Wednesday, April 28, 2010

soccer, and the mysteries thereof

I had a startling realization today while watching the second leg of the Barcelona-Inter Milan champions league semi-final: Watching soccer is torture.

Okay, I don't mean that literally. Maybe I'm just depressed right now about Barca losing the tie and bouncing out of the Champions League. The game was a microcosm of everything that's wrong with soccer. One team was playing soccer, while the other was engaged in an exercising of time wasting. The refereeing was awful for both sides. Offside calls were missed all over the place. In the end I can't help wonder why I'll repeatedly subject myself to games that are so horribly unpleasant, the results of which have no bearing whatsoever on my day-to-day life.

One year ago, Barcelona were in the semi-final of last year's Champions League. The second leg was an astonishing game, and one that I'll never forget. Barca were losing by a goal after fifteen minutes or so, and needed just a tie in order to win the two-legged match. For 90 minutes they pressed forward, never changing their style of attack, despite Chelsea's unwillingness to leave their own half, despite the hostile crowd, despite having a player sent off. And then, finally, with only seconds remaining, they got their goal. And that moment was, possibly without exaggeration, the most acutely emotional moment I've ever experienced. I've watched and played in thousands of games (in addition to doing, ya know, other stuff with my life too), but never can I remember wanting something so badly, and then, all in one moment, depressed that it was finally out of reach, getting it.

What madness! How could I become so invested in something so inconsequential? How could I come to the point where yelling at my TV caused my upstairs neighbor to knock on my door repeatedly and ask if everything was okay? That last one, by the way, is a true story from today.

All sports take advantage of our quirky psychology this way. They throw us into battles where we have nothing personally at stake. They make us feel so loyal to one side or the other that the game becomes the most important thing in our life.

But could any of them be as awful as soccer? If anyone is in more pain watching the beautiful game, it is my Dad. It's not uncommon for him to declare during a particularly heart-wrenching match that he will never watch soccer ever again. I know he'll feel that way after watching today's game, probably more strongly than ever. The pain of today's game will last a while, but his declaration certainly won't. And the cycle repeats.


  1. Let's not forget that sometimes his investment in a particular sporting event becomes so intense and unbearable that he is forced by the sheer tide of emotional agony to CEASE WATCHING.

    Ultimate Fandom = refusing to watch your team's games.

  2. seems weird, but wouldn't THAT be the logical response to being in agony? as opposed to those of us who continue watching? although i'm not even sure he witnessed the goal from last year's semi-final, as we were watching together in a bar, and he left the room as the game went into stoppage time. but he may have caught it from a TV in one of the other rooms....