Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why I Hate Soccer


So at long last I have decided to wrest free from my inner sanctum the explanation of why I hate soccer so much.  I will explain and defend why it offends me intellectually and makes my very genetic makeup quiver with disgust.  In elucidating my position I hope that I will recruit others to begin a global movement towards eradicating this abhorrent past time like the innumerable species we have already destroyed during our awesome time as rulers of the world.

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: nowhere in the Bible does it say, "...and during the Fourth Year God said, 'Let There Be World Cup,' and he saw that the Cup was good."  Mohammad has no position on soccer, nor do Buddha, Confucius, Vishnu, the Ying-Yang Twins, and L. Ron Hubbard.  With that said--people need to stop treating the World Cup like it is a religious event and soccer in general as if it is a holy athletic institution.  I would even argue that soccer's perceived popularity should not be confused with mere prevalence.  Of all the sports in the world, soccer requires the least of its participants: something spherical that can be kicked around, a few warm bodies, and miles of empty space.  Even the poorest nations in the world have those things and, given the endemic poverty that persists in so many of our globe's nations, it should go without saying that soccer would be played in such spaces.  As the great Puertotalian philosopher Edwin Jesus Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez Napoleoni once said, "People drink contaminated water across most of the world but the fact that they do it doesn't make it a popular activity--it is done because there is no alternative."  (Okay...so he might not have said that exact thing but it is a close approximation to a generalization that he might once have made.  15-Love, me over soccer).

So...why the hatred for soccer?  Simple: it is a slap in the face of the hundreds of thousands of years of evolution that we, as human beings, have undergone.  (Seriously...how is it still the "Theory" of Evolution in the twenty-first century?)  No joke--Charles Darwin is rolling over in his grave.  The Gal├ípagos giant tortoises are asphyxiating autoerotically inside of their shells.  The Komodo Dragons are eating people.  Okay...so maybe the second fact isn't true...but the third one sure as hell is...and it is awesome!

Anyway, back on track.  If Darwin were alive today he would hate soccer.  For all we know, he probably hated it when he was alive, if he knew about it.  In fact, I'd guarantee it.  I have a credible source: me.  Why would he feel this way?  Soccer ignores the two key traits that make us the most dominating force on the planet: a superior intellect paired with opposable thumbs.  The only use that soccer makes of said thumbs is with toss-ins and goaltending--both are arbitrary uses that frankly are unnecessary; one could still "toss-in" the ball without hands as could one defend the net without any arms.  As for not utilizing the intellect...well...how else could you explain why twenty men on a field that is over one hundred and ten yards long by over seventy yards wide often cannot get a decent sized ball into a net eight yards wide and eight feet high a single time over the course of ninety-plus minutes?!  Inexplicable.  Fail for soccer.  I'm up 30-Love for those of you keeping score at home.

I take it as an affront to my genetics that soccer fails to make use of those precious traits that we worked so damn hard to develop over the last two hundred thousand years.  As I've said numerous times, soccer is nothing more than "Lord of the Dance" with a ball...but minus the music, the outfits, and Michael Flatley.  Epic fail for soccer.  PLUS, that type of dancing purposely avoids using the arms and hands as a form of protest, thereby utilizing the superior intellect.  40-Love me, and 30-Love Lord of the Dance versus soccer.

I mean, seriously--look at the other popular sports in America (no--NASCAR is not a sport, it is a competitive form of driving.  Still more evolved than soccer though since it makes great use of both hands and feet!).  Baseball, Football, Basketball, and Hockey all demonstrate an elaborate mixture of precision and speed, violence and grace.  I mean--look at this run by Adrian Peterson:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-E20FwCcrlU

The skill needed in baseball to hit a ball that small, moving that quickly, with a bat as relatively thin as it is, is incredible.  Football collisions often produce more g-forces than a car crash, not to mention the incredible precision involved with top-tier quarterbacks' passing ability and the sheer power of running backs and linebackers.  Basketball requires incredible athletic ability both on a horizontal and a vertical plane.  Hockey might be the most difficult sport of all, with players reaching speeds in excess of thirty miles an hour on their skates and hitting the puck causing it to exceed one hundred miles per hour, all while shooting at a net that is largely protected by a goalie who is as flexible as a contortionist and armed with enough padding to make Barry Bonds blush.

Random list of sports that are more evolved than soccer:

Team Yo-Yo
Handball
Cup Stacking
Thumb Wrestling

Common denominator: opposable thumbs.  I don't know what to do with Equestrian Sports and the Westminster Dog Show...but I'm sure given enough time I could find a solid argument to prove that they too are more evolved than soccer.  Synchronized Swimming is something that dolphins do too and, well, dolphins are awesome.  Another fail for soccer.

Again we must turn to the great Darwinian scientist--Charles Darwin--and ask, WSWCDFTMAITW? (What Sport Would Charles Darwin Find The Most Awesome In The World?) Based upon Darwin's two most beloved natural principles: Survival of the Fittest and Evolution/Adaptation, I believe that the only possible answer to this epic question is: Mixed Martial Arts.



If Charles Darwin were alive today I believe he would be a raging fan of the UFC.  Nothing is more savage and beautiful than the tactical physical destruction of one man over another, using a combination of his advanced intellect as well as his God-given natural abilities to dominate him.  MMA combines the best aspects of all of the greatest sports but simplifies the purpose to the most basic natural level: kill or be killed (theoretically).  Darwin would bust a nut every time he would watch these fights:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJeOMih5ceM

and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2i0iZcLIrTQ


MMA is cerebral.  It is violent.  It is tactical.  It is an adrenaline rush.  It combines instinct and ability, not championing one over the other but rather a combination of both with the rightful victor rising up at just the right moment.  It is the physical manifestation of Darwin's greatest beliefs, set into motion and existing in direct, polar opposition to the putrescence that is soccer.

If Darwin were given the pulpit I would imagine that he wouldn't recommend the public hanging of soccer but would instead endorse the re-introduction of an older version of the sport that, in a beautiful way, combines the core elements of the sport in question (soccer) with everything awesome about Darwin's favorite athletic event (MMA).  As they did with all things, the Mayans had perfected soccer in their time.  In the old days they (and possibly some Native Americans, which would stand to reason since they are Americans and we steal all of the good ideas, make them better, then claim that they were ours all along) would play across a field of dozens to even scores of miles.  The bouts would last not simply for days or weeks but until one team was simply too weak to continue.  This team would then be eaten by the victors.  Oh and they would use a human head for a ball.  How bitchin' is that?  If the Vikings ever took a break from their pillaging and being awesome, they might've played too.  Of course they would have destroyed the Mayans and Native Americans, eating them while the game was still going on. 

Anyway, soccer is the worst sport in the history of mankind and the World Cup is merely a collaboration of people playing the worst sport in the world in a central location for a month.  They should call it the Worst Cup and be done with it.




Long pause.




In case you couldn't tell, fair reader, I was only kidding.  I don't hate soccer nor do I hate the World Cup.  Landon Donovan is my favorite player and I root for the US whenever they are engaged in international play.  I think that the World Cup is a phenomenal event because it brings together practically the entire world in good spirited competition.  What I can't stand, in actuality, is America's response to the World Cup.  Where are your balls great States of United?  We are such snobs when it comes practically to  EVERYTHING else (Metric System anyone?  Only drug dealers know how much a gram actually weighs!), INCLUDING soccer (it's called football everywhere but here), it just strikes me as immensely hypocritical that we put on this faux interest in the World Cup that is meant to imply that we are as into soccer as the rest of the world all of the time.  Go into any bar in New York City during the World Cup and you'll find different promotions or themes related to the tournament, as well as the games themselves dominating the television screens. 

I understand the hypocrisy from an economical standpoint: tourists and foreigners alike love to watch soccer and love to drink...so why not give them a place where they can do both in Manhattan?...but it still irks me nonetheless.  Seriously America, it's unbecoming of you.  It's like being the parent who shows up to a concert for a band like Linkin Park or Papa Roach wearing a torn black t-shirt and making devil horns while bobbing your head arrhythmically.  Maybe you do listen to the music...but it just comes across as disingenuous and quite frankly embarrassing to see your old ass at the concert.  Ditto for Americans watching the World Cup.

Alright let's wrap this nonsense up.  Obviously soccer cannot possibly be the worst sport ever; that ignominous title belongs to Hacky Sack.  Hacky Sack (also called "Footbag," which sounds like something you would call someone else in an attempt to demean him or her or something that you would find in some really underground, amateur fetish porn video that you would bring up in conversation with your friends, pretending like you've never seen it but secretly wanting to know if any of them have so that you can confess that you saw it too and maybe not feel so bad about yourself as you cry yourself to sleep each night) is soccer without the running and the goal scoring, plus it is played only by preppy college kids and hippies.  No offense hippies.  I don't want to have to deal with your grammatically incorrect rage flying my way.  I'm looking at YOU Wavy Gravy.


Excursions, Ice Cream, and "Iceland" - Part 2



If the excursions that I took as a child with my Mom helped to develop my curiosity of what lay further along the road ahead, then the road trips that my Dad took me on served to be the true genesis of my traveler's spirit.  The things that I looked most forward to as a child were the trips that I would go on with my Dad (or as a family).  It could be something as simple as a trip to his job at JFK airport or something as complex as a multi-day, multi-state adventure; either way, I was enthralled.

I loved being on the road.  I soaked in everything: the details of the passing scenery, the songs playing on the radio, even, when possible, the route that we were taking.  An early memory of a trip home involved my Dad intentionally going past our exit on the highway and asking me if I knew how to get us home (feigning a lack of such knowledge himself).  As legend has it, I impressed him by telling him that there was a second exit (Part B, if you will) that would take us to the same street, just on the other side.  I then navigated us home from there.  I don't remember how old I was but I know I was closer to being quite little than I was an advanced grade-schooler.

Perhaps the earliest trip memory I have came when I was perhaps three or four years old.  The details have faded and in some cases are sketchy at best but I recall getting a papercut on my tongue, likely from licking an envelope.  I remember that my Dad took me out for ice cream to help soothe the cut and going to his job, perhaps to drop something off or to pick something up.  Again, the details are hazy but what stands out from the memory was my Dad's compassion in taking me for the ice cream and the excitement of going on a "trip."

Not surprisingly, many of my most cherished memories of spending time with my Dad come from trips that we took together.  I remember looking forward each year to going on a family road trip somewhere along the east coast.  My Dad would select a location (or multiple ones) for us to visit, often with unplanned pit stops along the way, the most famous of which was in either Massachusetts or Vermont when we stopped to play miniature golf.  That was the moment of the "Shot Heard Round The World" as narrated by yours truly.

One trip that we made was up to Albany to see the "Dinosaurs" exhibit.  At the time I was extremely into dinosaurs (as nearly all little boys are--in fact, I would argue that nearly every American male, in his youth, will go through an astronaut phase, a superhero phase, and a dinosaur phase, with an option for a cowboy phase or G.I. Joe phase as well) so we headed upstate for this supposedly spectacular exhibit.  It wound up being a bust but my Dad managed to audible us into something else and we wound up having an awesome time on the trip.

I laugh as I look back and reflect on many of these experiences because I have adopted unconsciously many of my Dad's good habits when it comes to roadtripping.  We are both extremely meticulous in our research and preparation, often having multiple routes to our locations, backup plans in the event that the trip is a bust, and the uncanny ability to find something memorable and off-the-beaten-path while en route.  Another similarity is the interest in adding "one more state" to the trip, though I would argue that he likely did this FOR me, thus stoking the flame of my excitement in visiting more and more states.  We ventured up to Kennebunkport, Maine while in New Hampshire solely for the experience of passing into Maine and adding the last New England state to my list of states visited when I was a kid.  I've subjected my wife to this numerous times, the most recent of which was last year when we went to a Cincinnati Reds game and I drove us five minutes out of the way solely to re-take a photograph of the Kentucky welcome sign. To date, though, Michigan, Utah, and Texas are the only states that we visited and saw only the welcome sign, doing nothing else; every other state we either stopped at an attraction or visited the capitol building. 

As I sit and plan Timmy's first roadtrip (a baseball roadtrip at that!), I can't help but smile as I look back on all of the great trip memories I have from my childhood.  I remember visiting Valley Forge and the Catskill Game Farm, numerous trips to the Amish Country, as well as jaunts to the Mystic Aquarium and Washington D.C.  My most cherished road trip memories come from visiting a small town in Pennsylvania called La Anna.  There isn't anything particularly remarkable about the location; it is nearly identical to a thousand other small towns in the state.  What does stand out, for me at least, are the memories and moments that have been collected from spending time there with my Dad and Mom.  I remember visiting the candle store outside of which my Dad and I took our favorite picture together.  I remember visiting the other candle store near the park that we went to for picnics (truly the purpose of each trip to La Anna).  I remember crossing the "Shaky Bridge" and how my Mom was freaked out every time...mostly because my Dad and I would do our best to shake the rickety wooden bridge as we crossed above the stream below.  I remember walking through the woods before getting to the picnic site near the lake.  I remember the time my Dad went exploring and came running back, causing my Mom and I to think that he found a bear (turns out he wound up on someone's property).  I remember the lunar betrayal that has never been lived down.  In short--I remember every moment of those trips.

The only other trip memories that come close in terms of their vividness and importance in my mind are those that I took with my Dad while he was working for a bus company at the airport.  Occasionally, he would take me with him on charters to various places.  I likely cherished these trips the most because they are fewer in number...but at least two stand out in my mind for other reasons.  The most infamous trip I have ever taken with my Dad found us taking a college group up to New Hampshire for a retreat.  Usually, I would simply sit up front with my Dad and leave the passengers be, but somehow I found myself in their midst, having earned their favor.  I remember that we got McDonald's for lunch and that I had their chicken nuggets.  To date, I have had McDonald's chicken nuggets three times and all three times I wound up vomiting horrendously afterwards.  On the plus side, though, was the fact that I got a transforming hamburger that went from burger to some sort of lizard beast.  I remember showing how it transformed to the college kids and them seeming to be entertained. 

A few hours later, we arrived at the retreat site...but I couldn't get off of the bus.  Because we were in the middle of a tropical storm.  So after enduring a seven hour or so bus ride I had to stay inside as we turned around and began to head home.  Then we stopped in Keene, New Hampshire.  Keene might be the only place in the entire world that causes me to shudder when I see its name on a sign (seriously--that's what happened a few years ago when I took Heather up to Vermont to go to the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory).  My Dad and I stopped to eat in Keene and then headed back out to the bus to head home.  Except the bus wouldn't start.  At all.  My Dad had to call for someone to fix the bus.  That was when he was told that the closest help was something like eight hours away.  They told him what to do over the phone.  Apparently it was dangerous.  He made me stay away from the bus as he headed to the back and opened the door.  I was convinced the bus was going to blow up and either we were both going to die or he was going to die and I was going to be trapped as a prisoner in Keene forever.  I'm pretty sure I began to cry.  My Dad opened the compartment and went to take the dip stick.  This was when he saw that the dip stick was nothing but a nub.  Apparently this bus had this particular problem before. More than once.  In fact, it had this problem a lot.  The optimist says that the technique must have worked since the dip stick was melted, literally, to a nub.  The realist says: the dip stick is a nub.  The pessimist says: the dip stick is a fucking nub.

If I remember correctly, my Dad had to use the dip stick to jump start the bus somehow.  The risk of electrocution was great.  The risk of explosion was also larger than one would like (a.k.a. a percentage chance above zero).  My Dad did what he had been instructed to do and the bus started.  No explosion and no electrocution...though my tiny nerves were fried.  Needless to say, we headed home and I vowed never to go on another trip again.  I think I cried and kissed the carpet in the living room when we got home, much like survivors of plane crashes do once they have reached terra firma safely.

On another trip, though far less dramatic, I remember discarding my previous vow never to take a work trip with my Dad again and heading out with him for what should have been a brief trek.  Somehow, after completing the trip, my Dad was asked to do another one.  I was feeling fine so we decided to go for it.  I think that at some point during this second trip I began to get tired and, most likely, began having flashbacks of my time in Keene.  At the end of the trip (now finally nighttime), my Dad was asked to take yet another group of people somewhere.  I remember falling asleep and just wanting to get home (convinced that this trip was going to take me back to New Hampshire where I was surely going to be orphaned, abandoned, and any other -ned you can think of!) when I overheard a man say that we were going to Islip.  I was young and I was tired.  I also didn't hear "Islip" but rather "Iceland."  Somehow I had enough knowledge of global geography to know that Iceland was far away in the Atlantic Ocean but not enough adult common sense (again, I was maybe eight at the time) to realize the impracticality of a multi-thousand mile long bridge.  I had no idea how we were going to get to Iceland, assumed that there was such a bridge, and that it was going to take us a week to do the trip.  I remember crying and saying that I just wanted to get home and an older man trying to comfort me and saying that Islip, "wasn't that bad."  That's what he thought!

Now, as a father myself, I can only hope that my son enjoys our trips as much as I enjoyed the ones I took with my Dad.  I remember many of my classmates in elementary school and junior high school talking about their trips to Disney World and other places in Florida, or the cruises that they went on with their families.  I didn't visit the state or the amusement park until I was 22--ironically enough on my first road trip as an adult.  I had gotten my license officially only a few days, a week at most, before and essentially took a trial by fire.  I drove for fifteen hours straight on my first day of driving outside of New York City, drove through a hurricane on our last day of the trip, and wound up being up for thirty consecutive hours as I drove straight from Weston, Florida (20 miles from Miami) to Brooklyn.  As a kid, though, it never bothered me that we never flew anywhere for trips or that I didn't go to Disney World--to me, the best part about a trip was taking it and, thus, driving to where we were going.

With any luck, Timmy's experiences with trips throughout his youth will have a more expansive radius than mine did; after all, that's the way it should be.  My Dad's big trips as a kid took him to upstate New York; mine took me to New England and other northeastern Atlantic states; hopefully Timmy's will take him throughout the continental United States and maybe even Canada.  Regardless of where we take him and where he ultimately takes himself, I can only hope that he will find his own La Anna--a place where, for at least one moment, the happiness of being with his Dad is captured perfectly in a timeless photograph or memory.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

New Post Coming Soon

The month of May was incredibly time consuming and both physically and emotionally draining.  I took a necessary break from writing to tend to the other responsibilities that I had to deal with during that time.  I apologize to my readers for this lapse in posting and promise that, within the next few days, I will begin writing with consistency once again, finishing up the "Iceland" entry as well as the Supermarket Shoppers one!

Thanks for your patience and understanding!