“Soccer fan” or “full of shit”?

Okay, so the World Cup is in full-effect and that means…uhh…I’m not sure.  To be honest, I don’t care much about soccer.  I appreciate the sport on a technical level and can even sit down with a game and become invested in it.  I played soccer for like 6 years when I was young.  I used to slide tackle girls.  For the fans of general comeuppance, I’m karmatically repaying that debt in spades.  But that’s another matter entirely.  I can’t possibly be the only one who thinks this mouth-frothing for soccer in the United States during the World Cup every four years is more than a little transparent and disingenuous.

Actual soccer fans, all 4 of you who might be reading this, put down your spiked baseball bats and relax.  I understand that mixed up in this soccer madness, some actual fans of the sport are probably lumped in under the umbrella.  I refer not to you.  In fact, you people are probably about as annoyed with the fleeting, “here today, gone tomorrow” interest in the sport as I am.   I also don’t intend to direct my vitriol at even new fans to the sport.  Maybe you became genuinely interested since the last World Cup and have followed and cultivated an appreciation since that time.  I understand that life experience tends to branch off for each of us, exposing us to different things at different times—so our social realities are vastly different.  To fault you for liking soccer “late” is about as petty and misdirected as chastising someone who just “got” that Exile on Main Street(buy the reissue!  http://www.amazon.com/Exile-Main-St-Rolling-Stones/dp/B000000W5L) is better than whatever album they considered their favorite previously.

No, I’m talking about the people who are clearly overdoing it for all of the predictably piggish, meat-head, “I need a reason to start drinking and yell at someone” reasons.  These people have nil knowledge on the sport or how it works or any of its intricacies.  This part is understandable because soccer isn’t ingrained into the zeitgeist of the United States as football, baseball, or even basketball and hockey are.  We’re not inundated night after night with soccer highlights and analysis, except for a few weeks every four years.  Soccer athletes(with the exception of Beckham, after he crossed over) aren’t lionized here as celebrities, heroes, and gods.  So it’s expected for knowledge on the sport to be marginal in comparison.  But that doesn’t seem to stop these people from choosing a side, buying jerseys, and screaming about it loudly.  I understand that the World Cup is THE tournament for soccer, much like the Super Bowl is THE game for American football—and as such, zeal increases accordingly.  But the contrast between complete lack of interest one week and batshit insane, mouth frothing “I can’t go to work! Italy is on!” craziness is just too stark.  Rabid fervor needs to be built up over time to maintain a sense of believability.  Pretending to care about this sport for a couple weeks every few years does not work here.  The enthusiasm comes across as forced for this very reason.

Adding to this simpleminded, jock approach to the sport is the whole team selection.  Here’s a mindbender, my friends.  Brace yourselves, because Agatha Christie herself couldn’t have concocted a better twist regarding how Americans who have little interest in foreigners, foreign affairs, or anything that doesn’t have a bearing on their immediate likelihood to fuck and eat things, choose a soccer team to follow.  Are you ready?  They pick whatever nationality they are!  Crazy!

I’ll break it down in steps:

1.  Find out the country that your ancestors–whom you probably never met and who probably didn’t give a shit about soccer in the first place—were born in, through no action or choice of their own.

2.  Root for that country(whether you know anything about its history, culture, geography, or politics is not relevant).

See?  It’s simple!  There are some slightly trickier alternatives at work here.  If you’re a mutt, you usually just pick whoever has the best soccer team or whatever country is more socially appealing to align yourself with(example:  If you’re Polish AND Italian…it’s a no brainer.  You align with Italy because they were the last folks to win a cup AND everyone makes jokes that disparage Polish people, so fuck them!)  Or you can simply root for The United States—the place you were born in through no action or choice of your own!  Basically, this whole thing boils down to where other people got drunk and had sex who created other people who got drunk and had sex, and on down the line til whoever eventually made you got drunk and had sex, and where they happened to do such deeds and settle down before you were shat out.  If there’s anything more complex at work here, like liking a particular team’s strategy or specific players involved, it’s not apparent to us on the outside looking in.

Now, you’re probably saying, “Erik, you’re such a hypocrite!  You’re an ardent New York Giants and New York Yankees fan and you were born in the greater New York area!”.  And that’s absolutely correct.  But this comes back to the zeitgeist thing from earlier.  These sports are ingrained into the culture of this country and in turn, into my childhood—starting at a very young age.  Is it absurd and arbitrary to support something because of your geographic alliance to it?  Absolutely.  But I also have 26 or so years of that absurdity, translated into experience in the form of tons of hours spent watching and talking about these sports.  It’s absurdity made credible over time.  Buying a jersey at Sports Authority, puffing up your chest, and talking about how “[country] is gonna kick [other country]’s ass, bro!  Hey, that’s my beer!…” for a couple weeks every four years is not fooling anyone at being even remotely comparable.

If if you want to come across as a genuine fan and not someone simply clinging to a new reason to drink more alcohol when the 2014 World Cup comes around, I leave you the following advice:

  1. Watch some soccer games before 2014 comes around.
  2. Learn a few players aside from the marquee players that EVERYONE fucking knows.  Buy the FIFA game for XBOX and do some homework, you lazy twats.
  3. Have a team that you don’t share nationality with that you follow as avidly as the one you do.   You don’t even have to “mean it” or anything.  You’ll just look like an actual enthusiast who bases team interest on more than “Durrr my great-great-great grandmudda was born dair!”
  4. Drink Scotch if you’re watching the games at a bar.  You’ll look more sophisticated and stand out from the other 100 people similarly pretending to be way more into the sport than they actually are—who happen to be drinking beer.
  5. Bitch about “bandwagon fans” who just get interested in soccer for a few weeks every 4 years.  Be convincing.
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