Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning and know their stories inside out. The franchise and the game of football have meant so much to me. Sorry, I can’t fall off a cliff about this soccer tourney. It’s not my game. Period. It has no bearing on my existence. Plus, the culture of soccer doesn’t interest me. I don’t care about 5’7” guys named Caleb. I don’t care about Landon Donovan. I don't care about David Beckham. It’s not my game.

The sport itself is confusing and troublesome to me. The clock doesn’t tick down to zero, it runs the other way. I can’t make heads or tails of the rules. American soccer leagues: are you serious? Trying to follow the domestic season is more complicated than solving quadratic equations. Nobody in this country gives a hoot about soccer till the World Cup rolls around and I’m-a-sheep season officially starts. The one World Cup game I tried watching this year was last Sunday between America and Portugal. I quasi-devoted an afternoon to following it, and found myself sort of getting invested, because I guess I have do that whole "USA! USA!" thing at least once before I bash it. My neighbors were well ahead me on the Americana card. At one point during last Sunday's game, I swear I saw my neighbor’s head spin entirely around like in the Exorcism. In the end of all that mania: Final score 2-2. A tie. Ah soccer.

If you're one of the sixteen genuine year-round soccer fans in this country, understand this rant isn't about you or against you.

I’ve been to Hell and here’s the story. About five years ago, when I got convinced we needed some extra money because we'd just done the new-house thing, I sadly signed up to be a referee for high school soccer. The training classes started in August, and three evenings a week I had to drag myself to a summer-abandoned Shaker High School and sit in a science room and learn the rules of referring soccer. There's nothing sadder than talking soccer in a high school in August. Like I said: Hell. It was scheduled for nine sessions of some guy explaining colored cards and corner kicks. After five times, I threw in the towel, told the league they could keep my hundred bucks, and drove home with a mile-wide smile on my face, happy to go broke as long as I never had to sit through anything soccer related ever again.


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Brian Huba

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