AN AMERICAN FOOTBALL FAN'S GUIDE TO THE WORLD CUP
On Sunday over two billion sports fans across the planet will be watching the World Cup Finals between France and Croatia.
We American football fans who tune in will be watching “soccer.” But in all other nations, the fans will be watching “football,” which in the truest sense of the word it really is.
I am addicted to American football. I have season tickets for University of Tennessee football and spend many happy (and too many sad) autumn Saturdays watching my beloved Vols. When I’m not sitting in Neyland Stadium on fall afternoons or evenings, I’m parked in front of the Haltom jumbotron, (my big screen TV in my den), with my remote control channel changer firmly in my hand watching 20 to 25 football games in a single day. I am incredibly agile with my remote control channel changer. I am the Peyton Manning of remote control.
I now even have a voice-generated remote control so that I can change the channels simply by holding the remote control up to my mouth, pushing a button, and saying something like “ESPN” or “SEC Network.” That’s right, my fellow American football fans. I now change the channel on football Saturdays by doing audibles.
I have been to many soccer games over the years, all of which involved at least one Haltom kid playing the game. But while I enjoyed watching my kids play, I have never really taken to soccer or as all them fur-rah-ners call it, “football.”
I am an American football fan, not a Brazilian football fan.
But Sunday morning, I will be parked in front of my Haltom jumbotron watching the World Cup Finals, and to my surprise, I am actually looking forward to it.
Over the last few weeks, I have been watching the World Cup matches even though the United States of America does not have a team. The USA team was eliminated from World Cup competition by Trinidad, for crying out loud.
If President Trump truly wants to make America great again, he should start by building a soccer team that can actually make the World Cup Tournament, or at least beat Trinidad.
But even without a USA team to root for, I have had a favorite team in this year’s World Cup Competition. In fact I have had several of them. They have been any team that is playing Russia.
I grew up during the Cold War and was raised to believe that Russia is a Godless, atheistic country, which in fact it is. I realize that President Trump now says that we Americans have more to fear from Canada than Russia, but I think that is true only when the Predators are playing either the Montreal Canadians or the Toronto Maple Leafs.
I was thrilled when Croatia beat the Russian Fighting Atheists in the World Cup quarter finals, and I am pleased that the World Cup Finals will feature Croatia and the nation that gave us the Statue of Liberty.
There are a lot of things I don’t understand about soccer. For example, when a team fails to score a goal in the entire game (a pretty common phenomenon in soccer), their score is said to be “nil”, as in “Trinidad defeated the United States 1 to nil.”
I also do not understand why soccer players spend much of the game flopping around on the field pretending to be injured. It’s like every one of them has played basketball for the Los Angeles Clippers, or as I like to call them, the Los Angeles Flippers.
I also do not understand the yellow cards the referees occasionally hold in the air during the game. I have been told it is some type of warning. For example, in Russia’s loss to Croatia, the referees often showed the Russian players yellow cards, no doubt warning them that if they lost the game, they would be sent to the Gulag.
But despite the fact that I still believe American football is real football, and do not understand the meaning of the word “nil” or the purpose of the yellow card, I’ll be watching the World Cup finals on Sunday.
I hope it comes down to one of those penalty kick shootouts at the end of the game. That’s almost as exciting as when my Volunteers attempt a game-winning field goal in overtime.
The late great John Ward never broadcast a soccer game, but had he done so, he would have announced the game-winning penalty kick by exclaiming, “Yes-sir-ree!”