19 November 2011

52. Soccer

Dear soccer,

I miss you between World Cups. I mean, I know you're still around, like back in 2006 when I saw a bumper sticker with a little icon of the Earth as a soccer ball that said "One World, One Game" and it made me so happy I started drafting this letter. Still, I miss watching you obsessively every day, agonizing on the days when there aren't games, watching stupid soccer news shows on TV, dressing up in team colors, planning meals to celebrate the cuisines of whatever country is playing next, and in short being insane about a sports event as I can only be once every four years or there'd be no living with me.

It was a good World Cup, 2006, despite the fact that it ended with Zinedine Zidane's Head of God and freaking penalty shootouts featuring Fabien "the puncher" Barthez. Hell, it was a good World Cup even though the Dutch team fared miserably. I mean, seriously. We decorated the whole house and yard with orange flags for that? I'd thought the U.S.-Italy game was some of the worst soccer I'd ever seen, but then there was Holland-Portugal. Daaaaaaang. Fortunately, Mexico-Argentina was absolutely gorgeous, as was France-Spain and the first half of France-Brazil, before the latter team went to pieces for reasons I'm sure I'll never understand.

But for me 2006 was worth watching if only for Zizou. "It's Zidane's last World Cup," I would tell people, and they'd either know what I was talking about or shrug and wander away. And yeah, the Head of God was a shocker, but I don't have anything to say about it that hasn't been said before, which is to say in a much more timely manner.

Speaking of not very timely, how about that 2010 World Cup, eh? The Dutch finally found a way to embarrass themselves more than they did in what Wikipedia now seriously refers to as the Battle of Nuremberg — admittedly, the Spanish played the ref like a fracking fiddle, but that's mostly just an excuse for me to be grumpy about the officiating, and the play itself left plenty more to grouse about. "Put Elia in!" I kept yelling, but did they listen? Nooooo. But I'm looking forward to seeing more of that kid — every time he's on the field, interesting things happen. And surely at some point the golden old guys will retire and make room for some of the kids I watched win the under-21 championships in 2007, right? I mean, I miss Eddie van der Sar something fierce, just like anybody, and it's a little shocking that my new favorite keeper is a Yank, but OMG TIM HOWARD IS SO AWESOME. And I haven't given up on Maarten Van Stekelenburg either, it's just he's got big boots to fill. All of which is to say that I'm looking forward to watching the new Dutch team grow, and hope I don't have to choose between them and the Yanks any time soon.

I'm running out of steam here, soccer. I wanted to write about how you're the only sport I enjoy watching more than I enjoyed playing, back when I played organized sports and dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Also I thought I might talk about my friend John who officiates soccer matches sometimes and is the only person I've ever seen cheer for the referee while watching a game... but I guess my brain is too fried for that right now, although maybe I'll get around to adding some actual well-formed thoughts to that effect here someday. For now, I'm just going to end by saying: You're great, soccer. Thanks for being super-fun.


Started 19 July 2006, when I was seriously rocking the soccer withdrawal something fierce, published 19 November 2011, last updated 6 June 2014, when the next World Cup was only days away, woohoo!