Saturday, June 21, 2014

World Cup

Probably the easiest way to explain the emotional nature of sports to someone not familiar with it, is to place the uninitiated in front of a television set during a world cup game broadcast.  The shots of the wild fans, players, and coaches will tell the story.  Hockey players after they score a goal are exuberant. They cluster around the goal scorer doing the hockey version of an embrace.  However, compared to soccer, hockey celebrations are perfunctory and lifeless.

When the United States scored its second goal against Ghana, the US coach nearly went into orbit. Scenes of US fans gathered in Chicago and New York indicate how "into" the World Cup people are here. Yet again, relative to some other countries, the US fans are subdued and disinterested.

People not reared in soccer--and I am one of them--have trouble understanding the fuss.  I kind of get it now after watching the last few world cup tournaments. Still the 0-0 games are soporific with even the occasional chances seeming too sporadic to allow for any continuous excitement. But, what the hell do I know.  Around the world, people are hanging on every kick (er touch).  The announcers and pundits are sure excited.

I was thinking today of how those who did not grow up with baseball, might react to a baseball enthusiast criticizing soccer for being slow.  A baseball game takes three hours on average.  Most innings end without scoring and often without any base runners. The pitchers take a long time between pitches. Batters are often stepping outside the box to adjust their gloves and other paraphernalia. Pitching coaches stop the action to trudge to the mound and chat with the athletes.

In soccer the ball is moving all the time. In baseball the ball is put in play every thirty seconds or so, and an at-bat can take five minutes. Before I began this blog I watched a half inning in the Tigers-Indians game. I imagined what it would be like watching it as a soccer fan.  The inning lasted over ten minutes and would have seemed interminable to anyone not familiar with baseball's nuances.

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