The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

June 18, 2014

COLUMN: Not ready to dive into the World Cup

The headlines hailed the good news. Twitter blew up with exclamations of joy and celebration with comments such as “Absolutely Fantastic!” and “Epic victory.” And what was this momentous sporting moment? A one-goal victory by the USA over Ghana Monday in its opener in the World Cup.

Yes, Ghana, a country roughly the size of the state of Oregon, but with fewer socialists.

Now, far be it from me to rain on anybody’s parade, but seriously, if we are brought to near-celebratory partying in the streets over a 2-1 victory over Ghana, that’s a little bit discomforting.

Sure, folks are quick to point out Ghana downed the U.S. in the last World Cup and this was a mater of exacting revenge, but that in itself speaks volumes to the state of soccer in the U.S. more than anything else. Let’s be honest here, no matter the event, if the U.S. fields a team, it should squash a nation like Ghana, the equivalent of a tick on the back of an eagle.

Which is not to say the game wasn’t exciting, but really should it have been?  Soccer has mystified most of America, even though now we are subjected to ESPN and others forcing it down our collective throats while admonishing us that the world loves soccer, so what is our problem?

Well, the world also loved being ruled by monarchies until the U.S. took the lead and showed the world something called democracy, although admittedly, in Washington today, it seems we are backsliding toward one-person rule.

Soccer is a bit perplexing. You have a huge field ... sorry, pitch ... with two giant, huge goals on each end that nobody can seem to, except on rare occasions, put the ball into the goal. You have a clock, but then subjective “extra time” gets added for injury time.

Oh, and about those injuries and stoppages. Soccer has taken the art of diving to such levels that even U.S. Olympic diving coach Drew Johansen is scouting the games.

“I have been watching the World Cup and have been very impressed with the dives I have seen,” Johansen told The Associated Press, only half-kiddingly. “Similar to the sport of diving, it’s all about getting the attention of the judges (referees).”

What led to that assessment?

An obvious dive by Brazil’s Fred (yes, just “Fred”) led to a go-ahead penalty kick against Croatia that was so appalling, France’s Loic Remy called it a disgrace. And when a Frenchman is appalled by an unmanly act, you know it must be pretty egregious.

Johansen said Fred’s dive would have earned a 9.5 on the Olympic scale.

But is America really buying into the World Cup hype? It’s game against Ghana drew 11.1 million viewers, compared to 19.7 million four years ago. So, maybe the hype is just that.

And World Cup soccer can prove deadly to one’s health. A Chinese fan reportedly died from sleep deprivation due to staying awake to catch every World Cup game on TV. Truly tragic, when you consider he could have just caught the highlights and lost no sleep at all, because the highlights are so few and far between. An occasional goal, the frequent flop and you are up to speed.

And well-rested.

Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at daver@enidnews.com.

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