WOSTER: Was I supposed to be paying attention to the World Cup?
So, I've been a little busy at work for a while, and it was only the other evening that I read through the sports pages of several recent papers and noticed that there's a World Cup soccer thing happening overseas somewhere.
I don't always read much of the sports, but I like to read sports columns, and this guy Mike Wise from the Washington Post had a piece in The Daily Republic earlier this week. The headline caught my eye (and, yes, that's what a headline is supposed to so, so it worked nicely, and good job to the headline writer). "2014 World Cup exposes soccer haters,'' it said.
Soccer haters, I thought. What in the dickens is going on? If Mike Wise is telling it straight, some people hate soccer. He quoted Ann Coulter as saying a growing interest in the sport is a sign of our nation's moral decay. That sounds a little far-fetched, but I read Ann Coulter now and then, and she tends to push her arguments to what are sometimes -- and this is just me talking, a tired old guy relaxing in the recliner after supper with a newspaper and an iPad -- extreme areas. Mike Wise thinks she's pretty down on soccer, and from one column (and it's dangerous to judge by a single piece of writing) he seems to like the sport quite a lot.
How have I missed this stuff? I watch the evening news most days. I read the online papers and the morning print editions. I guess I was only skimming, because I've been oblivious to the incredible division in this country over soccer. I've also been a little behind the action in the World Cup. I didn't know we were playing Belgium until a day after we'd come in second on a 2-1 score. To my credit, or more likely to the credit of Nettie Raish back in fifth grade at Chamberlain, I knew where Belgium was located on the world map. I didn't know the people of Belgium played soccer, but why would I? I doubt any people in Belgium know I played basketball or ran track back in the day.
What I'm saying is that I realized I was behind the times in national controversy. I decided I need to have a "position'' on soccer if I'm going to hold my own as a patriotic American. I spent some time and came up with a position. I think it's the same game the phys-ed teacher tried to teach us in fourth grade at Chamberlain, only these people play it a lot faster, harder, longer and way, way better.
What I knew about soccer in fourth grade was, well, nothing. The instructor took us down to the outfield grass at Gregg Field there below the schoolyard, showed us a white ball and started teaching us not to use our hands, to kick and, um, head-butt and things like that. I was a slow learner. Most of us were in that class. Tuffy Doran, of course, picked it up in about 5 seconds flat and was using his feet and his knees and his head to knock the ball all over the place. He was that way with any sport back in those days, so his prowess was no surprise.
The rest of us? Not really. We weren't keen on a game in which scores were 2-1 or 1-0. We didn't appreciate the finer points. We wanted goals or touchdowns or home runs or whatever.
Soccer never did catch on back then. Different time, I suppose. Not so many years later a comedian drew laughs when he referred to Oscar Robertson, the Cincinnati Bearcat superstar, in this gag: "I used to think the 'Big O' was a basketball player until I watched a soccer match.''
Hey, don't blame me. I didn't say it. I kind of agreed -- back then. But I've never liked pitchers' duels in baseball, either. I want to see baseballs fly around the park.
Time was I didn't like college hockey. No scoring. Then I watched the University of North Dakota at Engelstad Arena. Huge fan these days.
Maybe if I went to the World Cup?