Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate The World Cup




If you would have told me three months ago that I would be driving around listening to some Irish guys call a soccer game on the radio between Algeria and Belgium, I would have said you were out of your mind.  However, I was doing just that, white knuckling a foolhardy wager I had made on Belgium to soundly defeat the “Desert Rats” of Algeria.  It is important to note that I know almost nothing about futbol, and even less about these two specific national squads.  I do love having some action going on in International Events played in the afternoon like this though, where I can bet based on sound principals like beer preferences and random prejudices.

Let’s take this game for example.  I’m not even 100% positive where Algeria is located, but I’m pretty sure it is really hot and dusty with lots of Anti-American sentiment.  Meanwhile the good people of Belgium have given the world La Chouffe, Abbey Ales, French Fries, and excellence in the art of the chocolatier.  Most of the people I have met in Belgium have been exceptionally nice, and usually quirky in a fabulous way.  I picture them all gathered at some pub all jacked up on high alcohol ale watching this match.  Contrast that with the fact I don’t know anyone from Algeria, and I think of kids in rubber sandals throwing rocks at me (though I am pretty sure I am confusing Algeria with Yemen).  That’s right; I’m all in on Belgium.

I couldn’t bring myself to bet on Mexico, who are sort of the Chicago Cubs of international soccer.  I’m staring at their game vs Brazil right now, knowing full well like everyone else on the planet that Mexico will lose in heartbreaking fashion.  I have always loved traveling to Mexico.  The people are warm, have an unbelievable work ethic, and are about as libertarian as anyone in Belgium… though you very seldom find a dozen headless drug cartel victims hanging from highway overpasses in Belgium.  In Mexico people do what they want to do.  I like that.  Fellow wagerers take note:  I have noticed in very careful observation on my travels there that the Mexicans are not an athletic people.  Two things that one will rarely see while traveling in Mexico… 1)  Mexicans running.  2)  Mexicans lifting weights. 

These are for the most part a short hefty people.  Success on the pitch is probably not easy for players that are 5-4 and 210 pounds.  Their poor little legs can’t move that girth.  How can they hope to run around with all those tanned long legged Brazilians that do nothing but play soccer since birth?  Isn't Pele on that team?  See?  The key is to avoid the facts and embrace flimsy stereotypes.  Bam.  I’m on Brazil.

I am mostly mystified by the game.  I don’t understand most of the rules.  I don’t understand what they are trying to accomplish when they keep kicking it back to their goaltender.  The biggest problem I have is regardless of where a player is hit by another, he immediately grabs his face like acid was thrown into it.  A guy gets kicked in the shin, and his hands go to his face with a “Holy Christ!  My eyes!  My fucking eyes!  I’m blind!  I’m blind!”.  Then the trainers rush out and spray a mysterious chemical on his shin, and he walks off like nothing happened.  Meanwhile when a guy really gets hurt, like that American that got kicked in the face yesterday, it becomes immediately apparent what a real injury looks like when compared to flop acting.  Nobody seems to mind though.  It’s like when a batter walks out of the batter’s box 100 times in at bat I suppose.

I also really like how this is an international event where the US doesn’t just show up and destroy everyone else.  This places me in a fan position I am comfortable in thanks to living in Cleveland; being emotionally invested in a team with almost no chance of winning the championship.  There was probably no louder crowd than the one at the bar I was at on Monday when the US beat Ghana.  As NE Ohio fans, we all know that you have to take your joy when it makes itself available.  Crushing defeat is lurking around the corner.  Still, it was odd to be rejoicing like the Indians won the pennant when our enormous country’s team beat a tiny African nation that probably no one in the room could identify on a map (myself included).

As this nationalistic pageant unfolds, I am struck by how much better it is than the Olympics.  The Olympics were great when the USSR were the bad guys and we had someone to root against.  Now with my past travel and petty prejudices, I finally have a reason to root against nations I otherwise have no real beef with at all.  What could be better than seeing a nation of fans in a country that never crosses your mind like Uruguay leaves a stadium in tears?  Then, on top of that, be able to make a few bucks by betting against them?  Viva la World Cup!  When does that Russia v South Korea match go off anyway?

1 Comments:

At July 25, 2014 at 5:51:00 PM EDT , Blogger AZ said...

Come on Greg. You have been betting on football your whole life. Just the wrong football. Welcome to the club and it is only two ears until the European Championships kick off in France. The Euros is the World Cup, without Argentina and, er Brazil. Better beers. Better quality.

 

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