A Surfeit of Soccer

world cup games in dupont circle by cristinabe on flickr.com via a Creative Commons Attribution LicenceFinally, blissfully, we near the Quarterfinal stage of the 2010 World Cup—not because the quality of play increases (mostly) as the teams are winnowed down, not because the stakes are higher and teams play for wins (usually) instead of group stage points, but because we’ll get a break for a few days.

Whew. It’s been soccer day in and day out for nearly three weeks. We get two days off before Friday’s matches.

I’ve watched a ton of soccer this World Cup, as I’ve tried to with every World Cup since 1986 (anyone remember the bright red Budweiser border around the match action on American TV for the Final that year, to deal with the lack of commercial time-outs?), but with online streaming, I’m watching more than I thought I could. Not just the marquee matches, either, but games like Cameroon/Denmark and Slovakia/New Zealand.

Why? Because I live in fear of missing that transcendent goal, that last-ditch equalizer, that stud-perfect tackle or fingertip, round-the-post save. The outcomes of the games are, largely, irrelevant to me as a neutral in those matches, but watching an after-the-fact replay just doesn’t cut it. There’s something quite unsatisfying in seeing a soccer highlight stripped of its game context.

To watch soccer, to spectate, requires experiencing the whole match. Tension is built into soccer, almost symphonically; a goal against the run of play has a much different flavor when you’ve watched the other side dominate, a quick shriek of woodwinds breaking a long melody by strings (assuming woodwinds can shriek, of course). A replay is soccer shorn of that context, and however much I glory at a far post cross met by a header, if I didn’t see that same towering center back almost give up a goal earlier by getting nutmegged, it lacks the nuance that makes soccer such a wonderful sport. It’s just a goal, and not a moment.

And I need a break. It’s exhausting.

(Image courtesy of Cristina Bejarano via a Creative Commons Attribution License)

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