Soccer is not and should not be the sport of the future

    If any son of mine wants to play soccer, he can do it for the orphanage team.

    Sure, sure, itís the sport of the future. That prediction has been coming around every couple of years with the regularity of a bran muffin addict. Itís not going to happen. Do you know why they are always having those riots at European soccer games? Boredom. Intense, painful, boredom.

    Some people are all hyped up about the new womenís professional soccer league. The only way it has a chance to make it big is if they make the players wear bikinis and remove one item of clothing each time the opposition scores.

    Did you know that games have started in that league? Ahh, so youíre the one.

    Itís one thing to watch soccer in the Olympics when our countryís honor is at stake. People watch lots of events like beach volleyball, the biathlon and swimming when we have the chance to show the rest of the world how much better we are at stuff. Itís a whole different thing on a regular basis.

    Can you name one player in the professional menís league? No fair, youíre the same guy who answered the last question. Get a life.

    Time out for a second: Let me state for the record that soccer players are not sissies. Once you get to the high school level, and sometimes before, the game requires tremendous athleticism, dexterity and stamina.

    Soccer players are far more aptly described as athletes than, say, golfers. You will not see a fat soccer player. By the way, if golfers are athletes, so are bowlers. And if bowlers are athletes, so are pool players.

    It is terrific that UConn won the national soccer championship last year. Anything that brings focus on the positive aspects of our flagship university is a good thing.

    And soccer is an okay sport for girls, who donít (and shouldnít) have the option of playing football.

    Itís the game itself thatís excruciating to watch. On the professional and upper amateur levels, the games last for hours and end up in something like a 2-1 overtime victory. And that would be considered a barnburner. If a hockey game was played on a grass field, but with ice skates, the resulting game would be similar.

    Except for the goalie, no one is allowed to use their hands in soccer. Not using all oneís limbs is a good rule for wheelchair basketball, but not for a sport you expect people to pay money to see.

    Because the ball has to be kicked, and not thrown, passes are made with the precision of the Peruvian Air Force. The essence of soccer is that the ball goes all over the place and the players chase it.

    Now it is true that youth soccer has positively exploded in recent years. This is because the sport appeals to the parents who think "self-esteem" is important. These are the same people who insist on calling spaghetti "pasta."

    Soccer is the ideal sport for self-esteem, because no one ever scores and therefore it is easy for parents to think their child is just as good or better, and certainly no worse, than the next kid.

    There is a soccer league in Massachusetts where they have stopped keeping score so that no one goes home a loser. Iím not making this up.

    Also, some mommies pushed their boys into playing soccer thinking they would be far less likely to be hurt than if they played football. This is a misconception. In soccer, especially youth soccer, one kid will be looking left and running to his right, while another will be looking right and running to his left. Kaboom.

    In Peewee football, you have a 70 pound kid wearing so much padding he is essentially a human Nerf ball. These games look like opposing teams of Michelin men. Action doesnít start until players are all in their positions and looking where they are supposed to look. Itís pretty hard to get hurt. In fact, youth soccer has a far higher injury rate than football does.

    Fortunately, most of these soccer-playing Lord Fauntleroys grow up to be adults and spend their Sundays drinking bear, eating Doritos and watching the NFL like any regular man should.

    And perhaps, basking in the warm glow of the television set, during the commercials, they ponder the choices made for them in their youth.

    I donít know ĖĖ maybe Iím an impractical nostalgist. But I think little boys should pretend to be cowboys and army men, not lawyers and doctors. As they grow up, they should eat Velveeta and Scooter Pies, not brie and Haagen Dazs. And they should play football and baseball, and not soccer.


May 3, 2001