Thursday, July 03, 2014
WESTHAMPTON — I played high school and collegiate soccer in the 50s and 60s. Has the game ever changed! We had boots the size of barges that navigated the Erie Canal. We nailed in our cleats. Balls were kicked in from the sidelines — there were no throw-ins. Goalies (keepers) could take three steps after controlling the ball, then they had to bounce the ball in order to take three more.
The preferred offensive formations of yore were the “W” and the “M.”
Well, with World Cup fever around us, I thought I would tune in and see what else has happened to the “beautiful game.”
The first thing I noticed was that without a doubt, the players were incredibly skillful and in fantastic physical shape. I thought this was going to be quite an experience. I was right. I noticed players executing improbable, acrobatic and dramatic dives when they were not even touched by an opposing player. They often remained on the pitch, apparently incapacitated, while play continued around them. At some point, several men with a stretcher came toddling out to carry them away, but they eventually turned around with an empty stretcher while the “injured” player leaped up, ran down the field and scored a goal.
I was intrigued by the fact that after time had run out, an additional amount of time was always added. How interesting that it was always an even number of additional minutes ... never any seconds. It must have been determined by a lottery since there is no visible clock to be seen.
As the game progressed, one player bit another one on the neck, and then went through a drama illustrating that the other player had shouldered him in the mouth. No penalty. Play on. (Yes, a tribunal was called after the match and Dracula was punished.)
Players were constantly battling each other and tumbling to the turf with apparently no possibility of getting up. One minute later they were shaking hands, apologizing and laughing it off. Opposing players were constantly pulling each other’s jerseys and elbowing each other with yellow cards being distributed at what seemed to be in random fashion.
Perhaps the modern-day aficionado might criticize me for being a dinosaur, for not appreciating the newer nuances of the sport. He could be right. After all, I much prefer that the pitcher take his cuts than have some designated hitter step in the box for him.
As the match was winding to a close (without knowing how many additional minutes might be added, of course) I recognized what was really bothering me about this charade. It was the announcers. Why is it that we must have British announcers for soccer? England was eliminated before the first round was completed! The mystique is gone already. The words “clever” and “brilliant” and other such adjectives being used to describe the mayhem out on the field was driving me nuts. I dove for the clicker and pushed any button at random, just to be spared hyperbole. As chance would have it, I ended up on the Cooking Channel. What a relief. Now I can make a “clever” plum pudding.
Jonathan Kahane lives in Westhampton.
With World Cup fever around us, I thought I would tune in and see what has happened to the “beautiful game.”