I don’t like soccer.
Now there is a swell sentiment given that so many people are going gaga for the sport because of the World Cup. I’m setting myself up for some wonderful hate mail, here. How dumb am I?
But I can’t just automatically start loving the sport after all of these years just because it’s the flavor of the month every four years. And to the soccer snobs who say “You just don’t get it,” I say that I get it. I just don’t want it.
I don’t like that a team can thoroughly dominate a match against another and settle for a nil-nil draw.
And I really hate that rule where they don’t stop the clock for something like an injury, yet the referee is the only guy in the stadium who knows how much extra time there is to play after the game is seemingly over. That’s even dumber than Major League Baseball having a designated hitter in one league and not the other.
Hey, soccer bosses, I have a nice little tip for you. There is this thing called a button you can push and it causes the clock on the scoreboard to – you aren’t going to believe this – STOP when you push it. Yeah! When a guy gets injured, the referee can signal to the timekeeper and he pushes the button and the clock stops.
Then, when everything is ready to go, the referee can signal to the timekeeper and he can push the button and the time winds down (or up) and the players, coaches and thousands of crazed soccer fans will all know how much time is in the game. BRILLIANT!
I could also make a joke about how some soccer tussles are called “friendlies” but that match last week when Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini was bitten by Uruguay’s Luis Sanchez was not one of them.
But I won’t.
I don’t like soccer but notice I didn’t say that I hated soccer.
There are two redeeming qualities to the sport.
First, there are the announcers. The guy who bellows “Goooooaaaaalllll!!!” is an international treasure even if it’s the only word that he says that most of us understand.
But I also get a kick out of the British announcers calling the action. They use unusual words and turn some interesting phrases. Where else can you hear someone say “That was a lovely ball,” when a dude makes a pass to another dude? OK, don’t answer that. But you bloody well know what I mean.
The second, and most important cool thing about soccer for me, is that I have been blessed with the opportunity to photograph the sport on a number of occasions.
Now that’s how to watch soccer – up close and personal.
Forget watching it on TV (or the telly, as the British announcers might say).
Forget about watching it from the stands.
Forget about hanging out with the other sardines at Grant Park.
On the sideline and capturing the action is the spot I want to be.
Once I went to an Illinois High School Association state semifinal boys game in Frankfort and within the first minute, I got a shot of a kid accidentally kicking another kid in the head.
For the most part, you can capture great emotional looks on players faces whether they are kicking a “lovely ball” to a teammate, crashing into an opponent or celebrating a goal.
Headers are fun to shoot. Goalies blocking a shot are cool shots, too.
Collisions are great and since these guys are not wearing padding or helmets like they do in football, it makes for some dramatic pictures.
So for those who enjoy soccer – have fun during the rest of the World Cup.
For me, the sport is only useful when it’s picture perfect.