July 22, 2010 in Washington Voices

Soccer has something for everyone

By The Spokesman-Review
 

When three out of six people in your household play or coach soccer, the World Cup becomes a very big deal. Consequently, at Casa Hval from June 11 to July 11, vacation days, mealtimes and social activities all revolved around game time.

Which wasn’t as bad as you may think. Soccer is one of the few sports I actually understand and even enjoy. The notable exception being the “offside” call. This rule has been explained to me by 10-year-olds, professional soccer players, volunteer coaches, referees and Wikipedia. It has been diagramed for me on chalkboards and clipboards. I have watched demonstrations in which grapes, olives and popcorn were used to depict players and positions.

I still don’t get it.

But no matter, the point of the game is clear. One team tries to kick their ball into the opposing team’s goal. What could be simpler?

Additionally, soccer, unlike most other sports, reveals the male form in all its fit glory. Baseball is filled with pudgy players, NBA athletes have their shorts-on-the-ground, and NHL and NFL athletes are so padded it’s hard to discern where uniform ends and player begins.

Not so in soccer. In fact, Marie Claire magazine composed a list of the hottest World Cup players. The listed featured Spain’s Fernando Torres, Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and the USA’s Landon Donovan, among others. Of course, I only perused this list in order to better be able to enjoy the games with my husband and sons. It’s purely coincidental that I printed up pictures of these players sans their shirts.

And I can’t think of another sport so focused on the hairstyles of its athletes. Several news organizations printed articles focused on fun and funky World Cup hairstyles. Bacary Sagna’s Bo Derek-ish, highlighted braids drew a lot of attention – the French are all about style. However, if a scary hair award existed, my vote would have been for Marek Hamsik of Slovakia. The poor fellow looked like he’d gelled up his hair and stood facing a hurricane for several hours.

But of course, the World Cup is not all about good looks or hair. No, the best thing about the event is the British commentators. I haven’t laughed so hard during a televised sporting event since Howard Cosell hosted Monday Night Football.

During a lull in one match the British commentator offered this snarky remark about one of the competitors, “He has his forename instead of his surname on his jersey. It’s his prerogative of course – even though it confuses the rest of the world.”

Or this brooding gem during the tense final game between Spain and the Netherlands. While replaying questionable contact between two players, the commentator wondered, “Was it just a collision or something more sinister?”

You don’t hear those kinds of remarks during a baseball game.

Of course, not everyone was excited about the World Cup. I lost count of how many men I talked to who rolled their eyes or made disparaging remarks about how boring they find soccer. This from men who watch bowling on television!

That’s not to say the World Cup play didn’t have its drawbacks. The most notable being the horrifically annoying buzz of thousands of vuvuzelas. While I enjoyed working the word into daily conversation (“I think I broke my vuvuzela”) the sound of the stadium horn still lingers in my brain like the whine of an irritated housefly.

And I’d like to see someone create a decent trophy for the event. The current gaudy gold creation isn’t even a cup.

But what’s really sad is that we have to wait four years before the next World Cup rolls around. Why can’t it be yearly like the Super Bowl?

Oh well. I plan to use my time wisely. In four years, I hope to solve the offside mystery. By then I should be able to figure out why the grape can’t run past the olive and why the popcorn is always near the goal.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. Her previous columns are available here.

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