Don’t Be Ruud; or, Heads Up!

Sunday, June 25th, 2006, 5:14 pm

Far be it from me, an ignorant American, to preach about the Beautiful Game…but I’m an American, so preach I shall:

  • You will find no bigger booster of JP DellaCammara than me (he was the announcer for the late, lamented Pittsburgh Spirit MISL team), but I for one didn’t think the referee lost control of the Holland-Portugal match. The PLAYERS lost control. You have a ref handing out yellows and reds like crazy, and other than the craven yet savvy dive by Figo, most of them seemed justified. The ref had sent off 2 players and practically dealt a full table of Yellow Card Hold’Em, yet they kept on pushing it. What the hell was Deco thinking, picking the ball up and walking away with it? At the time I felt Figo deserved a straight red for his head-butt, but maybe that’s a bit strong. A pathetic display by both teams, and Portugal now has 2 important players sitting out and half the team in danger of missing the semis if they get past England.
  • I’m quite looking forward to someone explaining to me why Ruud van Nistelrooy wasn’t in that game. Was he hurt? Does Van Basten have a thing against him? Regardless of whatever faults he may have, Ruud is so clinical a finisher he should take to the pitch in a white lab coat with a stethoscope draped over his shoulders. Kuit never looked especially threatening, other than that one late turn that Ricardo parried. I still can’t believe Ruud never debuuted.
  • Where does Van Basten get those short-sleeved, tight-fitting, button-down shirts? 500,000 pushups from now, I’ll need to know.
  • Football is played on a field the size of Vatican City. Hockey is played on what amounts to a glassed-in racquetball court. Can someone explain why hockey is able to shoehorn FOUR officials onto the ice yet soccer makes do with one referee and two linesman who stand along the sidelines? It is an absolute truth, like gravity and evolution, that the officiating in soccer is horrible. Horrible. So, why not have two refs on the pitch (one in front of the action, one trailing), linesman along the touch lines to decide corner and free kicks, and linesman on each side to call offsides? That’s eight officials, about the same the NFL uses for every game. Throw in instant replay for goals and maybe you wouldn’t see major European and South American cities being burned to the ground every 4 years in post-match rioting. Or, at least they’d be burned to the ground for good reason, not because some ref from Cyprus missed an obvious offisdes.
  • David Beckham is perhaps the most famous footballer in the world. Perhaps the most famous person in the world. He’s half of perhaps the most glamorous couple in the world (Brad and Angelina have spent too much time in Namibia to qualify). And yet the moment that will perhaps cement him as an actual sports hero, as opposed to just being a media-boosted celebrity athlete, came when he barfed all over his cleats after he scored on one of his textbook free kicks. Good looking guy. Good looking wife. Nice career. Nice goals. The fact that he puked on the grass, then sucked it up and played another 20 minutes…my hat is off to the man.
  • After Beckham scored they showed Victoria jumping up and down in celebration. I think you could calculate pi to 694,000 places just by staring at her breasts. And I thought it was absolutely charming that little Brooklyn was holding a balloon and eating ice cream on a stick. Just like a human child.
  • Former England striker Gary Lineker once said this: “Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win”. Could England be playing the German role in this World Cup? They’ve been pretty bloody awful, but they keep winning. I know they can’t play against Portugal the same way and expect to win…or can they? Will that game be the one Lampard actually puts a ball on net? Will the semis be the one where Gerrard blasts one of his 35-yard screamers? Will the final be the one where Peter Crouch fouls one off his noggin and ends up knighted and the Viceroy of the British Virgin Islands? It’s a strange enough world.

I watched the latest game at the bar where I play volleyball. The cabana was hosting a party so I went into the bar proper. Inside a few people were having lunch–sitting at the bar was no one except two young women. The first had black hair pooling around creamy white shoulders exposed by the spaghetti straps of her emerald-green top. The other had thick, curly blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, a canary-yellow halter top and a denim miniskirt that Victoria Beckham would say was a bit too revealing. I take a seat at the bar, order a Yuengling, and try to concentrate on the game and not them.

And then the blonde asks the barkeep/proprietor, “Can you turn up the sound on the World Cup game?” It’s true–pretty girls respond to guys who ignore them. I know this is a fundamental fact of life, but damned biology gets in the way sometimes.

He put it on the big screen in the back, giving me an excuse to turn around and watch them and the game at the same time. And we chatted pleasantly about the England game and how the US team tanked and other football-releated topics. Maybe soccer will never take over America the way it has the rest of the world, but let no one doubt that Americans aren’t interested in the World Cup. We like spectacle. We like things that are Big. If two luscious 22-year-old hotties can hold up their end of a converstaion about the quality of officiating in soccer, the game is doing well enough over here.

Probably be watching the games there tomorrow, too. To earn beer money I played 3 heads-up SNGs this morning–and won all three. Thanks in part to my savvy gamesmanship, in part to my feral aggressiveness, and in part to my blinkered overestimation of my game. Actually, I controlled all three games from soup to nuts. I took the initiative. I seized the initiative, I bought the initiative dinner before taking it to a show, and then I met the initiative’s parents before we went away for a weekend to Niagra Falls. I played well. Aside from two tough beats I was the puppetmaster and my foes moved only when I fiddled with their strings. Felt good, my confidence was a bit shaken after yesterday. As you can see, it’s back now. Thanks to my results and, possibly, from the 4 beers I had this afternoon. Possibly.

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7 Responses to “Don’t Be Ruud; or, Heads Up!”

  1. Bob Says:

    I absolutely love soccer, and still play every week despite almost completely losing all of my skill, but I get angry watching all of these pussies diving and then screaming like somebody just tore their heart straight out of their chest.

    I agree with you on the Holland game.

  2. Hassan Beydoun Says:

    Van Bosten need to be fired he think that he is god. no repect to no body.

  3. David Says:

    I’ve ref’ed a fair number of soccer games. Like everything else in the game, it is an art.

    In the US, football is an industrial pursuit. The perfect football play is one that is executed with meticulous precision. For this game, you have an 80-page rule book. The rules are VERY important. And you need quality control at every point in the manufacturing process.

    In soccer, the perfect play is one that will never be recreated. The striker stops and goes, manipulating the defenders to move out of position, then he cranks one up on the ball from a silly angle, and it hooks and dives, or sails, on a wholly unreproducible trajectory, faster than you can imagine. Or, if you are Brazil, five guys one time the ball, caroming like a pinball, until it is suddenly and unexpectedly in the back of the net.

    For this, you have twenty two laws of the game. And after you get past, a field is so big, this is out of bounds, yada yada yada, the rules distill to don’t use your hands and stay onside. You only need three guys to do this. You could ref 90% of a game if you only ran laterally on the half field line.

    My wife said to me, “Why do they count up on the clock? It’s so unamerican.” In the same way that every little foul doesn’t matter, seconds lost or gained here or there don’t really matter. The game is there, with or without the clock.

  4. AlCantHang Says:

    Well put. I totally agree.

    Now…

    I’ve been searching the intranetweb all friggin’ afternoon looking for a picture of Vicky Becks from yesterday’s match. One classic Beckham bender, and one classic Vicky bosom bouncing celebration.

  5. AlCantHang Says:

    Well hell. I just couldn’t find a pic from yesterday’s match.

    This picture will just have to do for now.

  6. F-Train Says:

    Well, I only caught the second half of the Holland game, and at a bad angle at that, but — I think there was probably plenty of blame to go around on both sides (players and official) for unprecedented number of cards.

    Meanwhile, ITA, a man down, wins on a penalty in added time? W. T. F.

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