The beautiful game

Milpitas High senior goalkeeper Vanessa Martinez blocks a shot in practice.

I love soccer. Well, I don’t have a favorite team or a favorite player, but I can agree that it is a fun game to watch… but only if I’m covering it in some capacity. I can appreciate soccer if I am shooting it or writing about it, as I was last week (excuse the errors in the lede), but I’m not that tempted to follow FIFA or the World Cup.

It’s not that I’m xenophobic or a football elitist. The anti- and pro-soccer sides both have their valid points. I know that soccer will not catch on fully in the United States, and I’m OK with that. But there is something about covering soccer that I love. I can’t quite describe what it is, though.

As Chuck Klosterman points out, soccer is perfect for kids because unless you’re the goalkeeper, the risk of public embarrassment is little. If you’re a football lineman, and you mess up, your quarterback gets sacked. If you’re a basketball defender, and you mess up, the ball handler blows by you. In soccer, you can pretty much just run around, following the ball (Yes, I know, there’s much more to that, but not to a kid).

That is why soccer seems like such a respite from all that mortification; it’s the one aerobic activity where nothingness is expected. Even at the highest levels, every soccer match seems to end 1-0 or 2-1. A normal eleven-year-old can play an entire season without placing toe to sphere and nobody would even notice, assuming he or she does a proper job of running about and avoiding major collisions.

Like soccer, baseball often has low-scoring 1-0 and 2-1 games. Unlike soccer, and most important for Americans, is something happens. There are exciting double plays, upper-deck home runs and 98 mph fastballs. And usually, baseball does not settle for a tie.

But shooting soccer, or writing about it, without having any vested interests, is a total blast for me. A college soccer coach once described soccer to me as “the beautiful game.” And I can see that. It’s like wine, kind of an acquired taste and not for everyone. But once you get used to it, you can see the pure attraction of it. I’m not quite a hooligan, but I can understand why so many people love soccer.

Autofocus 1, Me 0

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