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If World Cup is such a kick, why is it as dull as shoe leather?

July 13, 1998

Tim RowlandYou should be so proud of me. I made it through the entire World Cup competition without so much as a single discouraging word. Not one joke, not one wisecrack, not one knowing glance whenever the results of the latest 0-0 tie was posted.

Problem is, a lot of people whom I like more than most enjoy watching soccer, and a lot of kids whom I dislike less than most enjoy playing soccer. So I didn't feel it appropriate to rain on their low-scoring parade while it was marching tediously along.

But not that the World Cup is over? I still don't get it.

I thought I'd watch the second half of the Ronaldo vs. De Gaulle-do final Sunday because no one ever scores in the first half. But then France crossed me up by scoring twice. And then, of course, it was pointless to watch the second half because no one ever comes back from a 2-0 deficit.

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I fully admit these players perform poetry with their feet. They can spin the ball around their ankles like a dervish, weave it gracefully through defenders like yarn through a loom, make it stop, make it go, hoist it and lower it with the flick of a toe. They can do everything imaginable with a soccer ball, except put it in the net. Which is, after all, the point.

Soccer would improve itself if they'd have the penalty shoot-off first, and save the 90 minutes of tedium for people who can mine some flecks of interest out of the ore of back-and-forth booting and fake injuries.

I have parallel issues working here. One, I don't like the sport and two, I resent the big-establishment, media conglomerate, Trilateral Commission, politically correct insistence that we SHOULD like it.

Look, Americans may not have good manners and we may not be able to bake a decent loaf of bread, but two things we've figured out ahead of the rest of the world. Our Constitution is better than theirs and so are our sports.

So why does the Volvo-driving set insist that distaste for soccer makes one a barbarian - why are those sour on soccer portrayed as unenlightened?

And why this frantic insistence that the U.S. be competitive? You hear normally rationally people saying things like "Yes, what we need to do is put a gun to the heads of all athletic 6-year-olds and lock them up with nothing but brown rice and a soccer ball for a dozen years so we can win the World Cup in 2010."

So we're terrible. Big deal, let it go. I don't see why we have to be the best at every sport. We're better than any other nation at basketball, football and probably baseball. Let the rest of the world have soccer. Who needs it?

And speaking of baseball, please don't try to gain acceptance for soccer by piggybacking it onto baseball, saying the two sports are a lot alike.

I'm looking down the morning box scores, and I don't see any 0-0 baseball finals. Yes, baseball has exciting 1-0 games - because unlike soccer, on every play there is the potential for a run to be scored.

Soccer and baseball are both "cerebral" games? Don't go there. With all due respect to George Will, short of Greg Maddux or Mike Mussina, I've never thought baseball was all that cerebral, and the closest soccer gets to being cerebral is when some player gets brained by the ball in the back of his noggin and it (the ball) dribbles back into his net for an "own goal."

One week into the Cup, I heard an announcer saying "this is rapidly becoming the tournament known for own-goals and ties." How cerebral is that?

So feel free to enjoy soccer, if that turns you on. But do not force-feed it to me for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If I want something cerebral, I'll go to the Kennedy Center; if I want sport, I'll watch monster trucks.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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