Tonawanda News

Columns

June 18, 2014

World Cup a reminder of sporting purity

Tonawanda News — I've said here many times I'm a sports guy but one thing I really don't know very much about soccer. I've never played it. I understand the fundamental concept but strategy is lost on me.

Usually when watching soccer I'm something like your buddy's clueless girlfriend at a Sabres game who asks "why did they all just stop playing?" when the whistle blows. Like most people I don't have much use for things I don't understand or don't particularly care to understand and so soccer has always been, well, useless to me. 

That said, a Saturday afternoon last week spent loafing on the couch found me captivated by the World Cup. It doesn't take a soccer prodigy to see the incredible athleticism on display. The sheer endurance the best players possess by essentially running up and down a huge field without respite for 90 minutes is mind-boggling.

The agility and dexterity the best players in the world show maneuvering the ball would drop even the biggest cynic's jaw. The uncanny ability to kick that thing on a rope to a precise spot or curve it around an oncoming defender or goalkeeper seems to defy physics.

For those reasons alone, the 2-1 upset victory the U.S. posted Monday over Ghana was thrilling despite my general lack of understanding of the sport.

Lots of fellow soccer neophytes took to Twitter and Facebook during the game (a soccer-loving friend corrected me — it's called a "match") comparing soccer to hockey. I can see slightly how that makes sense. They're both games that flow largely uninterrupted. The action is continuous; the goal is scoring a goal. But when I watch a hockey game I can understand what each team is trying to do, how well they're doing it and how likely it is they'll succeed. 

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