World Cup: Nationalism For A Good Cause

I’ll admit up front that I’m no expert when it comes to the game of soccer. But in a frenzy of raw chauvinism, I hop on the World Cup bandwagon every four years and root for the ultimate home team. At least in America, it’s still a refreshingly safe, hooligan-free outlet for jingoism. Kick some grass for a good cause; then soccer succor until the next quadrennial gathering.

The World Cup is the most-watched event in the world. It is geographically disparate and culturally unique. Where else would you ever see such exotic pairings as Ukraine vs. Saudi Arabia, Ivory Coast vs. Serbia-Montenegro or Togo vs. anybody? There are also quaint post-colonial match-ups such as Portugal and Angola.

Having said all that, however, I was really steamed watching that USA-Italy game. Granted, the combination of bad refereeing and poor grounding in the rules (on my part) is an unholy alliance, but our guys, quite arguably, got hosed. Had to play half the game with only nine players, and no team in the history of the World Cup has ever even scored a single goal with only nine players. But it wasn’t just me that was choleric over the calls. The American commentators agreed with the American coach that it was awful officiating too.

And then some careless mistakes, an energy deficit and a controversial penalty kick in the disappointing loss to Ghana. Too little, too late, too slow, too bad.

Party on, Accra. Enjoy your national holiday.

The foul mood only led, to use a football term, to piling on.

I mean, do all those variations on a melodramatic dive really require stretcher bearers? If nothing else, it should be a liability issue to promptly send a player back into a game that he has just been removed from via stretcher.

And how about an accurate, contemporaneous clock? Why does this sport, unique among all, settle for an approximation of how much time is left? What’s with the arbitrary adding on of a couple of (“stoppage”) minutes at the end? Why can’t the clock just, well, stop when somebody fakes an injury; the soccer ball caroms up and over the Fly Emirates or Adidas flasher boards; a substitution is made; or the referee runs out of red cards?

Why do I put myself through it?

Probably because it’s just a game in a world at increasing geo-political odds and civilizational peril. Likely because it’s an opportunity to wax nationalistic over something that doesn’t involve foreign policy, pre-emptive strategies or enemies – just opponents.

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