I don't see a lot of long faces moping around, miserable about the U.S. being eliminated from the World Cup thing. Most of the people I see around who have an interest in the sport are rooting for whatever hellhole they fled to come here, anyway. Thanks, guys. Your gratitude touches my heart.*
Meanwhile, one of Frank J.'s random thoughts yesterday sparked my imagination: "So, we didn’t win at soccer," he noted, "but we should console ourselves with the fact that it’s a really really stupid sport." To which I commented, "Do we really want to excel in a sport that rewards people for whining? No freakin’ way, cowboy!" I mean, really, a sport where people cry and overact like a Juilliard student on his first audition to get someone else penalized? What is this, an athletic endeavor or a meeting of the Kid Sisters' Association? You make real footballs depressed when you act this way.
Soccer used to be considered completely stupid in this country, barely worthy of contempt. In my high school I once saw a soccer game---an actual game, in season, in which a friend of mine from another school was playing---get moved off the field so that our football team could practice. And this was in New York City, not some Friday Night Lights town in Texas.
I think soccer's got some more respect here now, but it's got a long way to go. I was thinking that what might help is if we come up with a kind of intermediate game. Something that features the things that make soccer different that don't suck, and reworking or eliminating the things that suck like a sinkhole. Here are my thoughts:
Things We Can Live With
The whole you-can-only-kick thing. It's kind of like yellow to Green Lantern; it's a weakness that humanizes the superpower. So I think that's all right. You can't punch a tennis ball; you can't kick a bowling ball**; you can't throw a soccer ball. Okay.
Running around: Fine, but the field is so huge that it's all running and no scoring. Cut the area of the field down by a third.
Heading the ball: Whatever; it's your cranium. Just don't get handsy with that ball!
Things We Must Drop
The whining: A lot of the same penalties will by necessity be part of the game, but this yellow-card red-card crap based on the supposed severity of the offense is right out. This "screw the victim" attitude may be mean in criminal or civil court but it makes sports more efficient. A player caught trying to fake an injury will be subject to the "Geezinslaws Rule," wherein there is a large fine imposed for whining.
Wimpiness: Tackling will be added. Tackle all you want. Tackle anyone you want. Tackle all the time. You'll have to tackle, in fact, because...
Goalies: We're all proud of Tim Howard's work for Team USA, but goalies are un-American. (Hockey's a Canadian sport and you know it; don't give me a hard time.) You can't goaltend in basketball; in baseball the catcher's not even supposed to block the plate anymore***; in American football the whole defense is sort of a goalie but not really. Just shrink the goal. I figure a hole about twice the diameter of the soccer ball will do. You get it in there while the other guys are trying to clobber you, you earned that goal. The best defense is a good offense. The second-best defense is clobbering the guy with the ball.
Clock: I like the fact that the clock doesn't stop all the damn time as in American sports, but clocks in sports count down. Much more dramatic. And that's how you know when it's almost time to abandon your crap team and beat the traffic. Turn that sad clock face upside down, Pierre!
That should do for starters. Other ideas I have are Plexiglas walls to prevent balls from ever going out of bounds, two-point long-distance shots, and working in clubs or sticks somehow. Any of these might help. Start now and we can get this right for 2018.
And if not, at least we'll have a more American game. We could call it Americaball!
Happy Independence Day, everybody!
* Not necessarily looking at you, Belgian-American community; you could just be in the way.
** Well, you could kick a bowling ball, but you'd be sorry.
*** It's this kind of creeping Euroweenieness that will ruin American sports if we don't fix this soccer thing.