Monday, June 14, 2010

The Monday Ratings

This is a new feature at SCSD! where I take a person, team, event, or other sporting noun, and assign it an arbitrary rating. Then I go on to explain that rating in a way that probably won't satisfy anyone. Afterward, I am unapologetic and act like I've done you a huge favor just by existing. And somehow you keep coming back, even though most of your friends are like 'just stay away, that guy is a dick.' And I'm just sitting there on your couch, not paying rent, assigning values on a 1-10 scale like I own the place.

This is the great leap forward sportswriting has been waiting for. Here we go!


Team USA - 6.0

I am happy to see that the strategy from the last million World Cups is unchanged: be completely inept at passing the ball around and advancing gradually like the better teams, say 'screw it' and just launch the ball downfield, hope to get lucky by having really fast people chase it down and score once or twice per game, play terrible defense, and get bailed out over and over by an awesome goalie. It's like a warm blanket. You'd hate to see anything different from the stars and stripes.

Okay, so we got the tie. The tie. The tie. The tie. People who know from soccer insist that this was a good result. And I can understand it. I really can. But know what, this deserves its own rating.

Ties - 1.0

Ties are a tease. Ties are a shadow belonging to nothing. Ties are being handed a baseball bat, blindfolded, and told to swing as hard as you can at a pinata, but you miss completely, and then you take the blindfold off and there's no pinata at all, and no people, and hey, where did this blindfold come from?! Ties are un-American.

I realize I'm sounding like a super doltish neocon or something, but sports and competition are designed to produce a superior side. It's part of what we love about them. Sometimes, in games where a winner is almost always decided, a really epic tie can be awesome. This is provided it happens about once every 20 years or so, and only under weird circumstances. Otherwise, it sucks. Especially when it happens about 30% of the time, like in soccer (total guess on the number there- okay, I just looked it up, and across all professional leagues and in World Cup play, the tie percentage hovers between 25% and 30%...good guess). The World Cup started with 2 ties. Fine, whatever.

But when a match is built up for like six months, and there's all kinds of shit-talking, and it involves two countries with a lot of history, and you're going nuts for two hours in a packed bar full of people singing patriotic songs, and then you walk out and it's a fucking tie, THAT SUCKS. It makes you want to destroy shit, or fight somebody from England, just to have some kind of resolution. This is why soccer produces violence on a scale that shocks people from America; ties, and the absurd amount of anticipation built up just waiting for a goal. You create all that tension, and no resolution, and people are going to go nuts.

Best idea I heard, from my future classmate and current Brooklynite Josh: do it like hockey. Sure, end the game in a draw. Both teams get a point. But then do a shoot-out, and the winner takes a second bonus point. At least there's a bit of resolution there, right?

World Cup Soccer - 3.0

Let's be honest for a moment: unless one team is far, far superior to another, which doesn't happen that often in World Cup anymore, you might as well flip a coin as to which side will win any given match. That's the nature of soccer, I guess, and a lot of people will say that's what makes it great. I can kinda agree, as long as those same people will concede that it's also what makes the sport suck.

Again, I'm happy with a draw against England, but I'd be fucking pissed if I were them. Why? Because they were the superior team. They did everything better than the US, except goaltending. They created more chances, kept the ball for longer, moved the ball more smoothly, and played stronger defense. If Tim Howard, our keeper, hadn't been like a spastic monkey in front of the net, and if their keeper hadn't made the mistake of the century, they're winning that match like 4-0.

And yet, somehow, we still almost won! Jozy Altidore broke away on the left at some point and hit the post with a shot that would've put us up 2-1. How insane is that? In what other sport can one team be better at almost every position and still have about an equal chance of winning? It'd be like the Yankees playing a 7-game series with the Orioles, and somehow the Orioles hitter keep closing their eyes and swinging really hard and hitting home runs, and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

Robert Green - 1.0

Damn, man. Really? Really with that save? I just finished a book about English soccer hooligans, and all the disgusting, violent, and creepy shit they do, and I'm actually scared for this guy. The British announcer called it a "howler," and that seems exactly right. You can either howl with laughter, howl with disbelief, howl with anger, howl with joy, or howl with terror. It's a howler, all right.

Team Germany - 10.0

I loved it. Say what you will about these straight-laced wackos, but they came out and kicked Australia's ass. Finally, a team scored some goals. Finally, we got to see that yes, sometimes a superior team does dominate like we're used to in sports. Four goals later, I'm kind of on board with Germany. It was like coming back to earth after a mysterious and unsettling tour of an ambiguous outer space universe where nothing logical ever happens.

Team Korea - 9.0

A close second. That team is fast, wild, and exciting. Apparently they don't have any defense, and just try to outscore the opponent. I'll take it. They kicked the crap out of Greece (note: in soccer, a 2-0 score is 'kicking the crap' out of someone) and looked like they were having fun while doing it. I hope they go far.

South Africa, Mexico, France, Uruguay - 1.0

COME ON. You guys were the opening day entertainment at the fucking World Cup. It was on you to do something memorable! A TIE IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.

Team Denmark - 7.0

They were also upset about the dearth of goals, and decided to do something about it. Unfortunately, they couldn't get past the Dutch defense, so they used some old-fashioned Danish know-how and scored on their own goal. They wanted excitement, and they got sick of the status quo. Respect. Netherlands wins the morning match 2-0.

Complaining about a sport that first perfectly into my daytime schedule - 7.0

I like the World Cup. I'd rather have it than not. On the other hand...

People who call soccer 'The Beautiful Game' - 1.0

It's not the beautiful game. It can be played beautifully, yes. So can every other sport. But the game itself is not beautiful at all. In fact, when people were inventing sports, it was the first thing they thought of. "Yo," said the main guy in charge of inventing sports. "Before we get on to inventing more complex and more interesting games, let's think of something really simple." Without even hesitating, the dumbest in the group piped up and said "how about you try to kick a ball into a box?" That's how it happened.

Look, in terms of beauty, I will go to my grave arguing that nothing compares with baseball. It isolates so many aspects of human experience, and is singularly strange and subtle, and...well, if you really want to hear me get all rapturous, you can read this 3,000 word essay I wrote a while back. Football is a close second, because it so closely approximates warfare and is such a great mixture of strategy, savagery, and specialization. After those two, it's a big drop to the other sports. Hockey and basketball and soccer are essentially the same thing on different surfaces. Basketball is a bit better because there's more scoring. Hockey is a bit worse because you need ice and a lot of weird equipment to play.

And really, soccer only thrives in places where it was introduced without compettion from the other major sports. Europe, Africa, and Central/South America are the soccer hotbeds, and it became ingrained in those places before they could encounter anything else. But when introduced simultaneously with other games, which happened in countries whose 20th century colonial influence wasn't solely European, soccer never wins. In Japan and Korea, they love baseball. In China, it's basketball. In the Phillipines, basketball. In the Caribbean, baseball. In America, football and baseball. In Canada, hockey. Head-to-head, soccer doesn't fare well; it needs a monopoly in its early stages to take hold. And even then, it sometimes becomes overshadowed.

So let's can this idea that soccer has some intrinsic beauty that the others lack, and let's stop giving so much credence to it being 'the world's most popular sport.' Let's appreciate it for what it is- an ordinary sport that happened to stake its claim earlier than the other sports, has a lot of nationalism at stake every four years in a fun competition, and is slowly being eclipsed around the world.

The New York Yankees - 9.0

We had 13 games against scrub competition, and we won 11 of them. Fantastic. It was good enough to claw back into a tie for the best record in baseball with Tampa Bay.

The NBA Finals - 1.0

A) The referees are ridiculous. I'm not sure if they're fixing things, or if they're just bad. I lean toward the latter. But at this point, the foul calls are as arbitrary as World Cup results. I think it's the influx of flopping from European players. Their influence has rubbed off on American players, and professional basketball has turned into soccer 2.0. They should ban Europeans from the league.

B) I watched like twenty minutes of last night's game. I started in the third quarter, when Kobe went off. That was fun to watch. But Boston scored almost every time down the floor, and Pau Gasol looked like a giant ninny. Once Kevin Garnett started pounding his chest, and the camera panned to a stadium full of Red Sox fans experiencing joy, I turned the television off.

C) I hope David Stern and the referees decide that the series should go to a game 7.

I just read over this post, and I am a Grumpy Gus today. Ties are not good for your mood.

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