Archive for the 'Olympics and other Sporting Events' Category


Why Soccer Fails to Capture the Interest of Americans

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about why Americans will never embrace the sport of “football.” The most common theory seems to relate to the length-of-play to points scored ratio (as seen on facebook: How is watching soccer like going to the disco? Everybody gets all sweaty, and nobody scores).

I have a different theory, which relates to the American ideal of fairness, especially in sport.

Soccer as it is today is just too subjective.

Firstly: What’s up with the “extra time” tacked on to the end of the game, supposedly reflecting the amount of time lost for fouls, injuries, out-of-bounds, etc.? It seems to me like an opportunity ripe for corruption, as well as completely subjective (who makes that decision anyway? does anybody know?) Now I can understand that this might have been a relevant approach I don’t know, back before we had clocks, but here we are in the 21st century, with laser technology and timers that can place swimmers and skiers within thousandths of seconds, but we can’t stop the time when the ball goes out of bounds? Maybe they could talk to someone, like the NBA or the NFL, and ask them how they do it.

Secondly: what gets called a foul and what doesn’t? You can watch 10 minutes of soccer and there are 30 whistles; for the next 30 minutes, while the players wrestle each other to the ground, kick each other in the jaw, or throw themselves to the grass in a writhing squirming heap because someone came into their airspace, nary a whistle is blown.

Thirdly: the continued insistence on refusing to use video technology to review mildly important calls, you know, like questionable goals in international competition.

Vague, arbitrary, archaic. Not fair.

In a related story, the president of FIFA has apologized for the refereeing errors, and vowed that the discussion regarding the use of video technology will be reopened in July (after the World Cup is over; that should help). He insists, though, that this discussion is only going to be regarding what he refers to as “goal-line technology.” While that’s a start, I don’t think it goes far enough. Could someone at least hand someone a stopwatch?


World Cup Soccer

I love watching soccer — it’s like hockey stretched way out and in slow motion, so there’s time to watch the play develop: the positioning, the passing, the intricate footwork. The goalie does seem like a rather small person in front of a really large net, but that’s probably from watching hockey, (I’m married to a Canadian; I think it was in the vows), in which the goalie is a rather large person in front of a really small net.

My husband found this really entertaining article about why Canada can’t make it to the World Cup. I especially enjoyed the line “Even the United States is in the World Cup, although, in terms of excitement generated among U.S. fans, soccer still lags well behind ice fishing, demolition derby, lawn darts and league bowling.”

This lack of interest in real pro soccer always puzzles me — this is the sport that is played by probably 90% of American children, and as the author of the article points out, the reason we drive mini-vans. What happens to all of those soccer players when they grow up? Is there just a generational lag, and we will see an expanding interest in and support of this sport as these children grow up and want an outlet for all of those finely honed skills?

We then investigated the basic rules of soccer, trying to determine when the ball is thrown in vs. kicked in vs. subject to a penalty kick. I’m not sure we understand it any better than we did before. I also need some help understanding offsides. I remember my son explaining this to me after almost every game when he played in middle and high school. I still don’t get it. Any help would be appreciated.

And what is up with this random assigning of “extra minutes” at the end of the game? Seems like an opportunity ripe for corruption. Shouldn’t the game just be over when it’s over? And if they want to account for extra time on whistles, couldn’t they just stop the clock like they do in every other game on the planet?

Anyway, we just watched Argentina beat Nigeria. Pretty good game. I was especially impressed by the fact that both teams seemed to be able to concentrate while apparently being menaced by a giant mosquito.

p.s. Disturbing footnote: I was looking for a suitable image to use, and on the first Google page that came up under the term “World Cup Soccer” 5 of 25 pictures were of scantily clad women in provocative poses. Seriously? This is the Google brilliant search engine at work for us, helping us find the most relevant links? Sheesh.


The Complex Male

Men play sports so they can beat the crap out of each other, and hug.


What’s not to like? They get to embrace (pun intended, sorry), the aggressive side of their natures while benefiting from the warm, physical camaraderie of the “pack” in a situation for which they can not be ridiculed.


Curling? Who knew?

I’ve become a fan of this sport, and not just because Canada won the gold and I’m married to a Canadian. I love the combination of grace, finesse, and strategy. And I’m all for a sport where a working knowledge of geometry and a middle-aged bald man can lead a team to victory.

I do think the Norwegians should have been disqualified for the pants. They looked like jester pants, or pajamas, or the backs of a deck of cards.

And what was up with the bouquets? Kale? Leaf lettuce? I mean, I know the Olympics are being held in Canada, in February, but couldn’t they have at least trucked in some carnations or something?

In a not-wholly-unrelated story; when did arm-flailing supplant artistic expression in (men’s) figure skating?


Shave that Soul Patch!

Apolo Ohno is an amazing skater, and I love the drama and speed and excitement of short-track speed skating. But someone needs to hold this otherwise-really-attractive young man down and shave off the soul patch. Is someone telling him this looks good? It looks like a little bit of Donald Trump’s toupée found its way onto his chin. [A choupée?]

I mean look — isn’t that soooo much better?


Let’s Ban Pairs Skating

Really. As said by that Canadian rock group and purveyors of modern wisdom Barenaked Ladies, it’s all been done before. He throws her (how hard can it be? she only weighs 60 lbs), they jump and spin a few times and take turns falling, and then there’s the death spiral; first this way, then that way. As far as I can see, the result of what must have been desperate casting about for new choreography has resulted in a series of “show-the-crowd-your-crotch” poses and an exploration of the various and universally awkward ways one can skate on one foot while holding on to the other. It’s not pretty. Don’t do it.


Chicken Olympics

Watching the Olympics. I’ve always loved the Olympics — the triumph of the human spirit combined with really difficult things done really well; what’s not to like? Okay, I’m not terribly fond of the overwrought, manipulative sentimental stories (there actually seem to be a lot fewer of them this time thank GOD!), but that doesn’t mean that I don’t tear up on cue and make vows to become more athletic maybe starting sometime next week.

Anyway, these skiers are amazing. Flying down this ice-hard vertical slope at what, 65, 70, 75 miles an hour on 4″-wide sticks of wood? I imagine myself flying over that first jump, shrieking in abject terror, throwing myself to the ground and curling up in the fetal position, where I lie, whimpering, until some kind souls on a snowmobile come with a sled to rescue me.

Also, despite rumors to the contrary, I seriously doubt that Olympians eat Chicken McNuggets. Of course, I don’t have any official verification of this theory, we’ll just call it a gut feeling. Not related to the feeling in my gut when I eat Chicken McNuggets.

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