I’m not sure when it happened, but I somehow became a fan of futbol. Me…a child of the 60s…a soccer fan. I can hardly believe it myself. Wait! I know some of you are thinking I am only a fan because of the World Cup and I got caught up in the hype and it is merely patriotism. Nope! I am a true fan of the game. On most Saturday and some Sunday mornings during the regular season you will find me in front of the television watching English Premier League Soccer. I even found myself watching beach soccer the other day – that’s dedication. The American version (Major League Soccer) is like the minor leagues compared to the English Premier League. That could be why the game has never really had a foothold (pun intended) in the United States. Unless we have the best we don’t want it.
I even know most of the rules 1) unless you’re the goalie, don’t touch the ball with your hand, 2) offside – don’t go beyond the last defensive player before the ball is kicked to you, 3) if you are on defense – don’t foul in the box around the goal keeper unless you’re mad at your goalie and want to make him/her defend a penalty kick, and 3) when you bump into your opponent be sure to fall down and make it look like you’re in extreme pain – the person who does the better acting job not only gets a free kick, but can determine if your opponent gets to stay on the field. If you can muster an Oscar worthy acting job, the guy you bumped into might get a red card and be banned from the rest of the current game and all of the next.
I’m sure my fascination for the game began when my daughters were young. We endured the soccer games when they were four and five years old. Watching them at that is age is about as interesting as watching sheep being herded. They are all in one clump and they all move together. Imagine a cat chasing the little red dot from a laser pointer – that’s basically the equivalent of what you will see at one of these games, except the cat is about 10 kids and the little red dot is the ball.
As they got older the games did get better and I began to learn the intricacies of the game (actually, I just learned the rules). The one thing I’ve never seen my oldest daughter do in a soccer game is score a goal. Hold on. I lied. I did see her score a goal once. It wasn’t for her team, but she did score.
That day will forever be burned in my memory. It was the day I chose wrong. I had the choice of watching my oldest play or taking my youngest to another town and watching her play. My wife had the honor of witnessing the first and so far only goal scored by either of our children for their own team.
While football and baseball are my top two favorite sports and probably will always take precedent over soccer, it has moved up on my list of things to watch 1) football (college and pro), 2) baseball (pro), 3) figure skating (just kidding, I wanted to see if you were paying attention) 3) NASCAR, 4) soccer, 5) golf, 6) college basketball, 7) boxing (not MMA – I’m a traditionalist), 8) cheerleading (we can argue over whether it is a sport or a competition, but since there is a chance for injury I’m including it), 9) bowling, and 10) NBA basketball (which may drop lower if I ever start watching cricket, rugby, lacrosse, curling or competitive eating on a regular basis).