Tuesday, June 15, 2010

World Cup Ramblings

All eyes are on South Africa for the World Cup soccer championships this month. I heard an announcer say that more people are watching this year's World Cup than any event in history, including the Super Bowl or the Academy Awards.

No question the opening ceremonies had the feel of Olympian production qualities and the colorful features of South African culture are coming through loud and clear.

Television coverage of the World Cup is beginning to gain a following here in the U.S., though there are still masses a bit bewildered by a game in which people run around and score only one goal in ninety minutes. No question we don't grasp how challenging it is to get that goal... I mean, these goalies are world class.

In Major League Baseball, when pitchers began dominating the game in the 60's, officials lowered the mound a half foot to help keep the game lively. When fan counts were dwindling, they made the ball a little livelier to help beef up the action a little more. (Fan counts were probably off the mark more due to all those nasty strikes than from the lack of scoring, but that's another story.)

So how does one beef up the scoring in World Cup soccer? Maybe goalies would have to have one arm tied behind their backs. Or, every five minutes they have to play blindfolded for one minute. Then again, why change the rules just because Americans don't appreciate the strategies and finesse with which the game is played.

When I was a kid we played baseball every day. Whiffle ball in the back yard or hardball up at the school diamond. There was always a game on. In the last twenty years I couldn't help but notice that all those baseball diamonds are empty now. How many kids even own a baseball glove these days?

My son led the way into soccer in our family. What he liked most, I think, was the flags on the soccer cards. Definitely colorful, and a great way to learn how internationally diverse the human race is.

Naturally, like many other dads, I got involved with coaching and in this manner I had to learn the rules which I'd not quite grasped the few times I played in high school gym class. What I learned this time around was how great this game really was. It's a team sport. And in addition to the skills and coordination it demands of you, it requires healthy lungs in order to play. You do a lot of running.... something on the order of seven miles a game (if you're not the goalie.) It really is a great game.

So now, in South Africa, that unlikely world stage, we watch and wait to see who, what, when and how one nation will bring home the coveted prize. If you don't understand the game, then just enjoy the colors... their bright, bold and beautiful.

Good luck to all the underdogs!

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