Saturday, June 10, 2006

American Sports Are So..... American

[Updates below]

I have a friend -- yeah, I know how implausible that sounds -- but I have a friend. He is a grad student from India, and he is months, if not a matter of weeks, from being a graduated grad student. Or perhaps the correct term should be graduated never-again-student? Whatever. Let's move on.

Being from India, he loves cricket and soccer, and loves nothing more than the various international cricket championships and soccer's World Cup. Seeing as how American media pretty much ignore both these sports, he's had to scramble for news and event coverage via alternative [meaning: pay-per-view] media.

We recently shared an interesting back-and-forth, and I have to hand it to him -- he's right. I conceed victory to him. The World Series is nowhere close to a true "World" Series. The Olympics are one continuous advertising event covering only American athletes. And the World Cup, which is a true worldwide sporting event, has not received it's due by the American media because Americans can't and don't win at it. Plus, ratings would be abysmal and thus selling television ads would be too great a challenge for network geniuses -- but only if they could figure out how to squeeze them into a game without timeouts.

Here's our email conversation, in the order that they were sent:

Friend: The world's biggest sporting event is in progress, and the news channels are showing Broncos' preseason camp news. Oh, and the elimination al Zarqawi. I can't even see highlights on TV?

What the ****?

I hereby put a curse on the US football team. I hope they get thrashed in the group stage....

Howard:
Don't know what you're complaining about. The media also has to cover NBA Playoffs and Major League Baseball and the College World Series. There just isn't enough time in the day to cover every little World's Biggest Sporting Event that comes along -- especially if it's one of those foreign games played only in America by small children and confused teenagers who can't hack a sport requiring actual skill... like basketball or baseball or football [American-style].

If you must have something, here's New Republic's World Cup blog:
http://www.tnr.com/blog/world-cup

You're welcome.

And thanks for the curse. It's not like we care.

Friend:
Major League Baseball? There are 162 games in the regular season every year. Plus, it isn't even the half-way point of the season yet.

NBA playoffs I can understand. But College World Series? Give me a break.

Who wants to read a blog about the game? We want to see footage....
"especially if it's one of those foreign games played only in America by small children and confused teenagers who can't hack a sport requiring actual skill... like basketball or baseball or football [American-style]."
Don't know what you meant there.....

Howard: That's good. If you knew what I meant, you wouldn't talk to me again for a while.

Ignorance is bliss. ;-)

Friend: American sports require skills? Yeah, right. Basketball maybe, but for other sports the sequence is kinda like this:

Here, let's run one play. STOP THE GAME. The coach/manager needs to give 50 instructions to bone-headed players. Run one play. STOP THE GAME. The coach/manager needs to give 50 instructions to bone-headed players. STOP THE GAME. Half the players go out. Other players come in. That's because each player can do only one thing. The coach/manager needs to give 50 instructions to bone-headed players. STOP THE GAME. Half the players go out. Other players come in. That's because each player can do only one thing. The coach/manager needs to give 50 instructions to bone-headed players. STOP THE GAME. Half the players go out. Other players come in. That's because each player can do only one thing. The coach/manager needs to give 50 instructions to bone-headed players......

And so on......

Soccer doesn't require skills? Yup, ignorance IS bliss.......

Howard: LOL! Gotta hand it to you. THAT's a funny riff on American sports... :-)
Update: Anonymous in comments upps the ante, conceding that continuous stops in the action of American sports are unfortunate, but then making the point that it is use and skill with hands [opposable thumbs and all that] that separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. And without use of said hands, no activity can be considered sporting. Thus, soccer is not a sport, he/she/it concludes. Provocative and debatable. I would like to finish with a quote from Henry Kissinger's article in this week's Newsweek about the World Cup: "Soccer at its highest level is complexity masquerading as simplicity." He's absolutely right.

Update Updated:
I don't know what my friend is bitching about. It looks to me like every World Cup soccer game is being televised by ESPN2, with half-hour or longer updates between every match. Keeping India's culture and religious beliefs in mind, I can't resist asking, "Where's the beef?"

11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

people give a lot of reasons why Americans don't like soccer: not enough scoring, we're no good at it, not glamorous enough. Here's the real reason why soccer sucks: as human beings, the one thing that separates us in terms of physical prowess with respect to the rest of the animal kingdom is our ability to use our hands and opposable thumbs. thus every sport is a challenge of the hands to accomplish what the eye and mind command it to. i hold every sport accountable to this standard. thus, soccer is not a sport. neither is running. even a hippopotamus can do the running thing better than humans.... and there are plenty of other creatures with more manual dexterity with their feet than humans.

of course i also invoke the most communist rule of all time: offsides. that is the second biggest reason why soccer sucks. you're gonna tell me i can't play in a huge part of the field unless my opponent is already there???? that's horrible. simply horrible. I think if you take away offsides, the game gets a new dynamic that MAY appeal to reasonable Americans.

And although your friend has a point about stop go stop go american sports, that's what leads to the strategy, whereas soccer has no strategy....

i agree baseball is too slow, and so is tennis. who needs to hit a brand new ball every time? or take a timeout to wipe their brow after every other point? and why can they only compete in complete silence?

however, american football is perhaps the greatest sport played on the planet. no other sport involves as much strategizing. every play is a concerto, with every player's action vital to the success of the play. and no other sport uses the full physical potential of the human body, except for maybe rugby, which is just another form of football.

case closed.

9:38 PM, June 10, 2006  
Blogger HRlaughed said...

Case closed?

Somehow I doubt that...

And as for soccer having no strategy, if that was true, then what are all those youth soccer coaches getting all worked up for every Saturday morning?

Finally, I have to admit to harboring secret admiration for the those fools foolish enough to risk a broken neck on the bicycle kick -- my favorite move in the world of team sports.

11:13 PM, June 10, 2006  
Blogger Saurabh Barve said...

Must....resist.....urge.....to.....reply.....

11:20 PM, June 10, 2006  
Blogger HRlaughed said...

Aw, what the heck, Mr. Barve... Life's too short to withhold outraged rants. Blood pressure and all that, you know?

11:32 PM, June 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh i forgot to mention the soccer flop. the greatest moment of shame in any sport where grown men pretend to be hurt and roll around on the ground grabbing a body part that never got touched. it's dishonest, dishonorable, and just plain pathetic. this type of cheating has no equal in the area of professional sports. except for john stockton flopping all the time to draw charges. i watched portugal v. angola today en espanol, but i was yelling at the TV by minute 5 because player after wimpy player was crying on the ground trying to bait a call. try to defend that!

9:47 PM, June 11, 2006  
Blogger HRlaughed said...

Now you're just piling on, anonymous...

12:02 AM, June 12, 2006  
Blogger Cara Lietuva said...

I love the riff on American sports. So true! Football is for guys who like to hit other guys. That's all there is to it. Just ask any teenaged boy why he plays football. Basically, it gives them a socially acceptable way to hit the crap out of other guys. Soccer, on other hand (foot?) is a dance of strength and agility and timing. And what is this about opposable thumbs? You don't need an opposable thumb to be a linebacker. You don't even need a thumb!
Go India! Go Lithuania! Go, Beckham!

11:39 AM, June 12, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Henry Kissinger commenting on sports is like Paris Hilton commenting on particle physics. come on Howard, get a non-supernerd to tell us how 'wonderful' soccer is.

If American football is for guys who like to hit other guys, then soccer is for guys who like to cleat other guys in the family jewels. very non-sporting....

1:38 PM, June 12, 2006  
Blogger Saurabh Barve said...

"It looks to me like every World Cup soccer game is being televised by ESPN2, with half-hour or longer updates between every match. Keeping India's culture and religious beliefs in mind, I can't resist asking, "Where's the beef?"

My beef (ouch!) is that I don't get ESPN(x) on my little prehistoric box. I do get ABC though, but they are showing very few matches. I was hoping that it wouldn't kill the newspeople on the channels between 2 and 13 to show some kind of video highlights everyday for us poor people. Apparently not. Oh look, a missing white woman......

In the next month or so, when I am relaxing on a beach and have some time on my hands, I might participate in this pissing match. All I can say right now is that there is a reason that football (yeah, not the American variety) is called The Beautiful Game. And it has nothing to do with opposable thumbs!

9:06 PM, June 12, 2006  
Blogger HRlaughed said...

Missing white woman? Where?!! What channel?!



BTW, stupid American soccer team. I'm starting to feel the burn of The Curse.

And Cara: Neither Lithuania nor India have teams in contention for the World Cup. Now if this was the World Cup of Basketball or Cricket, maybe so. And I'll bet you haven't even seen Bend It Like Beckham, have you? [confession: neither have I. I've never even seen videotaped highlights of Beckham playing soccer. I don't even know what he looks like. Which is weird, since his picture was in yesterday's paper.]

10:32 PM, June 12, 2006  
Blogger Saurabh Barve said...

Actually, you should see the movie. Even though this is very hard for me to say, but for a chick-flick, I really enjoyed the movie. It was probably because it was set around an Indian family.

And don't worry about Beckham. He's not even the best player on his team, let alone one of the best in the world.

The Curse lives.....

10:40 PM, June 12, 2006  

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