Archive for the ‘Soccer’ Category

With Euro Cup 2012 getting under way this past weekend, I feel inclined to talk a bit of soccer. Now I realize this subject matter only appeals to the minority of American sports fans, but there has been quite a hairy conspiracy brewing in the soccer world over the past year, and I feel I owe it to my readers to bring it to their attention. While I consider this conspiracy to be true (beyond a reasonable doubt), I will leave it up to you, the readers, to judge for yourself.

The cover-up I speak of is the most blatant cover-up of all. It’s literally covering up one’s head. Over the past 12 months, Wayne Rooney – England’s most dynamic soccer player – has undergone an incredible transformation atop of his cranium. While I fully acknowledge that my own hairline much more resembles Jason Statham than Jason Momoa, I will nevertheless throw stones and scrutinize this perplexing marvel.

You see – those of us with a ‘sunroof’ on the top of our heads needed a world-class soccer player we could truly relate to – not everyone can empathize with the genetically blessed David Beckham’s or Chistiano Ronaldo’s of the world – so we had to find our own player. That man was Wayne Rooney.

Rooney was a man that the everyday man could root for. He was a working class wanker who had overcome countless obstacles on his way to flourishing on the world’s biggest soccer stage – Manchester United. He had a tattoo with the phrase “Just Enough Education to Perform”. He dealt with spells of loneliness that only a plethora of ‘ladies of the night’ could help squelch (allegedly). He was your everyday man, dealing with everyday problems. He too, was balding.

But over the past 12 months, there has been a change in our beloved Wayne Rooney. At first, no one could quite put their finger on it. Questions like – “Does something look different about him?” and “What the hell is going on with Rooney’s head?” – quickly morphed into sheer disbelief. Phrases like – “No, Rooney would never do that!” and “Why, Rooney? WHY?!?!” – soon spewed from the mouths of his devoted, fellow-balding supporters. Yes, Rooney had done it. He had changed. He had sold out! After years of faithfully embracing the fact he was one of us – gracefully balding – Rooney did what only a man with his ridiculous wealth could dream of doing… he bought a new head of hair. Gasp!

There are allegations Rooney received a $37,500 hair transplant. Tear. Sniffle. Tear. But why, Wayne, why?!? You were our poster boy! We all believed if Wayne Rooney could gracefully accept his receding fate, then we all could! We thought we were in this together! I guess, we were wrong…

The sky-high view of soccer camera angles, ones which fully exposed Rooney’s open sky-light, must have finally cracked through the armor of our beloved icon. After all, he is only a man. Even if he was our man. I guess we should all be happy for him. Rooney made a decision to soothe his soul. You only live once. He deserves to be happy. Only it didn’t really work…

Rooney has now become the poster boy against hair transplants. The expensive fur growing atop his once-proud balding dome has transformed Rooney into an awkward, create-a-player look-a-like who exhibits the characteristics of the boy from Mad Magazine – only more strange. For all of us who once loved Rooney for our ability to relate with his struggle, we can’t help but feel a bit of satisfaction. It’s like seeing an ex-girlfriend who dumped you that is unhappy in her next relationship. It doesn’t do you any good, but you can’t help to feel a little something…

Fathers always warn their daughters not to get tattoos because “You don’t put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari.” Well, Wayne Rooney, you were our Ferrari. We can’t believe you put that bumper sticker on it. That’s that.

Don’t Give a Shit – 98.99%

Semi-Give a Shit – 1%

Diehard Fans – .01%

The above results are an unofficial poll I took in my head over this past weekend of American sports fans’ feelings toward soccer. While the fierce apathy among American fans is nothing new, I personally had a revelation at 5pm this past Saturday.  At that moment, I realized that I am in the 1%.

So how does a person who hasn’t kicked a soccer ball since his 8th birthday make the not-so-life-altering decision to go from being part of the ‘don’t give a shit’ majority to a full-fledged member of the ‘semi-give a shit’ fraternity? Well, let me tell you…

There are three simple reasons for my evolution:

1) Fifa 2010

2) A new friend from England

3) The thrill of jumping on a bandwagon

Reason Number One

My first dabble of getting back into soccer came in the Spring of 2010 when I decided to purchase the video game – Fifa 2010. (Please disregard the fact that I was 26 and actively buying video games. Believe me, it’s a can of worms better left unopened). Upon some encouragement from buddies, I bought the game despite knowing that I genuinely ‘didn’t give a shit’ about soccer. Competitive as I am, I soon found myself attempting to master the game, if only to end the relentless trash talking that accompanies a not-so-pleasant ass kicking. Nevertheless, at the time I bought the game, Barcelona had just won the European Champions League and was therefore the trendy choice for gamers to play with. Not having a favorite team, I randomly switched among many well-known teams in hopes of finding one that could challenge this mighty Barcelona squad.

Unfortunately for my sensitive ego, whomever I picked was simply no match for the champs. Worst of all, Barcelona had this annoying, mullet-rocking, Spanish defender who the game creators felt like blessing with the strength of Thor. No matter whom I chose to play with, Carles Puyol (the aforementioned God of strength) would simply pimp-slap my goal scorers away from the ball and return it to his teammates. Regardless of how loud I bitched and moaned about this ‘gliche’ in the game, nothing changed. I almost got to the point where I would refuse to play if my opponent was going to use this ‘cheating’ Barcelona squad.  But then it happened… I found My Man! Let me introduce you to Didier Drogba.

If Carles Puyol was Thor, then Didier Drogba was Hulk. Drogba was the first player I found who could answer Puyol’s power with power of his own. The first time Droba manhandled Puyol on his way to scoring a goal, I felt like Happy Gilmore staring at Shooter McGavin and saying, “Happy learned how to putt. Uh oh.” Drogba played for Chelsea. His team quickly became My Team! I now found myself with something within the soccer world that I genuinely liked – Chelsea Football Club.

Reason Number 2

After moving to New York the following Spring, I quickly befriended a bloke named Mike who was born and raised in England. Mike, loving all things London, was of course a soccer fan.  Not afraid to talk sport over a pint (or 10), Mike and I quickly hit it off. As our first discussion of soccer came up, I told Mike I was a Chelsea fan. To this day, the amount of disgust that was on Mike’s face when I told him I supported Chelsea has never been matched.

Little did Mike know at the time, but the only reason I liked Chelsea was because I am a video game nerd. Regardless, my mentioning of Chelsea led to a story about how a Russian billionaire had recently bought Chelsea and pumped billions of dollars into the club in order to make them relevant. But to the dismay of many, this ‘Russian Sugar Daddy’ not only made Chelsea relevant, but also made them really DAMN GOOD in the process. This really chapped the asses of all the soccer traditionalists in London, so much to the point where many claimed Chelsea had ‘ruined the game’ with its infusion of foreign money. It was at that moment (being the ‘don’t give a shit” soccer fan that I was), I knew I had made the right choice!

Over the next year, I spent many weekends meeting Mike at the pub to watch soccer as we shook out the cobwebs from the evening before. Soccer and a bite to eat quickly became our ritual. Over time, soccer was like novacaine – slowly but surely numbing all the reasons I thought I didn’t like it, and eventually filling me with a slight feeling of euphoria. I always took a guilty pleasure in Chelsea winning because everyone else in the pub was so appalled. I think that was the American in me. See to me, I was simply cheering for the capitalistic nature of our ‘Russian Sugar Daddy’. Who cares if he exploited his vast wealth of resources? By that time, I was a semi-regular viewer of soccer.

Reason Number 3

For the most part, this past season of Chelsea soccer had been a huge disappointment. A controversial coaching change, the additions of promising talent, and a drastic change in playing style had all fallen flat. After finishing in the top-3 of the English Premier League for eight straight seasons, the lads finished in a lowly 6th. But despite the struggles in the Premier League, Chelsea was defying the odds by continuously advancing in the European Champions League (a league only top teams from all over European qualify for, and generally considered the highest standard of soccer there is).

In the semi-finals of the Champions League, Chelsea found itself up against Barcelona. Still considered the top squad in the world and still led by their mullet-laden Carles Puyol, Barcelona was a heavy, heavy favorite. In a move that shocked the world, Chelsea essentially lined up ten guys across to the goal line, and let My Man Didier Drogba just roam aimlessly on the other half of the field. Somehow, despite playing some of the most ugly ‘football’ in the history of the world, Chelsea had beaten Barcelona and advanced to the ‘Super Bowl’ of soccer.

The Champions League Final, aka the ‘Super Bowl’ of soccer, took place this past Saturday against a Bayern Munich squad having the luxury of playing in their home stadium. I found myself making this game ‘must-see television’. In the comfort of a laidback Brooklyn bar, I felt a sense of excitement in watching My Boys on soccer’s biggest stage. Not only was I fully on the Chelsea bandwagon, I was sitting shotgun. In a game that was ultimately on dreaded penalty kicks, Chelsea prevailed and won their first ever Champions League title.

Guilt and How I Know I ‘Semi-Give a Shit’

Along with the expected sense of euphoria that came with winning, I also felt a heavy sense of guilt. I mean, I only ‘semi-cared’ about soccer for less than two seasons and got to watch My Team win the sport’s most coveted trophy. My buddy Mike, a lifelong Tottenham Spurs fan, has waited (and is still waiting) his entire life for such a moment. While being a Phoenix Suns and Arizona Cardinals fan can help me empathize with his plight, it surely didn’t ease the guilt.

But even more concerning than Mike’s feelings, was what transpired shortly after Chelsea’s improbable victory. Within hours of the triumph, Chelsea’s leader (and the only reason I ever cared about them), Didier Drogba, announced he would not be returning to the team next season. As I soaked the news in, I was genuinely torn as to whom I should cheer for in the future. Do I support Drogba or Chelsea? As of now, I still don’t know what the answer will be. But the fact I even asked the question means I am now in the 1% of American soccer fans. I now ‘semi-give a shit’. That’s That.