Mondays with Mike: I'm trying with this soccer thing, I really am

June 16, 2014 • Posted in guest blog, Mike Knezovich, Mondays with Mike, Uncategorized by
I'm afraid "the beautiful game" reminds me of this.

I’m afraid “the beautiful game” reminds me of this.

A few days ago the LA Kings finished off the NY Rangers in the National Hockey League Stanley Cup Finals. Last night, the San Antonio Spurs dispatched LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the National Basketball Association Finals. NFL training camps are still a ways off.

Ordinarily this would begin the best time of summer for baseball fans like me, because baseball takes the American sporting world’s center stage without distraction. Except, it being 2014, we have something called the World Cup.

I’ll be rooting for the Americans this afternoon against Ghana. (Though I have to say, I feel a little villainous rooting against Ghana in anything.) And I love how the Cup reveals just how much the United States is still a melting pot — folks from other countries are nuts for the World Cup, and at some bars and restaurants here in Chicago, it’s like a United Nations meeting. I know these players are great athletes. And I know that if I’d grown up playing and watching it, I’d see the nuances that keep people watching for 90 minutes of a 1-0 match.

But. I didn’t. Grow up watching and playing soccer, that is. So I’m left to try to appreciate it with, so far, not a lot of luck. I remind myself that some of my best friends love the game. As does my nephew Aaron. Then I look up and see these guys running around endlessly and doing these sort of funky trained seal tricks with their feet and heads but not using their hands. What kind of game/sport doesn’t make hand-eye coordination a central part of the endeavor? Ski jumping?

I tell myself that most of the rest of the world can’t be wrong, but then I look up and see one of these stars take a dramatic fake pratfall in hopes of giving the opponent a penalty, and I think, well, maybe most of the rest of the world does have it wrong.

Then I remember that lots of folks don’t like baseball because they think it’s boring and that I think it’s only because they don’t know enough about the game to know what to watch. And that soccer’s probably the same way. So I’ve made an appointment with Aaron to watch a game with him at my side, so that he can school me on what I’m watching.

Doesn’t matter which one — just as long as the White Sox aren’t playing that day.

Dean Fischer On June 16, 2014 at 12:59 pm

I love it!

Brigitte Erbe On June 16, 2014 at 1:29 pm

You made your point. And here is my story to support it. I was babysitting, and the kids were watching a baseball game. I had just come from Germany, and knew nothing about baseball (I know nothing about soccer, either). Here is how I described the game: One guy is throwing a ball so that the other guy can’t hit it. No fun in that! I married Bill, a St. Louis Cardinals fan, and after the wedding we went to St. Louis and watched the Cardinals in 100+ temperatures. I learned to keep score. What fun!

Mike On June 18, 2014 at 9:11 am

Briggitte, Beth and I were at a game at the Old Busch stadium in awful heat. I don’t think I would’ve had the energy to keep score:)

Jim On June 16, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Perhaps the NBA has learned from soccer about the fake pratfall. Or…it could be the other way round.

Mike On June 18, 2014 at 9:11 am

Yeah, pretty similar, was thinking the same thing Jim.

Rick On June 16, 2014 at 5:55 pm

And I have never seen such fans, even if they are not attending a game. Ran into a bunch on a Sunday morning in a pub in London. Yes, I was in a pub on Sunday morning!

The Empty Pen On June 17, 2014 at 11:30 pm

I’m a soccer fan and don’t get baseball, so I think your analogy is apt.

Curious how your tutoring session with Aaron goes.

PS Fans don’t like the diving (or flopping) either.

Mike On June 18, 2014 at 9:13 am

Cam, it was big a fan who pointed out the flopping to me. I thought it was only in the NBA. I’m hoping by the end of this Cup I have learned to understand what I’m watching. Some of the announcers/commentators are better than others at explaining why one team is attacking a certain way, so that helps.

Barbara Gaither On June 18, 2014 at 9:11 am

Love you honesty! Coming from a died-in-the-wool soccer mom, who does not “get” baseball at all, I can appreciate it completely! Hope Aaron can “school you” just a bit! Then maybe I can find someone to help me learn to enjoy and appreciate the game of baseball! There is HOPE!

Mike On June 18, 2014 at 9:14 am

Barbara, if you guys get to Chicago, we’ll go to a ballgame! Even if don’t like the game, there’s food, beer and people watching.

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