- What’s the deal with injury time?
- How many substitutes do you get?
- What time is Happy Hour?
27 June 2010
Like many kids 13 and under, I grew up playing soccer.
And like most kids 14 and over, it stopped there.
I did play on my fraternity’s intramural soccer team in college, but I probably did it to give me one more excuse to avoid going to class.
In my town growing up, we had a team from the North American Soccer League, the NASL.
The NASL was THE professional outdoor soccer league in this country from 1968 to 1984.
We went to quite a few games, which were played in the same stadium where our NFL team played its games.
The only difference was the NFL team would sell out the 60,000 plus seats, while the NASL soccer team would draw about 3,000.
So if you chewed too loud on your popcorn at the soccer game, the goalie could hear it.
We were told in the 70’s that with the amount of kids playing soccer it would be the next great sport in the United States.
We were told in the 80’s that with the amount of kids playing soccer it would be the next great sport in the United States.
We were told in the 90’s that with the amount of kids playing soccer it would be the next great sport in the United States.
We were told in the 2000‘s that with the amount of kids playing soccer it would be the next great sport in the United States.
This is not a recording.
The bottom line is that tons of kids, including my youngest one, are still playing soccer.
And it still hasn’t meant very much to the popularity of grown up soccer in this country.
Every four years, 32 countries compete in the World Cup -- imagine if the Super Bowl had a baby with the Olympics.
It’s the biggest event for the world’s most popular sport.
The United States team has never won the month-long tournament, but we did finish in 3rd place.
Well the tournament is going on right now in South Africa and Saturday the U.S. met the country of Ghana in an elimination game.
The loser goes home.
The winner advances to the quarterfinals to face Uruguay, a country with a population of 3.3 million, approximately the same size as Chicago + Tucson.
My son’s baseball team also had a game on Saturday, about an hour away from our home.
They won with five runs in the top of the last inning, including a go-ahead two-run single by my son.
I had to mention that, right?
Well after the game, we stopped a local watering hole for a bite to eat.
When we got there the USA-Ghana game was on TV.
Three TV’s actually -- two in English and one in Spanish.
For whatever reason, the Spanish broadcast was actually a second ahead.
By the time we sat down, the US was losing 2-1 in the first overtime.
Unlike the NFL, it’s not sudden death. If the game is tied after 90 minutes of regulation, you play two 15-minute overtime periods.
If the game is tied after overtime, you go to a shootout.
If you can’t tell, I know a little something about soccer.
Not a lot, but a little.
But you would’ve thought that Pele was sitting there.
When I explained the overtime to my son, the questions started flying from across the room:
Fortunately there was a guy at the bar who knew more than I did, so I let him answer all the questions.
As we watched the rest of the game, my son informed me that Ghana had a home field advantage.
Why is that I said...
...Well at least they are on the same continent as South Africa.
That’s better analysis than I got on the Spanish channel.
I did learn from the English broadcast that Ghana is the size of Oregon.
I also learned from Wikipedia that Ghana has 24 million people, the same as Texas.
But with all due respect to the fine people of Ghana, we should not lose to Ghana in any sport.
I realize that sounds very ignorant on my part -- and I would very much agree -- but really?
We are going to lose to Ghana? With a chance to play Uruguay?
With a chance to go to a World Cup Semi-final?
For the first time since... 1930.
Oh, I guess we are not much of a soccer powerhouse.
Of course, we lost to Ghana four years ago in the 2006 World Cup to get eliminated, so there goes that theory.
Well, sure enough, we lost again.
We played 90+ minutes of regulation and 30+ minutes of extra time and when it was all over, we lost 2-1.
Prompting my son to say, U.S. is a Ghana (goner).
Oh well, at least it's time for Happy Hour.