Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Ruth: Hard to get a kick out of World Cup

With apologies (not really) to all you soccer fans, the stultifying World Cup snore-fest in Brazil might be better described as The Beautiful Lame.

I readily admit the idea of enduring a novena masquerading as a sporting event ranks up there with the excitement of sitting on hold with Citizens Property Insurance, or being stuck in the middle seat between two crying babies on a flight to Australia.

So there we were Sunday night surfing the cable channels when we stumbled upon the waning two or three minutes of the United States sucker match with Portugal. Why not do our patriotic duty and catch the final moments, thereby absolving us from any further exposure to the World Crock?

Time expired. USA won the game 2-1 and we were free to go back to sleep. Except it wasn't over. For some insanely dense reason, the officials added five minutes to the proceedings, giving Portugal time to tie the game.

As others more knowledgeable about The Beautiful Shame explained, since soccer does not allow for timeouts, the clock keeps rolling when players fake getting hurt and it takes time to cart the body off the pitch. The time is later added to extra minutes after the match ends. This is, of course, moronic.

Apparently the American team has been faulted for not artfully taking more dives than Greg Louganis. Elsewhere around the soccer world, other teams have learned to put on a greater show of deathbed anguish than Barbara Hershey in Beaches, even when an opposing player merely levels the stink eye in their general direction.

The tie score with Portugal set off great weeping and wailing on the part of American soccer fans, many of whom had traveled into a dense Brazilian rainforest to dress up like Batman to cheer on their countrymen. U! S! Oy-vey!

"This is the worst day of my life," bemoaned one inconsolable young man. The worst day of his life? Really? A tie in a soccer game constitutes the worst day in his entire existence? Worse than the death of a loved one? Worse than contracting a terminal illness? Worse than losing a house, a job, a lifetime of savings?

If this chap really wants to experience what it is like to have the worst day in his life, perhaps he should attempt to open a Victoria's Secret in ISIS-occupied Iraq.

The Somnambulance in Manaus now set the stage for a titanic confrontation between the U.S.A. and Germany scheduled for today. Think of this as the Battle of the Dullge.

Because U.S.A. and Germany have so many off-the-field personal and professional conflicts of interest/associations with one another, speculation has run rampant the teams will play pattycake for 90 minutes with a few well executed iterations of Sonny Corleone's death throes tossed in just to keep things interesting. Then a prearranged tie score will be declared, sending both teams into the next round of competition. One wonders if some Chicago aldermen will be flown in as referees to make sure the fix goes as planned.

Some may be understandably vexed that the World Cup, which has sort of become the Scientology of Sports, has such a lousy reputation for fair play. After all, this is a game that recently had to deal with an officiating scandal. Then there is the blatant practice of players flopping with faux injuries, practically re-creating the woodchipper scene from Fargo, to draw a penalty.

When the perception exists that the outcome of a soccer game is more predictable than a World Wrestling Federation "championship" bout, purists should be concerned. But there's hope.

Perhaps one way to approach watching (if you must) the World Con is to think of the games as a variation of jai-alai, which has long been thought to be, ahem, somewhat less than sportsmanship in its ideal form.

But here's the thing about jai-alai. During the years a fronton operated in Tampa, I dropped a few bucks wagering on players fully aware of the rumors the games had been subjected to a sort of Manifest Destiny of parimutuel wagering.

But since I had no idea how the books might have been marinated behind the scenes, my bet had just as much chance of coming out in my favor as if everything was purer than a baby's skin. Of course, there's another way to avoid the possibility that today might turn out to be the worst day in your life, especially if you don't have a life. Turn the channel.

You won't be missing much of the Beautiful Same Old.

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