On the World Cup 2018: early thoughts

I don’t think I’ve ever watched as much football in one month as I’m watching now. I mean, I’ve lived through World Cups before – somany of them – but this one seems to have captured my imagination. Or maybe it’s something else.

This is the first tournament where The Teen has expressed an interest. So we watch the games together, which is interesting. You know that drunk guy watching sports in a bar – and everything is drama and worth a shout or an expletive? That’s my son watching football in the comfort of my house, on my couch, and with my pugs for emotional support. Weird.  And my wife has been definitely encouraging. She likes the names of the players, the hairstyles, the weird ways that the refs have of interacting with the teams (“What language are they using now?” she wonders, not unreasonably, as the Uruguay official lectures the Iranian striker) … and of course, she enjoys the goals, when we’re lucky enough see one.

But, I worry that my new-found passion is, most of all, due to the fact that, for the first time ever, I’m paying a reasonable chunk of income on a TV package that allows me to watch every game if I want to. I have become a World Cup obsessive just to ensure I get my money’s worth. Genetics will assert themselves eventually.

And so far, it’s going well. Spain v. Portugal was a great game, Mexico beating Germany was exciting, everything Senegal did in their first game was oddly thrilling…and England were kind enough to start with a win. Eventually. After that, things had an interesting habit of refusing to go exactly to plan. Messi missed a penalty, and then Ronaldo did too. Iran and Morocco came very close to creating historic upsets. And England scored a record amount of goals. What a time to be alive.

But, as with all experts, I have a certain amount of expectation of how things should be. This comes from both a lifetime of seeing football presented in one way, along with a heavy dose of personal prejudice about the correctness of only certain kinds of language. And who is getting on the wrong side of my ire? The commentators.

You know that thing from Mean Girls (yes, that’s a reference I’m happy to make in a blog about sports), where they keep saying that hilarious thing I can’t quite remember about not making “fetch” happen?  American commentators are doing that. No one describes football like the commentators on Fox. Where did they learn these bizarre phrases? And I don’t mean calling it “soccer” when literally no one else in the world does, although that is the red flag that nothing makes sense with these people.

  • A shot on target becomes “A shot on frame”.
  • “In the number 6 hole” was used, at least once, to mean defensive midfield.
  • England midfielder Delle Alli’s last name rhymes with “valley” not “Bali”. Do US networks not have “pronunciation units” like the dear old BBC? Although, I presume, in this austere age, the BBC itself is using the pronunciation it finds on Google now.
  • “Centre-mid” is not a thing. “Mid” – as a word on its own – is not a thing. Stop trying to make “mid” happen.

But, you know, it’s sometimes nice to be the expert on something. And, among my people, I am in no way a football know-it-all. But, here in America, the one-eyed sports watcher is king. And, deep down – or not so deep down – it feels good to be a holder of such esoteric knowledge as where Leo Messi plays his club football, how the group games system works, or the proper pronunciation of Delle Alli’s surname. If there are questions, I’m now the man to ask. And, of course, there are no questions. Almost no one cares…Except, of course, those of us who don’t count Team USA as the only game in town.

I drove past a bar early one morning, when Argentina were playing Iceland, and patrons in white-and-blue-striped shirts were piled high on any available flat surface. But American Americans? Not so much. Maybe – definitely – if the USMNT, as they so delightfully refer to their men’s team, was grinding away in the group stages, then more people would care. But, for now, Americans care about American teams; they don’t care about the sport itself. And that, I believe, will change. But maybe not in my lifetime. And for the rest of the world, that might be a good thing. Because once this country starts taking football seriously – when guys who would currently choose to be star running-backs or sprinters in college, say, choose instead to kick a ball around – then the USA will be hard to beat. And impossible to be around.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.