My Week 198: Soccer Vs. Rugby

Right now, all around the world, there’s a hum, a buzz, an undercurrent if you will. And what is the cause of this intense excitement, you might well ask. It’s World Cup Soccer. Yes, the so-called “beautiful game.” And while I like soccer to a certain extent, and have a history with it (which I’ll get to in a minute), I have to admit that watching professional international soccer can be about as exciting as watching a guy getting a haircut, if the guy getting the haircut kept falling out of the chair and crying because the air from the blowdryer was hurting his hair. But here are some of the problems with professional soccer:

1) Soccer Has An Identity Crisis

Person 1: Oh, boy! I’m going to a soccer game!
Person 2: Who’s playing?
Person 1: The Toronto Football Club against the New York Football Club.
Person 2: I thought you said you were going to a soccer game.
Person 1: Right!

This sport doesn’t even know what it is. Is it football? Because that’s what everyone outside of North America calls it. But here in North America, the soccer teams are called “football clubs” as in, you PLAY soccer FOR a football club, which is super-confusing. Apparently, the word “soccer” comes from 1800s English slang for “association football”. So if the English invented the term, why don’t THEY use it? Personally, I think it was just the Brits taking revenge on the Americans for saying Zee instead of Zed. As was the invention of American football in a tavern somewhere long ago:

1800s American Dude: So what is this football of which you speak?
1800s English Dude: Ah yes, “football”. You will need full body armour like ye knights of olde, an oval ball made from the skin of a pig slaughtered under the full moon, the mathematical skills of Pythagoras in order to understand the rules, and the ability to dance a merry jig in the “end zone”.
1800s American Dude: Cool. We’re on it.
1800s English Dude: *pounds back flagon of ale and snickers*

2) Soccer Is Very Time-Consuming

Now, don’t get me wrong—I’m not a soccer-hater. I just find that “major league” soccer has turned into a game where the object is to play keep-away with a ball for 90 minutes (plus penalty time for all the guys who were writhing in agony because someone brushed against them), and you end up with a score of “nobody to f*ck-all”. It’s incredibly time-wasting. In fact, I know people who PVR soccer games, then just play them on fast forward. This is a great idea when you think about it, because then everyone is running really fast, the ball is being passed like crazy, and the whole game takes less than twenty minutes . That’s a game I can get behind. Oh wait—I’m already behind THAT game. It’s called Rugby Sevens, which is an even faster-paced version of the already phenomenal game of rugby.

3) Soccer Is So Dramatic!

The main reason I like rugby is because of the tackling. The legal kind, not the sucky, sneaky, slide-y soccer kind which doesn’t really hurt but which prompts some pretty outrageous responses . I’m sorry, but if you go down on the field crying and holding your leg and rolling around like you’re dying, you should NOT get to run back on said field 30 seconds later. You SHOULD get an Oscar. Although I recognize that faking injuries happens in rugby too, most of the time if a rugby player goes down on the field screaming and crying, he’s going straight to the hospital and might never play again. But I’ve actually seen soccer games where play is delayed while a player is carried off on a stretcher, only to have him leap up on the sidelines and run back in moments later.

 

“All I said was ‘Good Morning’…”

By now, if you’re a true devotee of the game, you’re probably grumbling and saying to yourself, “What the hell does a middle-aged, secret agency worker know about soccer, anyway? Well, quite a bit, as it turns out, having coached it for several years. Let me tell you, there’s a big difference in the enjoyment level of any game when you have a stake in it, even if you’re staking your enjoyment on the capacity of 4 and 5 year olds to figure out how to pass a ball without tripping. Here’s how that particular phase of my life occurred: When T was 4, he wanted to play soccer. We took him to the local park for registration, and the convenor announced that there was no coach for the Super-Mini-PeeWee team, and if some parents didn’t step up and volunteer, they would have to cancel that age level. All the other parents hung their heads or started finding amazing things in the clouds, and there was T with his little face all excited, so Ken and I offered to coach the team. I hadn’t played soccer since I was a kid myself, and we had to get all the rule books and manuals and cram so that we were ready. Which, as it turns out, if you’ve ever watched 4 year-olds play soccer, was completely unnecessary. If you show a group of 4 year-olds a soccer ball, they will chase it in a large clump like a swarm of bees chasing Winnie the Pooh with his honey jar. And they will do it until they drop, despite your best efforts to come up with plays, or teach them to pass, or coerce them to stay in their position with promises of ice cream after the game. (We always bought them ice cream anyway. They were four years old—they were trying their best, dammit.)

Another thing about four year-olds, and if you know any, you’ll agree with this wholeheartedly, is that they have the attention spans of gerbils. For example, this was our team cheer:

Me: Are you ready?!
Team: Yes!
Me: 1, 2, —wait, where are you all going? No, don’t run on the field yet! You don’t know your positions! We haven’t even finished our cheer!

And if I had a dollar for every time one of my players stopped dead, bent down, picked a dandelion and ran over to give it to me, I could have bought a new whistle. But they WERE adorable little people, so I’d just tuck the dandelion behind my ear, smile and say, “Awesome! Now get back out there and kick that ball!” And if it wasn’t dandelions, it was “Look at this cool bug, Coach!” or “Can I have a Freezie yet?”

But of course the hardest part was when they would randomly start to cry, because they were little and easily forgot the point of what they were doing:

Me: Why are you crying? What happened?
Little Boy: I-I-I had-had the ball-ball, and that guy took it away from me. I NEVER get to keep the balllll! It’s not fair!
Me: Never mind, sweetie. Here, take this one. It’s ORANGE.

And then it would be MY fault that there was more than one ball on the field, but it didn’t really matter because we never actually kept score, being as there never WAS a score. In fact, if someone miraculously happened to get the ball in the net, it was a bit of a disaster, with no one being quite sure how it got in there, and the goalie crying. But as T got older, Ken and I graduated to older and older teams, until eventually we were coaching 13 year-olds who understood how the game was played, and cared about the score. And even then, it was fun, and exciting too, to see the same little girl who was plucking grass just a few years before now manoeuvering the ball to rival Beckham.

And maybe that’s the whole point. I love a game when I’m actively involved and I’m working with a group of kids who are super-enthusiastic despite their varying skill levels, but I just find sitting and watching grown men falling down and pretending to be hurt for millions of dollars a little obnoxious, which is why I prefer rugby. And what the hell do you know about rugby anyway, mydangblog? Well, once again, I coached rugby for many years, both Girls’ Varsity and Senior Boys. It was one of the true joys of my life, and it’s the one thing I absolutely miss about being a classroom teacher, aside from actually being in the classroom, which I also loved. Here are my two favourite rugby memories:

1) Holding a tackle bag during practice and having one of my huge new props come running at me, hit me hard, and knock me ass over teakettle. I lay on the ground, in pain but laughing hysterically as she rushed over almost in tears.

“Oh my god, Coach! I’m so sorry!” she said.

“No worries,” I answered. “Just do THAT on the field.”

2) At the end of my last season with the Senior Boys’, we lost the quarter final game. My captain started to cry. Not because we’d lost, but because he was graduating, and the team had been like family to him. Then more boys started crying, then I started crying because I was so proud of them for being such wonderful human beings. And they call soccer the beautiful game.

Of course, there were awkward or stressful moments, like having a referee look around totally perplexed then ask me, “So where’s the coach?” because I was the only female Senior Boys’ coach at the time, or having to take my hooker (don’t laugh—it’s a legitimate position) to the med tent to get her chin stitched up after a terrible collision in a tournament that left her with a fractured jaw. And then having to call her mother and explain what was going on.  And there were funny random moments too, like having to request that the boys use the porta-a-potties, NOT the trees, or reminding players that ALL piercings, visible or otherwise, had to be removed before a game.

So, yes, I’ve done both soccer and rugby; I’ve stood on many a pitch in the pouring rain, sleet, hail, bitter winds, and gorgeous spring days alike. I’ve wiped tears, handed out lollipops, carried equipment bags, bandaged raked shins, and done concussion protocol checks.  And I f*cking miss it. So we come full circle, around to where I started. I still don’t like major league soccer, but when I wake up on a Saturday morning and hear the screams of excited laughter and cheering from kids at the soccer park a block away, I smile. And then I put on TSN and watch rugby.

Black and White Challenge.

 

(Happy Anniversary, Ken–you’re the best husband a girl could ask for!)

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24 thoughts on “My Week 198: Soccer Vs. Rugby

  1. Dee-El says:

    Happy anniversary!

    I read out large parts of this post (I normally just read out the occasional funny sentence) to my fiancée as we a) are English, so are in the World Cup Semi Finals; b) can’t stand watching football most of the time; and c) are trying to have a baby.

    Her response: “so does that mean you don’t mind having a boy now?”
    Me: “No, I still only want a girl, or one of each as twins so that the boy can be a spare”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Oh that was a sweet ending. I coached each of my kid’s teams at various times. It is rewarding to be that involved and the kids and parents really appreciated my efforts. As for the World, Italy isn’t in it this year and I have several crushes on that team…so my heart isn’t in it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think that if Americans insist on calling Association Football ‘soccer’ then they should be made to call Rugby Union Football ‘rugger’, which is the other Victorian/Edwardian slang term for a form of football.
    I went to a secondary school that didn’t play footie, only Rugby Union (not League, which is something else with different rules & only 13 players on a team) & hockey (the original form, on grass) and although I played for the second team a few times (centre, wing, full-back) it was (and still is) an inferior game to proper football. It’s just a mass brawl that crabs from side to side and has a few kicks up field. The whistle goes for any damn reason. Tedious nonsense. Apart from when the All Blacks move the ball like they’re telekinetic, and then it starts to approach the fluidity of football.
    When people say that they don’t like football, what they almost always mean is “I don’t like the theatrics and the rolling about”. Yup, I hate that too (did you notice that there was none of that in the England v Sweden game?). And if FIFA got serious about respecting the ref and making use of retrospective bans based on video evidence then it could be eliminated within a year.
    Which would leave us with just the beautiful game. The movement, skill, teamwork, pace, vision and execution, goal mouth scrambles, backs-to-the-wall defending – there’s nothing like it. Best game in the world. Ever. Don’t let the fakers spoil it (and they are very definitely in a minority over here).

    “It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming… football’s coming home” 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      • I only had a few enjoyable rugby matches, but that’s probably because I was a lithe (oh, alright, skinny), nimble player who spent most of the game bored or terrified – some of the lads we played were enormous. But it was satisfying to bring them down or push them into touch. I think Aussie Rules may be more of an interesting spectator sport though – much more free-flowing play – but I think I’d need someone to explain the rules to me cos they have 4 goal posts!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Only you could have me laughing out loud during a hollowed heatwave. You had me from,”watching professional international soccer can be about as exciting as watching a guy getting a haircut, if the guy getting the haircut kept falling out of the chair and crying because the air from the blowdryer was hurting his hair.” You are very brave to be posting this right now, but I am so glad you did!!!!!! I am going to pass it along to my husband (an Irish former Rugby player)!!!!!! Thank you for consistently bringing out loud laughter into my life!!!!!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yeah, I was a little worried that I might get some backlash from the pro-soccer crowd, but it’s enough tongue in cheek that they shouldn’t be bothered! Your husband played rugby–very cool! Glad you got a laugh out of this:-)

      Liked by 2 people

  5. The biggest advantage soccer has over American football is that in soccer when soccer players fall down in a BAFTA-winning performance the clock keeps running, whereas in American football the players will move the ball one yard and then the refs will stop everything and stand around arguing about the role of the cotton gin in the industrial revolution for half an hour. This is why American football games are only supposed to last an hour but will sometimes keep going for three days, which I’m pretty sure is done solely for the benefit of advertisers. At least with soccer the game time is more limited. On the other hand some American football fans may be jerks but they’re nothing compared to English football hooligans.
    And I’m really impressed that you and your husband not only volunteered to coach T’s team but learned all the rules that you didn’t even have to know. I only played soccer for three years because my mother pushed me into it.
    Can I have a Freezie now?

    Liked by 2 people

    • The main difference between soccer and football around here is we all look up at soccer and wish it would finally end but with football we’re all rooting for a tie game to push the three-day one-hour extravaganza into overtime, so we’ll have an excuse to order another round. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

    • I remember as a kid having shows delayed until the football was over–we learned quickly that two minutes on the clock meant we’d be going to bed before our show came on! And you can have a Freezie anytime:-)

      Like

    • Oh yeah, and I forgot about the hooligans–that’s why they say “Soccer is a gentleman’s sport played by hooligans; rugby is a hooligan’s sport played by gentlemen”!

      Like

  6. This may be news to you, but I watch a lot of American football, in a bar, with a half-dozen to two-dozen close, personal friends, depending on the Sunday. Btw, that first Sunday is only 56 days away now (which, incidentally, was also Lawrence Taylor’s number when he played for the New York Football Giants, and he’s still considered the most dominant linebacker of all time; no one faked injury from HIS hits! Ask Joe Theismann.)

    But I digress.

    My point was that we are in the offseason so while we’re down at the Irish pub on Sunday mornings, cracking wise and lifting mugs, the only things we ever get to see on the tube are (1) unAmerican Football and, occasionally, (2) golf.

    Now, I don’t really like unAmerican football and never really have, but there is no more exciting moment in sports than the moment one of those wily, fragile nuts actually knocks that thing into a net. We all scream like it’s the first time we’ve ever seen it happen, like we just won the Super Bowl, and it doesn’t even matter which team did it.

    When I was young I used to say “get rid of the goalie or make that net wider; this would be a fun game if the scores were 7-6 more often!” but that would rob us all of the rarity of the scoring event and the extreme screaming pleasure a room full of half-drunk pseudo-Irishfolk get.

    But, then, inevitably, some team will win the championship game by dominating their opponent 0-0 and I’ll be left counting the number of days until the oval slaughtered pig returns.

    Which, incidentally, is 56. 😉

    Happy Anniversary to you and Ken! Mrs C and I will hit our 21st on the 19th; July weddings rock!

    Liked by 1 person

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