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Don’t Bother Me. I’m at the World Cup.

| June 14, 2014

America's World Cup future. (© FlaglerLive)

America’s World Cup future. (© FlaglerLive)

I don’t know about you, but starting Friday at 4 p.m., I was off to a different world and will be for the next month, without leaving my recliner of course. It’s World Cup time. This is as close as I get to religion once every four years. I realize I’m in the minority here. Soccer, as the game is strangely called in the United States, is still considered elitist, dull, and lacking in that one thing all men and most women have on their mind: scoring. Soccer is mostly foreplay, and the best of it is the Kama Sutra’s equivalent of sport, which is why it can’t build a mass audience in a nation where any delayed gratification is cause for anxiety, depression and an enormous amount of therapy by way of fantasy baseball.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive Still, you should give it a try. It’s not just the game, which, I’ll grant you, can be atrociously dull at times. But so can baseball, whose games can feel like ice ages without the ice, so can what you call American football, where the Wall Street Journal no less calculated that the ball is actually in play a total of 11 minutes in an average game. Talk about dull.

In soccer, the action never stops, the tension can drive up your Xanax bill, and the surprises and reversals of fortune can feel like a cross between a Russian novel and a Greek epic. Every soccer fan bears that cross to the end of every game. Along the way there are moments of incredible beauty, as when a goal is scored from an impossible angle, a pass weaves its way through a wall of defenders like Ulysse’s arrow through those 12 axes, or players string together dazzling passes all the way to goal as if they were improving on the first chapter of Genesis. It’s a form of spontaneous beauty I have no problem comparing to the best art in the greatest museums, with the advantage that soccer is far less stuffy and accessible than art.

Who could watch the Netherlands’ Robin van Persie’s tying goal in Friday’s 5-1 crushing of Spain, the defending champion, and not see art in motion?

Yes, it’s a corrupt sport. There’s match fixing. The granting of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar has now been proven to have been almost criminal. Qatar has never even qualified for the tournament. It’s a slightly more bearable, slightly less regressive autocracy than other Arab tyrannies, and even though it has Al Jazeera to redeem it, it didn’t deserve to win even if both popes alive had refereed the pick. But what sport doesn’t have its cesspools? Need I mention the NFL’s honorary club of rapists, wife-beaters and gun-slingers? Need I mention baseball’s steroid express, which at least revived Henry Flagler’s choo-choo to South Florida for a time? How about Donald Sterling, the exploitation of college athletes, or the homophobia of virtually every sport?

Soccer, in Europe especially, excels at racism and violence. In some stadiums fans make the sound of hissing gas when Jewish-owned teams visit. In many stadiums, black players are pelted with bananas, though I loved the response back in April of one Brazilian who plays for Barcelona in Spain: Dani Alves picked up the banana and ate it as he prepared to take a corner. The tolerance of racism in Europe still floors me. And ESPN’s commentators so far are making too little of the social unrest in Brazil, as if the demonstrations against obscene spending on the World Cup and the police’s violence against demonstrators should not interfere with the fun of the games. Of course it should. How else to make an impact, or a difference? It is possible to be a soccer nut and have a conscience at the same time.

So for the next month, if you’re wondering why FlaglerLive isn’t covering every local politician’s brain-fart over the next four weeks of this dismal election season, it’s because I’ll be happily negligent with my responsibilities, as I am every four years, so I can have a break from local madness to join humanity’s more useful madness, at least outside the United States. I’ll be watching every World Cup game. Give it a try. You might be reborn.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here.

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25 Responses for “Don’t Bother Me. I’m at the World Cup.”

  1. confidential says:

    Enjoy it!!

  2. orphan says:

    Because of all the trashy so-called sports in this country (USA) I have always loved the game of Soccer!
    Your admission to near fanatical devotion to the sport is well taken here in my house.
    Bless you, Pierre.

  3. Charles Ericksen, Jr says:

    I’m with you. Sitting in my chair watching Brighthouse channel 1127, a trip now and then away , but mostly glued to the screen. You see, I went to a high School, that had no football and soccer was THE SPORT. Coach Stuart, took a somewhat uncoordinated , 180 pound 7th grader , and turned him into a quite good HS graduate, who went on to play some college soccer. I remember running laps around the fields , and frequently spraining my right ankle . But then, you played through injuries, thus creating my today’s limp.. When in Mexico, followed the CHIVAS , and while in Barcelona, followed FCBarcelona …Coached and refereed, later in life.
    Great sport, if you understand it!!!

  4. NFL FAN says:


  5. Steve Wolfe says:

    I am so blissfully unaware of soccer that I didn’t know of Europe’s racism. I thought that we simple Americans were urged to observe Europe’s enlightenment or else we’ll perish as a bunch of boorish fools. Now I am also blissfully content to remain unaware of Europe and stay boorishly focused on America. And football. Two chances to see my Packers in action in Florida this fall! That’s more than I ever had in D.C.

  6. Slammin Sammy says:

    I hate soccer. I just never took a liking to it. Glenn, one of my best childhood friends has been a soccer coach all his life. I tried to warm up to it but, I just don’t like the sport. I have to wonder how covering the World Cup is benefiting this community? Probably not at all and the info is all over the media and already reported. Anyway, gotta look up the MLB scores and check on the US Open. I’ll go to ESPN for that information. Have an enjoy reporting on the World Cup.

  7. ScotchRox says:

    That’s it! I’m done with Fagler Live…

    Third world sissy sports coverage & calling Football dull has done it!

    Good by Fagler Live…

  8. Michie B says:

    I’m with you, enjoying every minute…. A true World Cup, not a World Series, that only has American teams. When American parents finally realize that it’s a great sport for your kids to play, instead of a violent game that teaches them to pile on top of each other, where they suffer irreversible brain and head trauma… A sport with true heroes and role models….a game that keeps you on the edge of your seat, and keeps your heart in the pit of your stomach!!!! Can’t wait for Monday!!! Great upsets so far, it’s started off excellent!!!!

  9. Seminole Pride says:

    I hope their no riots. Those Third World Countries can get pretty hostile over that sport.

  10. Soccer Fan! says:

    Anyone who has played understands. It’s the world sport. Watched every game today!

    GO USA! And if they don’t get far, GO HOLLAND! What an amazing game they played against Spain.

  11. Tom Jacks says:

    Soccer sucks, simple as that.

  12. carolyn says:

    Love it too! The World Cup is the most watched television event on the Planet….we all can’t be wrong, lol. So glad to see every game on TV and Jacksonville just hosted the USA team in a friendly and had 50K fans attend, most ever!! Its gaining momentum…..our family will watch every game too! thank goodness for DVR and luckily we are on
    similiar time zones to Brasil, that helps :)))) Keep on watching Pierre & of course say a prayer for England, after last night, we need it! Cheers

  13. confidential says:

    Even Pope Francis is going to watch the match today Argentina versus Bosnia! As the Pope is Argie.
    Lets see those Messi Gooooooaaaaals!

  14. Genie says:

    Happy Father’s Day, FlaglerLive. Good health and safe travels.

  15. Peter Panenski says:

    Why is it only small American children play soccer and not adults ? I know, because its a CHILD’S GAME !

    • Nancy N. says:

      I dare you to say that to David Beckham’s face.

      And don’t even try to tell me you wouldn’t trade places with him in a heartbeat: women drool over him, rich beyond your wildest imagination, hot pop star wife….yup, that’s child’s play.

      You know why American adults don’t play soccer? Because in our country we don’t like to play things that other countries are better than us at, and because no one has figured out how to make money selling it in this country yet.

      • Steve Wolfe says:

        So you propose that Beckham is a bully that would teach Pete a lesson with physical assault? Then who would be rich?

        And Pete should aspire to be rich? I thought rich people are evil beyond our wildest dreams. And also look upon women for their star value as better than what?

        America invented American football by combining a few other sports, and it has grown into a truly American passtime, rich beyond our wildest dreams. We’re not perfect, but I still see more people from other nations emigrating here, and few Americans leaving for greener pastures. Because there are none. Why not just let Pete have his say and all of us enjoy our freedom of speech while we still have what’s left of it.

        • FlaglerLive says:

          Steve, you may want to rethink your assumptions about emigration from the United States:
          The Atlantic: “Why So Many Americans Are Leaving the U.S.
          USNews: “A Growing Trend of Leaving America
          Forbes: “Not Everyone Wants To Live In America
          NYT: “Why Americans Emigrate

          • Steve Wolfe says:

            I didn’t see anything in those articles to suggest a net loss of Americans to emigration, just an increase in emigration by Americans. Because they can and want to. It’s about time some of us took advantage of opportunities abroad, but I’ll bet they aren’t sneaking across anyone’s borders.

        • Nancy N. says:

          I never said that Beckham would invoke physical violence. I just believe that when faced with a worldwide icon of a sport, Peter might not be quite so belligerent in his attitude and name calling about the man’s profession. I was asking him to put his money where his internet mouthing off was and say it directly to the person he was talking about. And suggesting that when it came down to it perhaps he wouldn’t be so brazenly rude as he is when hiding behind his keyboard.

          I know very few people who don’t aspire to be rich. Most are convinced they would different from “those” rich people.

          I really can’t even make sense of your last paragraph. How is “America is the greatest country in the world” a defense of putting down soccer? This can be a great country, and soccer, loved by much of the world outside our borders, can be a great sport. It’s not an either/or argument.

          Peter (and apparently you Steve) needs to realize that America doesn’t define the world. It’s that kind of attitude that makes us hated in a large part of the world and seen as “ugly Americans” – the superior attitude that everything we do is the best and the only right way.

          • Steve Wolfe says:

            When you say “I dare you say it to my (or his) face…” to a man it’s the same thing. There is an expectation of retaliation, and guys don’t spend much time in each other’s faces before fur flies. It’s a guy thingy.

            As for lecturing me or anyone else about our attitude towards other countries, where do you get the high road? I’m proud to be American, not so proud of the rest of the planet. What they think of us is always going to be tainted by a dislike of number 1 by the very nature of being number 2. So be it. I make no apologies for my Americanism. We’ve provided more to the world in our short existance than all the other nations in all of history. It feels good to be me. And I don’t require anyone to like me in order to like myself or my country.

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