Just so you know, I use a bit of strong language in this episode. If the use of the word ‘pussy’ to denote ‘someone lacking the personal fortitude to participate in a physical contest of sport’ offends you, well, uh… too late, but maybe you should stop now. I’m going to use it again.
It’s halftime in the game between Norway and Argentina, and I care not at all who wins. But it’s on the TV here in the Little Café Near Home, and I am watching the game because the box with moving colors and sound controls me with substantially more power than it seems to have over other people. I decided as this match started, though, that I would put on my journalist hat and cover this game for you from my own personal angle.
I mentioned in a previous episode that Argentina was a bunch of ankle-grabbing, whining wimps. Tonight I decided to keep score.
Minute 12: The first Argentina player went down. Oh! The agony! Judging by the pain etched into his face, I thought we were facing a career-ending tragedy. Such promise! Such talent! Wasted, years of productive ball-kicking cruelly wrested from this young lion by a horrible injury to… well, that wasn’t exactly clear. While he gasped in pain, the team captain went over to consult with the coach, discussing strategy, I assume. The stretcher came out (more on that later), and after more delay (not sure, but I think he eschewed the stretcher so he could walk to the sidelines much more slowly than the stretcher would have done) he was on the sidelines, standing, while a trainer sprayed chilly stuff on his knee. Oh, man, the knee. That’s the absolute last place you would want to have an injury like that.
Thirty seconds of playing time later, he was back in the match.
Minute uh, let’s call it 15: Another terrifically painful injury, this time to an Argentine wrist, maybe. Not sure, but too horrible to allow the poor guy to stand, at least for a bit. No stretcher was required; play resumed eventually.
Minute 18: Argentine player Rodriguez was tackled hard but cleanly. He went down and rolled over, holding his ankle. No whistle. He looked around and hopped back up to his feet. Whew! Another horrible injury narrowly averted. (As I edit this at minute 55 the exact same thing happened again.)
And so it went. Twice a Netherlands player took all of five seconds to get up after a rough tackle. There were more Argentine-on-the-grass incidents as the half progressed, but in documenting the first ones I managed to forget the rest I had carefully catalogued in my sieve-like brain. It doesn’t matter; you get the idea.
Argentina may be the best team in this tournament, but they are also the perfect example of why this game will not work in the US as it’s currently played. For the Argentines, being a little pussy and rolling on the grass, crying to the ref for redress, is good strategy. For Americans, it’s just acting like a pussy. In hockey, you don’t have stretchers coming out just so players can’t delay the game as much by grabbing a body part and crying like babies. In hockey, the harder someone hits you, the more important it is to get up and skate like nothing happened. I haven’t watched that many games this cup, but I’ve only seen one player bleeding. He kept playing, got stitches at the half, and came right back out. He was on the US team. (In hockey, they do the sutures on the bench, between shifts.)
Soccer is the ball sport with no balls, at least when Argentina is playing. It’s crazy, because they really might be the most skilled team in the cup. They don’t need to pull this kind of crap. But they do. You know why? It’s who they are.
As a coda to this, I have to add that I have seen an increasing tendency in American sport for the players to go begging to the refs for a call. — this just in! Minute 61: Man, I think that guy is done for. He’s in agony! Oh, wait. He’s OK. Back to the diatribe — They don’t pretend to be hurt, it’s more of a big-mouth self-advocacy thing. Still thoroughly distasteful. These little prima donna bitches that play sports for big money seem to think they are entitled to a call, especially in the US — so don’t for a minute think I’m letting the American Whiners off with this assessment of soccer. My heroes are the ones who are a solid bruise the day after the game, but during the contest they gave nothing away. I like the guys who get their uniforms dirty during warmup.
Minute 66: A Nederlander took 15 seconds to rise from the turf. I think his thigh was stepped on, but I’m not sure.
Distasteful. I was disappointed to see players in the world cup (somehow I still associate soccer with class) performing premeditated ceremonies after a goal. Tacky, tacky. tacky. Class players cheer — they have every right to be happy, and I wouldn’t take that from them — they hug the guys who all helped create the opportunity, they thank the fans, and they go back to doing their jobs. Now, doing one’s job in sports has become a marketing opportunity, and you have elementary school kids working on their touchdown dances. Crass, lame, and shameful. My message to the kid wearing pads for the first time is the same as my message to the members of perhaps the best side in soccer. Play the game.
Play the game.