Monday, June 14, 2010

The Beautiful Game

Huzzah! World Cup 2010 has erupted into our global consciousness -- ie,our TV screens -- this week. And for the next month I, for one, plan to savor every minute. Of course, we're a "soccer family" in that both our boys have played since they were, ummm, 5- or 6-years-old. The Wonderfully Patient Spouse and I coached Number 2 Son (even have the C license to prove it), I've managed a couple of traveling youth teams, and for awhile there, even the WPS and I played (if you could call it that) on adult teams.

A side note: I "retired" from competitive (if you could call it that) adult soccer when, after eight stitches and one broken arm later (two different games, I probably should add), I found myself driving down to the local ER at 11:30 p.m. one night to get my wedding ring cut off. I had broken my finger playing keeper for my Over 30 ladies' team. By the time I got home from the game, and despite some serious immersion icing (the WPS, Number 1 Son and N2S know what I mean), it was big as The Hindenburg and counting. Good times, good times.

But I digress. As we immerse ourselves in World Cup madness, I have to stop for a minute and sort out what I enjoy most about the madness: It is the drama played out on the pitch? Is it the wonder of watching and listening to 95,000 rabid soccer fans simultaneously rise and/or deflate with each well-played ball and laser-locked shot on goal. OR is the real drama trying to explain soccer to well-meaning, but endearingly clueless, friends and acquaintances who pronounce plaintively "I just don't get soccer."

It's too slow. Not enough scoring. Takes too long to score (Let's conveniently forget the first 4 minutes of the US-England game Saturday, shall we?). Draws. THE VUVUZELAS! And on and on it goes.

The short answer. You really can't explain soccer to folks who measure the game against the X's and O's of a (American) football playbook. Who need the black-and-white determination of win and loss. Who measure the quality of a game by the quantity of points scored.

I'm a simple soul. I'm just impressed with the fact the guys don't wear cups.

(And trust me, as a mom who's watched one of her pups take a nasty, cleats-up slide tackle in the cajones -- and the other somersault across the field after a direct hit in the you-know-where with an frigid soccer ball, this is a point well taken.)

Well, that and more. Here's what I love:

The magical movement of man and ball. . .

Fearless physical challenges (and the deft dispossessions). . .

The grace -- and grittiness -- of the game. . .

No time outs. . .

A 5'8" striker juking 6'2" keeper.

And that's just the start.

It IS The Beautiful Game. Maybe not for everyone. But for a goodly number of the 6,790,062,216 bodies that warm this good earth it is. And I'm proud join them at the World Cup party this month.

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