So it’s the offseason. It took me a while to get over the crushing blow of the Saints game, and I’m still not going to write about it. What I’d like to do instead is offer up something completely off-topic for you to do this offseason because the next football-relevant thing is the draft in late April. Three months of obsessing will just leave you disappointed when the Lions draft the one guy you’ve never heard of and you’re convinced they made his name up (Gosder Cherilus). You’ll hate it when they take best player available, since it will undoubtedly be a wide receiver, leaving their secondary with another year to be ignored in the 1st round.
Anyway, the off-topic thing. Today, I’m going to convince you football fans to become…football fans. Yes, I mean soccer. You probably all know that soccer and football are somehow related (the name is one clue), but you probably don’t know how. Wikipedia tells me that soccer and rugby split because when the freemasons were deciding the rules (something like that) one guy didn’t like that he wouldn’t be allowed to kick people in the shins (Suh was just trying to stay true to the roots of the game) or carry the ball any more, so he broke off and created rugby. Somewhere along the line, American football was developed in the US as an adaptation of that. So football is like that crazy nephew that the rest of the soccer family looks down upon because he dropped out of school and went to jail. Anyway, a history lesson probably isn’t going to convince you to like soccer, so I’ll tell you why you should like it.
You probably have all sorts of pre-programmed insults about soccer. You say there’s not enough scoring, players flop too much, there are too many ties, america’s not good at it, it’s too boring, real men don’t wear shorts (maybe I made that one up, but I’ll disprove it). I’ll try to take on each of those and then some and see if I can get you to at least watch a game.
So you think soccer is too low-scoring? Tell that to the US women’s national team, who beat the Dominican Republic 14-0 two weeks ago.
Of course, that’s not a typical score, but let’s compare soccer to the NFL. In the English Premier League (one of the best leagues in the world), there was an average of 2.77 goals scored per game. In the NFL this past season, there were an average of 4.9 TDs per game scored. Including halftime, soccer lasts 105 minutes, a little over an hour and a half. An NFL game typically takes somewhere on the order of 3 hours. So soccer has an average of about 1.58 goals per hour, while the NFL has 1.63 TDs per hour. Not much difference there, except that TDs are worth 7 points. Just multiply a soccer score by 7 in your head if you just want to see big numbers. Of course, teams can score from field goals or safeties too, but are you really ever that excited about a field goal unless it’s a game winner?
And soccer is played straight through. 90 minutes of soccer takes 90 minutes. 60 minutes of football takes 3 hours. If you want non-stop action, soccer is literally the definition of that, since the clock doesn’t stop.
Players Flop Too Much
This happens in football too. Guys try to play the officials, use the rules to their advantage, and gain the upper hand. The world champion New York Giants even pulled it off.
Sure, it can be obnoxious. It annoys me when Aaron Rodgers cries to the refs and gets a flag thrown on the Lions. It annoys me when the Lions defensive linemen are held because the refs can’t see it. At the very least, soccer players are more creative and entertaining when they play the officials.
Too Many Ties
You’re right. I can’t quite get over this one. But you know what? Sometimes teams are pretty much equally matched. Allowing ties is probably more representative of the teams’ true talent levels when you consider their overall season record. And when soccer does need an outcome, like elimination games, they do it right. Overtime period followed by a shootout? What’s more intense than that?
This was from the women’s World Cup in 2011, where the US took on Brazil. The game went to overtime, the US tied it up in stoppage time of overtime, and won in a penalty shootout. This was probably the greatest game I’ve ever watched in any sport.
America’s Not Good At It
That’s why I’m writing this post. Duh! Get Interested! America’s best athletes are all being funneled into American sports. Do you wonder why the US isn’t the best in the world at badminton or fencing or raquetball (it turns out the US is completely dominant at raquetball, so bad example)? While all of the best athletes in the rest of the world play soccer, Americans are over here wasting our talents in football and baseball, which most of the rest of the world just flat out don’t care about. Imagine if you had Calvin Johnson playing flying past his opposition on the wing. Imagine Jason Hanson lofting a free kick into the box from 50 yards away. The US would be great at soccer if people cared. Even now, the US has very good players at the highest stage of international soccer. Clint Dempsey is the star midfielder/forward for Fulham in the English Premier League. Landon Donovan recently received a transfer from the LA Galaxy to Everton (also in the EPL) and has 4 assists in his past 4 games, including one to defeat the league-leading Manchester City this past Tuesday. More and more Americans are getting the call and breaking down the stereotype shared worldwide that Americans aren’t good at soccer. Maybe we need to stop caring about being the absolute best in the world at something. This way seems better to me. It gives me some pride as an American to be looked down upon and to see my fellow Americans prove the doubters wrong. But then again, I’m also obsessed with the Olympics, so I guess being patriotic about random sports is just my thing.
Real Men Don’t Wear Shorts
Soccer is Boring
If you think soccer is boring, then you don’t watch soccer.
Do you like watching Calvin Johnson fly past defenders and beat triple coverage? Then you’ll like this goal.
Do you like watching the individual skill that you see in basketball? Then you should watch Ronaldinho.
Do you like long touchdown passes, full court shots, or monster home runs? Then you’ll like Tim Howard’s (another American in the EPL!) goal last month against Bolton.
Who Should I Watch?
So hopefully, all of this has gotten you at least intrigued enough to watch some games. You’re probably foaming at the mouth to watch some awesome soccer. Right? Maybe? Please? So where do you turn? Well there happens to be a great game on this afternoon at 3PM eastern time. 3rd place Tottenham Hotspur (my adopted favorite team) vs. 7th place Liverpool (Ty‘s adopted favorite team). The game will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN3, so if you have the chance to turn it on, it’ll definitely be worth a look.
If you can’t watch today, this weekend has a whole host of good games, including Manchester United vs. Liverpool (…at 7:30 AM eastern…yikes) which will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN3. Alternatively, you could go with Barcelona in the Spanish pro league, probably one of the 2 or 3 best teams in the world this Saturday 2/11 against Osasuna on ESPN3 at 2PM EST (much more manageable time). Barcelona even features the best player in the world in Lionel Messi. He’s like Michael Vick if Vick was tiny, white, didn’t abuse dogs, was generally well-liked and appreciated, didn’t have to throw the football, and just got to juke people all day long. Like that.
Anyway, enjoy your offseason. Take it as an opportunity to get into something new. I would love it if you came to enjoy soccer (more games televised for me to watch), but it can be anything. Try doing a puzzle, running a 5K, playing broomball, or playing indoor soccer. It can be anything…but please don’t start speculating on the draft yet.