No one’s here to discuss the merits of soccer or litigate its worthiness as a sport and global phenomenon. Truth is, I suspect I might grow to enjoy the World Cup if I put in the time necessary to understand soccer beyond the most cursory level, and I understand that remaining willfully ignorant is probably my loss.
But I’m old and set in my ways, and I’m not about to spend any more time or brainpower on sports than I already do. I’m just going to plow forward in life without bothering to learn how to appreciate soccer or why it so grips so many people. Sorry; I’ve got other stuff to do.
So this post is for others out there like me. Even if you’ve decided you don’t really like soccer, there are things to appreciate about the World Cup when it happens. Here are seven of them:
1. There’s a dude who bites people
The dude in that photo is named Luis Suarez. He will represent Uruguay in the 2018 World Cup, and he has a long and sordid history of biting opponents in the course of soccer matches. That’s this guy’s thing, so far as I understand: He’s the bitey guy. To make matters more ridiculous, he often follows biting someone by holding his teeth as though in pain, to try to pretend it was the other guy’s fault for jamming flesh into his open jaw.
Probably hardcore soccer fans just want to watch good soccer and hate it when the bitey guy bites people, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s an entertaining wild card in World Cup events, and it’s really the sport’s fault for allowing him to develop the taste for human blood in the first place.
2. There are serious underdogs
There are powerhouse countries that always seem to win up in or near the World Cup finals, but one of the legit cool things about the event is the outside chance of some less likely nation uniting around a Cinderella soccer team. It’s like the NCAA Tournament, except instead of the cameras cutting to college kids crammed into a cafeteria at some mid-major school, you get shots of crowded streets of cheering fans in countries you don’t know a darn thing about.
People around the world care so, so much about soccer in general and the World Cup specifically, and it’s easy to appreciate the global spectacle of it even if the sport itself fails to nab your attention. Without knowing anything about the teams, their players or their schedules, I’m going to go ahead and say it’d be fun to watch Panama make a run as long as everyone agrees there will be no highlight montages set to the very bad Van Halen song Panama.
3. One time, this head-butt happened
</div> <p>Old news if you’re a soccer fan, but I remember this 2006 World Cup moment like it was yesterday. I happened to be watching at the time, and I recognized immediately that from that point forward there would always be at least one soccer thing that mattered to me.</p> <p>I still can’t get over it. Who has that instinct? In adulthood, I have never perpetrated violence on anyone, but if by any chance someone ever drives me to anger beyond my control, I can absolutely guarantee I would just never, ever think to head-butt the guy. Might I shove someone or punch someone or tackle someone? Sure. Those are all things I could imagine myself doing if forced into some scenario where I mistakenly felt physical aggression my only recourse. But the head butt! This head-butt isn’t just a wacky thing that happened in soccer one time, it’s emblematic of just how little we understand one another. I cannot, for the life of me, comprehend what set of circumstances would develop in me the inclination to open altercations by using my head as a club.</p> <h3 class=”presto-h3″>4. FIFA can make you feel better about your favorite U.S. professional sports league</h3> <p><asset-embed uri=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/DlJEt2KU33I?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent” /> </p> <p>FIFA, the World Cup’s governing body, is purportedly reforming after widespread accounts of corruption rocked the sport and led to a six-year ban for longtime president, outspoken sexist, and possible Bond villain Sepp Blatter. But FIFA’s history of shady behavior – as detailed famously by John Oliver in the video above – would be enough to make Roger Goodell blush.</p> <p>Does it seem lousy that Major League Baseball wields its anti-trust exemption and lobbies Congress to keep minor league players paid less than the national minimum wage? Heck yeah it does. But no domestic U.S. professional sports league commits its sins on anywhere near the scale FIFA did until at least a couple years ago.</p> <h3 class=”presto-h3″>5. Flopping</h3> <div class=”embed-httpsgfycatcom”> <iframe allowfullscreen=”” height=”360″ width=”640″ scrolling=”no” frameborder=”0″ src=”https://gfycat.com/ifr/coldidenticalhamster”/> </div> <p>I recognize that flopping represents an occasionally useful strategy in various sports, but I believe strongly that flopping looks extremely dumb and completely antithetical to the whole point of sports and should be strictly outlawed in all of them.</p> <p>All that said, you really have to admire the commitment some of these soccer guys put into it. These dudes <em>sell</em> it. There’s at least one World Cup soccer player out there somewhere who’d be willing to spend a week in the hospital just to prove to the ref his opponent made brief contact with his shin. Hollywood stuntpeople don’t put as much dedication into making their falls look painful.</p> <h3 class=”presto-h3″>6. Smug stories for your smug friends</h3><asset-img UniqueId=”764130″ /> <p>(AP Photo/Detroit News, David Guralnick)</p> <p>”So I was at this bar, right? And it was just <em>loaded</em> with idiots in soccer scarves screaming their lungs out every time the ball even came close to the goal. What fools, to care about something, right? So I go up to the bartender right in the middle of it, and I’m just like, ‘bro, can you put on the Twins-Tigers game?’ And he was all, ‘bruh, I wish.'”</p> <p>The thing about being a hater is you kind of need events like the World Cup, with near-universal appeal, so you can show off how little you care about them and prove to your circle of sniveling that you are different and better than people in general, and totally above the fray. Maybe you think the sport’s inferior to your favorite, or you hate the flag-waving nationalism associated with international events, or you just kind of feel like big-time soccer fans in the U.S. mostly seem like posers. But whatever the case, you thrive on this quadrennial reminder that you are superior.</p> <h3 class=”presto-h3″>7. Hunks</h3> <p><p><asset-img UniqueId=”1528909389574″ /></p> </p> <p>It’s 2018 and we shouldn’t objectify people, so before you judge World Cup players on their looks, be sure to keep in mind that they’re also incredibly talented and driven athletes, and probably well-rounded people who love their families and give money to charity and such. But then, after that, revel in all the hunks.</p> <p>Lots of sports feature plenty of good-looking dudes, but too many seem content to contain stars’ sex appeal under hats or behind masks. Soccer presents buff, handsome men in an inherently hunky medium, sprinting across electric-green grass under dramatic stadium lighting with sweat glistening in their hair and sinewy muscles peeking out from behind flattering uniforms. The World Cup is one of the planet’s most reliable beefcake caucuses, and all of us who don’t really love the on-field sport of it should still appreciate that pretty much every team has one dude on the field at all times who is at least a 9 1/2.</p> <p><strong>MORE:</strong></p> <p><a data-track-label=”story pages|sports|inline|intext|n/a” href=”http://ftw.usatoday.com/2018/06/us-open-2018-tiger-woods-yacht-privacy-inside-photos-video/?utm_source=USATAPP&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=inline-related”>A look inside Tiger Woods’ sick $20 million yacht he’s living in during the U.S. Open</a></p> <p><a data-track-label=”story pages|sports|inline|intext|n/a” href=”http://ftw.usatoday.com/2018/06/world-series-of-poker-2018-doyle-brunson-retiring-final-table-video/?utm_source=USATAPP&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=inline-related”>Watch retiring poker legend Doyle Brunson get a standing ovation after exiting final WSOP table</a></p> <p><a data-track-label=”story pages|sports|inline|intext|n/a” href=”http://ftw.usatoday.com/2018/06/draymond-green-shade-tristan-thompson-warriors-cavaliers-2018-finals-wouldnt-shake-hand-championship-parade-video/?utm_source=USATAPP&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=inline-related”>Draymond Green admits he threw massive shade at Tristan Thompson after sweep</a></p> <p><a data-track-label=”story pages|sports|inline|intext|n/a” href=”http://ftw.usatoday.com/2018/06/new-york-mets-terry-collins-noah-syndergaard-chase-utley-argument-nsfw-language-cursing-video/?utm_source=USATAPP&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=inline-related”>Video of ex-Mets manager Terry Collins cursing at an umpire has emerged</a></p> <p><a data-track-label=”story pages|sports|inline|intext|n/a” href=”http://ftw.usatoday.com/2018/06/bachelorette-power-rankings-who-should-becca-send-home-after-week-3/?utm_source=USATAPP&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=inline-related”>Bachelorette Power Rankings: Who should Becca send home after Week 3?</a></p></body></html>
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