Opinion

A primer on the game of soccer

Americans don’t seem to be enjoying the World Cup soccer championships, due no doubt to ignorance of the history and unique rules of the game.

Soccer, or football as it is called elsewhere, got its start in prehistoric times when the first “buffalo wing” craze swept through cannibalistic tribes in Central America and Middle Europe. Why they were called “buffalo” wings is lost in history, but perhaps the originators of the recipe wanted finicky eaters to think they were eating buffalo. Whatever, with buffalo wings so popular, winners of battles wouldn’t bother killing their opponents, they’d just take the “wings,” which would be deep fried in bear fat.

The popularity of buffalo wings left many losing warriors lacking arms, but otherwise healthy. One day a cannibal chief kicked a skull over to a group of armless loiters playing hackey sack with dried kidneys and a new game was born. By kicking the skull around, the armless had something else to occupy their time. Before long the other cannibals would sit around watching these kicking games as they munched on buffalo wings and swilled fermented buffalo urine. Meanwhile, in North America, buffalo wings would be unknown for many centuries, so games developed there in which the players could use their hands, such as baseball, basketball and American football. This gulf between the two cultures would never be spanned, as indicated by the TV ratings in America for World Cup games. Americans think it’s plain stupid to play a game without your hands, not realizing the historic roots of the game of soccer.

Besides the armless nature of the game, Americans are mystified by the cards used by the referees. It’s quite simple, and it’s related to the lack of timeouts in soccer. They never stop playing as the cannibals wisely ate the first advertiser to suggest TV timeouts. A yellow card simply means someone needs to go to the bathroom, and a red card means it’s too late so that player must be removed from the game because nobody wants to play with him.

Americans also are troubled by the lack of scoring in soccer. Many games end tied 0-0, mainly because armless cannibals were afraid to end a game and risk getting the rest of themselves eaten by irate fans. In modern times, the game is ended by the teams taking turns kicking the ball at the goal. If basketball was played the same way, players would shoot free throws after regulation time to decide the winner. Nobody would want Shaquille O’Neal on their side.

The behavior of soccer fans is also perplexing to Americans, as they constantly blow airhorns and murmur loudly for the duration of the game, regardless of the inaction on the field. This behavior has its historic roots in a 1934 game in Patagonia, when a Guinness record was set when 104,000 soccer fans went to sleep simultaneously. Since then, air horns and murmuring have been required to keep fans awake and avoid embarrassing the sport.

Now that you know the history of the game, perhaps you can watch the World Cup finals this month with more appreciation. Soccer really isn’t so bad if you’ve got plenty of buffalo wings and fermented urine to go with it.

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