Yesterday at noon I was toiling away in the heat mowing my lawn just so I’d be done in time to watch the final game of the World Cup. Weeks ago, I think I caught a few minutes of the US v England game but my interest quickly waned. But with the tournament near the end, one more effort to understand why the rest of the world is so passionate about soccer seemed appropriate.
After watching most of the game, I’ve concluded that soccer is all about mistakes. If everyone does his job, the game ends in a “nil-nil” tie. Over 90 minutes plus of play, however, someone is bound to make a mistake and that is when a goal is scored. That is also what distinguishes American football from soccer. In our brand of football, most noteworthy plays are the result of skill v skill, with the stronger, more resourceful, more determined adversary usually prevailing. In Super Bowl XLII when the Giants upset the Patriots, the iconic play of the game was David Tyree’s incredible catch of the ball when he pinned it against his helmet with one hand while being blanketed by Rodney Harrison. Harrison’s coverage was superb; but Tyree’s catch was even better. Contrast that with the winning TD reception when Eli Manning lofted an easy pass to Plaxico Burress in the corner of the end zone. The defense of the Patriots faltered that time, and the Giants were handed the TD and the Super Bowl. That play was largely forgettable because it was the result of a mistake.
In soccer, the only time anything happens is when there is a mistake. Otherwise it’s just pitch and catch at midfield. Maybe that’s why Americans don’t particularly like the sport. We see man as capable of super human efforts while Europeans see him as destined to fail. Me? I enjoyed watching the game so that must put me somewhere in the middle.