I have a confession to make. Every two years I watch a lot of soccer. And every two years, I always, always think the same thing: I am never watching another game. Ever.
But it never fails. The next time the World Cup or the European Championships roll around I find myself drawn to the television the way a Catholic schoolboy is drawn to his dad’s porn stash: with heart pounding excitement mixed with shame and self-loathing. This time it will be different, you think. Just one little peek. What can it hurt, right? And yet, it always ends the same way. Eventually, you find yourself in a locked bathroom with the water running, not sure if it was worth it, wondering why you just can’t stop and hoping against hope your mom won’t notice the inordinate amount of toilet paper that seems to have vanished from the roll. And that’s exactly how I feel after watching every Euro or World Cup final (um…without the toilet paper). Exhausted. Used. And a little dirty.
And the reason is quite simple. It’s the diving stupid!
I’m not talking about the awkward flopping of a player hoping to draw a competitive advantage. After all, we hockey fans don’t have to go too far to see one of our own doing the same thing (Hellooooo…Darcy).
No, I’m talking about the effeminate girly-men rolling around on the ground after being brushed, if touched at all, by an opponent, clutching an ankle, or knee, or baby toe as if it had just been amputated, while wailing at the top of their lungs that OH GOD, I’VE BEEN SHOT!! IT HURRRRRTS! The high theater continues with the inevitable appearance of stretcher bearers (stretcher bearers!) who whisk the poor bastard to the sidelines, whereupon a little man will produce a magic aerosol can from his little-man gym bag, and spray the affected area. And like Lazarus rising from the tomb, the dying man jogs back onto the field at the next whistle, ready to start the show all over again. Come to think of it, I may still be talking about Darcy. But I digress.
Every time I see that, particularly at major international tournaments like Euro08, I can’t help but contrast that with the sight of Ryan Smyth taking a dozen stitches to the forehead in the hallway behind the Oilers bench without missing a shift in a playoff series against Dallas, or Chris Draper and Ryan Malone doing their best to score a goal by deflecting a slap shot with their face in this year’s Finals. Did I mention that Malone was playing with a broken nose at the time?
If you’re like me (and God help you if you are), you have at least one crazy-ass soccer fan among your circle of acquaintances. They are a passionate lot, these fans. They will bombard you with stories about how badly it hurt when
Sorry folks, but until soccer rids itself of the downright embarrassing displays put on by its stable of castratti, it will remain, to me and to millions of North Americans who prefer their sports a tad more robust, as a biannual curiosity, but nothing we'd bring home to mother. Or spend money on.
Now if you'll excuse me, the semis are coming up. I have to go refill the toilet paper.