Apparently, only illegal immigrants watch the World Cup. I'm pretty sure St. Paul Pioneer Porn columnist Tom Powers was, in all likelihood, kidding. Well, I hope he was.
If the government really is serious about identifying illegal immigrants, it soon will be provided a unique opportunity to record their whereabouts.Um...OK. Did someone kick a soccer ball really hard and hit you in the groin when you were a kid? Did Pele once stiff you for a post-match interview?
All the Department of Homeland Security has to do is monitor the city-by-city television ratings of this month's World Cup soccer tournament. Agents should be dispatched to any area in which the ratings reflect an unnaturally high level of interest. That likely signals a concentrated pocket of illegals.
No one who actually is from here cares about the most over-hyped, mind-numbingly boring event in the world. Nevertheless, ABC and ESPN will combine to broadcast all 64 games live and in high definition starting on Friday. High definition means that over the course of a 90-minute contest, both scoring chances can be viewed with crystal clarity.Here we go again.
"Mind-numbing". "Boring". "Both scoring chances".
So clever, Tom. And so, well, 1986.
Is it really the place of a sportswriter who covers the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Wild, franchises that could advertise themselves as cures for insomnia, to talk about the level of excitement in a particular sport? I didn't realize that the only way for something to be exciting was for there to be a lot of scoring. I guess this guy hates no-hitters, perfect games, and shutouts.
Then again, when you're forced to regularly watch guys like Brad Radke, Kyle Lohse, Carlos Silva, and Boof Bonser pitch, and you spend your Sundays watching E.J. Henderson and friends miss tackles and blow coverages, you don't see many shutouts.
There's no word yet on whether any of the games will be presented "commercial free." The networks usually make a big deal out of doing that. It's their way of telling us how important the World Cup is.Call me picky, and I don't expect a blockhead like Powers to know this, but all televised soccer matches are commercial-free. I've never seen an ad during a match on ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, GOL TV, or Fox Soccer Channel. You see, and this is part of why so many media types HATE soccer, it's a sport that hasn't been Americanized yet.
You don't get three timeouts per half. You can't stop the game by throwing the ball down to the other end of the field to get a whistle. You can't call five timeouts in the last two minutes of regulation time. You don't get to change players every five minutes to get a stoppage. And there are no television timeouts.
That means that guys like Powers can't get up during a timeout to relieve themselves without risking missing a goal. They can't go hit the media buffet line and get back to their seat before play resumes. And they can't stand it.
The first paragraph is the closest Powers comes to a rational anti-soccer argument. It's primitive.
Look, Americans are an industrious people. We use our hands. We catch footballs. We throw baseballs. We hit golf balls and tennis balls by gripping a piece of equipment. It is unnatural for us to put our hands behind our backs and try to "pass" a soccer ball to a teammate by bouncing it off our heads. We aren't circus seals, and no one is going to toss us a fish if we do it right.
It also offends our sense of fair play to watch a lone referee try to police an area the size of Rhode Island and then get blamed for the outcome by whichever team loses. And regardless of how passionate we are about our sports teams, we draw the line at pipe bombs.
You mean it's not primitive to drop the gloves you're wearing and punch another grown man in the head, which happens to be protected by a helmet? Look, I love hockey, but this is just one example of really stupid things that we do in other sports.
And since you brought it up, Tom, there is possibly nothing more boring and un-exciting than watching a bunch of middle-aged men smack a little white ball around the woods for four hours on a Sunday. It's really not a good idea to bring up golf when trying to make fun of soccer. Tennis isn't too far behind, either.
As for the second paragraph above, read a message board, Tom. Read a newspaper article, Tom. Hell, read some of the stuff in your own paper last fall, because no one whines about officiating like the Minnesota Vikings, who act like the zebras are out to get them whenever they lose. Not a game goes by these days where fans, coaches, and/or players don't go on a "that #$%^&ed (name of referee/umpire)".
Honestly, is "whining about officiating" really an activity exclusive to soccer? And since soccer isn't hockey, where guys are prone to taking the occasional run at someone who isn't anywhere near the puck, does soccer really need multiple referees running around? Maybe, but it's not as urgent a problem as Powers tries to insinuate.
As the World Cup rolls around again, I refuse to apologize for saying I'd rather have a colonoscopy than watch a minute of it.And no one is going to ask you to.
Judging by the ratings for the NHL playoffs, which will be worse than those for the World Cup in the States, there are a lot of people who feel about hockey the way you feel about soccer. And I'm not asking them to apologize for that, either. The fact that you think soccer sucks doesn't make you a good American, just like the fact that I think golf sucks doesn't make me a good American.
Just try to stay out of the way.
As for the games...The World Cup does start on Friday, despite Powers' protests. They're not going to cancel the event because some hack in St. Paul thinks it's boring.
As I said on Monday, I think this year's field is more wide open than it's been in a while, so these predictions were difficult to draw up. It was a process made more difficult by the fact that I really don't know much about soccer. That said, I'm going to be watching with great interest, so I figured I'd try to draw up some picks.
As an aside, Brazilian star Ronaldinho is already working the officials, and the tournament hasn't even started yet!
By "our style of playing", Ronaldinho obviously means "flopping and diving whenever a defender sneezes on us". And with FIFA still talking tough about diving, it's probably not a good idea to say anything that draws attention to such behavior.
"All the teams are waiting for us and will be doubly alert in paying attention to our attack. It's vital the refereeing is rigorous because of our style of playing. Every team we play regardless of their normal style of play defend against us."
Anyway, here are my picks for Groups A-D:
--> Costa Rica-Poland will be a fun match. If anyone has a chance to knock Germany off their perch, it's the high-flying Ticos, but they'll have to settle for second.
Trinidad and Tobago
--> Sweden edges Paraguay, probably via goal differential in the end, for the second spot in the round of 16 for this group. T & T will not be overly competitive. England makes noise, but not as much as they would if Wayne Rooney didn't have that dag-nabbin' thing on his foot.
Serbia & Montenegro
--> There is actually a law in Côte d'Ivoire that mandates their country be called "Côte d'Ivoire" instead of "Ivory Coast", which is the English pronounciation. Since I am a law-abiding blogger, I will follow. I like the Ivorians to beat out S&M for fourth, while Argentina edges Netherlands at the top of the table.
--> Newsworthy item in this group: Iranian president Ahmadinejad might go to the matches. Should tell you how exciting this group will be. I think Canada could finish third here. It's a group that makes the 2005 National League West look formidable. It's so bad that I had to pick Mexico, which is as painful as picking the Cubs to win the National League. Portugal is too inconsistent to trust, and Iran and Angola aren't competitive here if you combine the sides.