BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The following is a sports commentary blog from FOX6 Sports Director Rick Karle:
I had finally taken a break from cleaning the garage (on Father's Day no less- yep, I'm living the dream), when I sat down next to a ham sandwich and the U.S Open telecast. Suddenly my wife appeared and said, "Do you mind if we switch the channel to soccer?". Was she kidding me? The World Cup? I was looking to see if Rickie Fowler could give Martin Kaymer a run at Pinehurst, and she wanted to see a bunch of twenty-something Europeans run around in shorts? Oh, I get it now. 'Nuff said.
If my wife can be interested in soccer, you can too. All it takes is some patience, an open mind, and a perusal of this post. You see, over a billion people worldwide will watch the World Cup, in fact over 16 million watched the United States beat Ghana the other day. Heck, back in 1999 when Brandi Chastain revealed the sports bra, over 40 million people in our country alone watched the game on TV. So what's the lure, and why can't some American football fans seem to buy into the sport?
Full disclosure: My son has been playing competitive soccer (Birmingham United) for 12 years. For what it's worth, I played through high school. My wife? She dated a hockey player in college, she doesn't know what a "pitch" is, and she still can't understand an offsides call. But she's bought in, and she's fallen hard.
For years my wife was very much like some of my buddies- a person who could not fathom watching men run around kicking a ball, the outcome often being a 1-0 final score (that's 1-nil to you buddy). Heck, until 1991 the sport of soccer was illegal in Mississippi, or so I have read. I mean, what's so attractive about a sport that flaunts crazy fans, flopping players and athletes with one name like Neymar, Hulk, KaKa and YaYa (hey- Bama had a defensive back named Ha Ha, so lighten up).
Here's what's attractive about it: It's a sport that Queen Elizabeth II played at Buckingham Palace back in the 1930's (and she never received a red card)... Sean Connery once received a soccer contract, only to opt for an acting career (yep, agent 007 himself was a soccer star)... Two of the top highest paid athletes in the world are soccer players (Ronaldo & Messi)... A world-class soccer player runs as much as 7 miles per game with defenders nipping at his ankles the entire time.... The University of North Carolina owns a total of 16 national championships in soccer (looks like they need to erect some statues of coaches)... Canada's national sport? It's not hockey, but soccer... So talented was star player Ronaldinho at a young age that he scored every goal in a 23-0 win- at age thirteen... So passionate was Nigeria's Celestine Babayaro after scoring a goal in 1997 that he broke his leg in the celebration that followed (whoops)...The reason a soccer field is called a "pitch" is because the playing surface rises five degrees from one goal to the other... The first World Cup trophy was made of paper mache (all right, they messed that one up)...Even a soccer ball is cool, as the 32 panels on each ball represent each of the countries in Europe.
If you are one of those sports fans who view soccer as a sport made up of athletes who are not tough enough to play football, I have to disagree. The world's best soccer players may just be better athletes than NFL players- certainly that are better conditioned. I'll tell you what: I'll trade you Christian Ronaldo for Cam Newton- on the athletic scale it would be a close call.
And did you know that the sport of soccer can take some credit in the creation of American football? Back in the 19th century, English public school students played football (soccer to you and me, as only the United States and Canada call the sport soccer). From European futball, the sport of rugby evolved. To America rugby went, after which American football was born.
Do I like watching American football over soccer? That's a no-brainer, but it doesn't mean I don't enjoy watching a great soccer match. Of course, I'll watch lacrosse, volleyball, even curling as long as those sports have their best athletes taking part. Over 18 million people play soccer in this country, so instead of mocking the sport, it's time for you to embrace it. If you have not given the World Cup a shot, maybe it's high time you looked in. So grab your vuvuzela and get ready to celebrate that "Goooaaal" call from Andres Cantor. If my wife can do it, I know that you can too!