Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Bob Lobel: My Growing Appreciation for "The Beautiful Game"

By Bob Lobel (@boblobel)

I must be going crazy. 

Here I am driving home from a haircut listening to soccer play-by-play on the radio. There is a first time for everything, I guess. This was the first time for that thing, and until another World Cup comes around, it will be the last.  

Chatter about new found popularity of the most popular sport in the world, minus the United States, will ring out across our great land. But, the only thing you need to remember about the relationship between the beautiful game and the “oh beautiful, for spacious skies” country, is that we just couldn’t fall in love with a sport that belongs to the rest of the world. 

There are plenty of other reasons, but they’re not important. What you need to know is that it has found amazing popularity all of a sudden. 

Why is that? Well, it is a great, if scoreboard barren, game. In fact you don’t need a scoreboard. Just remember the score. It’s really not that hard. 

My humble opinion is that more people watched the “event” because people love events, especially an event with high drama, even if it is maddening. Yes, the sport is rife with syndicate fixes, unbelievable time wasting, flopping with moves that professional wrestlers would be wise to study and, of course, documented biting. 

That just makes it more interesting. Look, more people watched it than ever before because more people could. Social media speaks with one mind.  More people watched because social media drove them to it.  More people watched because they could. The promotion and production were spectacular. All key matches were on… You couldn’t avoid it, even if you wanted to! 

If you weren’t up on the latest news you were totally left out of all water cooler conversations. But who are the fans in the stands? They didn’t just show up by accident.  They looked like grizzled veterans of soccer wars. Read the passage on the statue of liberty and I think the analogy can be made as to where these great fans came from. 

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to break free.”  Ok, it should be added “give me that and you are a soccer fan.”

It’s all good.

The US were greatly outmanned, but courageous. Can’t ask for anything more. Let’s play baseball and stuff like that and we can call it even. 

I have to admit I did like watching a lot. I thought the production and announcing were refreshing. I thought the commercials were terrific. For some strange reason I come away from every big soccer event with one constant thought that seems to be the gift that keeps on giving:

What we do have here, for all its quirks and athleticism, is the realization that people who come from different places, speak different languages and believe in different deities can meet in “battle” without weapons, guns, drones or whatever, and have mutual respect after it's over. 

In my mind, that makes it “the beautiful game.” 

See you in four years!

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