Here’s What I Think Of The Anti-Soccer Column In Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer

03/03/2013
By

Fans of a boring sport (Courtesy of PhiladelphiaUnion.com)

As if stomaching another Barcelona loss to Real Madrid, a Clasico event topped off by a season-opening collapse by the Philadelphia Union, wasn’t enough, along comes the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer with a “Soccer needs to rev up the action” column.

It was written by noted futbol mind Matt Zencey, a former Inquirer editor listed as “the author of ‘Unlikely Liberal: Sarah Palin’s Curious Record as Alaska’s Governor.’” Rather than emailing him at mzencey@hotmail.com, as readers are invited to do, I’m opting to discuss it here. Let’s look at it in its 531-word entirety.

This weekend marks the start of the region’s pro soccer season, when thousands of fans flock to PPL Park in Chester to cheer on the Philadelphia Union. I will not be among them.

Time hook? Check. Statement that tells the world Matt Zencey does not appreciate the sport most of them love? Double check. We’re already on the column-writing roll and we’re not out of the lede graf yet!!1!

To me, soccer is much ado about not enough. The teams run around for an hour and a half and if the fans are lucky, their team may – hold your breath! – score a goal or two.

Oh, this is getting original.

You mean to tell me “soccer” teams don’t score eight goals a game? Why didn’t anybody let those folks know before they went to Chester or Madrid or London or Florence or Frankfurt or Marseille or a variety of cities on a variety of continents?!?

Yes, I know that along the way, you’ll see impressive feats of foot-eye coordination. A star player can dribble the ball as if it’s on a string attached to his foot. The stamina required to run nonstop for 45 minutes at a time is mind-boggling. After buzzing around on a soccer pitch for two or three minutes, I’d have trouble outrunning a three-legged beagle.

Now we know that, along the way, he didn’t once realize that he entirely undercut whatever premise it was that an op/editor accepted in exchange for a $100 check to be delivered via U.S. Mail at month’s end. Pfft, who cares about “impressive feats of foot-eye coordination” anyway? I mean, besides billions of people not named Zencey, who doesn’t seem as if he can outwrite a three-legged beagle. (Fun fact: Seems as if he googled Lionel Messi during the extensive research put into this piece, what with the ‘string attached to his foot’ vignette. So, kudos for that.)

But all that comes with a lot of nonsense. A soccer game offers some of the best acting this side of Broadway. To gain a breather, players will fake a catastrophic orthopedic injury – then bounce up a minute later as if they just received the miracle cure of Lourdes. Attacking players, feeling a defender’s touch that wouldn’t knock over your grandmother, fall to the ground, hoping to draw a penalty shot, which almost guarantees a goal.

Oh, OK. Like this guy?

Or these guys?

(Full disclosure: Of course there’s diving. That’s what “yellow cards” are for.)

To capture my interest, soccer needs more scoring. Loosening the offside rule would help.

Huh? What’s the offside rule?

It’s a way to keep attackers from hanging around the other team’s goal for easy scores. But many an exciting offensive rush has been annulled by the ref’s judgment that, gee, the guy who is swooping in on goal was maybe half a step ahead of the last defender back when the ball was kicked in his direction. (Got that?)

(No. I don’t. Unless you’re saying that Major League Baseball should establish an 85mph-maximum for fastballs, the NBA should lower the rims a half foot to enable everyone to dunk and the NFL should give wide receivers a three-second headstart so as to ensure both teams always score more than 42 points a game. I think you’ve missed the fact that fewer goals bolster the strategic beauty of a game in which every point counts.)

Soccer could rev up the action even further by allowing substitutions on the fly, as in hockey.

Please stop calling it soccer. You’re making it impossible for people who actually enjoy the game to continue reading. Or was that your point? To anger them so much that they won’t see your hotmail address listed at the end?

And seriously, bro, hotmail? When should we expect your slow-technology-down-and-smell-the-roses opus?

Also, your substitute on the fly like hockey theory is patently absurd. If you want that, and the extra Sportscenter-ready goal highlights, we had a place for you. But unfortunately, your “soccer” success keys didn’t work out all too well for the Kixx.

Right now, to change players on the field requires an elaborate ritual only slightly less involved than getting married, and unlike marriage, there’s a limit on how many times you can do it.

What does this even mean, Matt? The infield-fly rule and basketball’s bonus situation must really piss you off, huh?

Soccer fans like the lack of scoring, and the long, slow buildup that precedes any score, and they experience an incredible burst of emotion when it finally happens. If it happens only once a game, that’s enough, thank you very much. (Kind of like another intensely popular human activity, involving a long buildup and a short, intense burst of pleasure … except soccer fans don’t fall asleep after it finally happens.)

HE MEANS SEX!!1! And he apparently doesn’t value foreplay as much as the women of the world. And, he doesn’t seem all that inclined to ensuring climax is reciprocated. As if he doesn’t realize his ladyfriend or whatever sees right though his fall-asleep-immediately-thereafter ruse.

I don’t begrudge them their pleasures. Mine is baseball – definitely an acquired taste. It involves intense bursts of sometimes breathtaking athleticism, followed by much longer spells of squinting, spitting, glove-tugging, and standing around doing nothing on the field.

Translation: I like how American guys with gloves stand around for long spells instead of foreign guys running around for an hour and a half, continually engaged in an athletic chess match.

I just hope U.S. soccer’s growth doesn’t unleash the same violent passions and hooliganism that sometimes erupt in Europe and Latin America.

Don’t mind me. I’m just throwing criticisms around indiscriminately without offering a lick of supporting argument. Also, I think there are WMDs under Santiago BernabĂ©u Stadium.

Remember the unfortunate Colombian defender who was shot to death not long after causing an own goal in the World Cup?

Remember Bryan Stow? And David Sale? And Andre Waters? And Owen Thomas?

Here in the United States, we have enough idiotic sports-related violence.

Looks like maybe you do, xenophobe.

One of our major sports, hockey, officially tolerates fighting among players as “part of the game.”

You mean, like the decades-old team that remains beloved because it represents the spirit of the city from which you culled a C-note for writing nothing but meaningless drivel about a sport you clearly don’t understand?

At least the lords of soccer are smart enough not to allow that.

I just wish the lords of Philadelphia journalism were smart enough not to allow this recycled, illogical piece to have appeared on the paper delivered to my doorstep this morning. Do us all a favor, David, and never, ever show up for a “soccer” game. You don’t deserve that kind of joy in your life.

I’ll close with highlights of a boring event from a day earlier in which the teams – hold your breath! – scored three goals between them.

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