Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dedicated to Rachel Maddow and World Cup Neophytes (or Snobs) Everywhere

On Monday’s show, Rachel introduced her World Cup segment: “So traditionally, America is less psyched than the rest of the planet about the World Cup. Low-scoring games, no hands, referees in shorts. You can go ahead and ignore this year's World Cup action if you like, but you've got to know if you are ignoring it, you are missing out.”

Rachel, I understand how watching a bad football game (it is football, for the simple reason that it is played about 80 percent with the feet, as opposed to a certain blood sport for big fat guys in pads and helmets) can influence your perception of it for a long, long time. But referees in shorts?

That I don’t get. Is there a rule that says referees must wear long pants in order to be considered authority figures? One of the best aspects of real football is a firm but unobtrusive well-refereed game in which the maximum authority on the field remains practically invisible. That type of refereeing is certainly more dignified than watching guys in zebra outfits making bogus game-changing calls by throwing little yellow flags.

The “low scoring” thing is silly too, when you consider the way games are “scored” … three points for kicking an oblong ball through two poles, two points for dropping a ball through a hoop, three points for an outside shot, and so on. I’m just saying, Rachel. The first baseball game I ever saw, Rick Reuschel a.k.a “Big Daddy” was pitching (Keith knows about him). I remember looking at that portly, pot-bellied dude and thinking, “that’s an athlete”…? He sure didn’t look like this:

But then I overcame my initial impression of pitcher-as-couch potato and came to appreciate and love baseball. It’s got to be good when so many of its stars are Latino! Still, I had to figure it out by myself. I’ll bet you watched your share of thrilling 1-0 games that were far more memorable than 10-zip blowouts.

In World Cup history, as in all sports, not always the best team wins. One of those teams was Brasil’s 1982 squad. This one’s for you, Rachel. This is why it’s called the beautiful game. If you can’t appreciate the majesty of this game, as the old Brasilian song goes, you must be bad in the head, or sick in the foot: (For best results, watch in full-screen mode.):)


Anonymous said...

For me, watching the game plays in the video was far sexier than the Vanity Fair poses :)

Here's what bothered me about watching soccer on TV (the little I caught so far). The camera is trying to capture the entire field, and I understand the need to follow the ball, but it's too removed. When they do close in and you get to really see the player footwork, the tight in and out as they scramble, the quick turns, the subtle twists, and hear the grunts and feel the speed, it's truly amazing.

I noticed the same in watching soccer played live (even on the kids level). When the players were at the far end of the very large field, everything eased, as if watching something distant and without consequence, and then suddenly, they'd come charging (and it WAS charging) down the field and feet would tangle, and short shots would hit targets, and breaths exhale. A game of high intensity; I wish they could always show it close up.

But that's a bit off subject :)

Carlos said...

Great comment, thanks!

The panoramic view, in these shots, shows the exquisite teamwork, how goals are constructed with precise split-second passing and runs off the ball to open up spaces for the killer pass and sometimes subtle, sometimes powerful finish.

Today's WC game technology is even better, so you get to see the goals and beautiful plays up close, from several different angles on replay.

You're right, the jostling for position, the footwork, acceleration, elevation, and athletic plays on the ball, in close and sometimes slo-mo, are truly amazing.