Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Programming note: I have no plans in the immediate future to base any posts on the hurricane or New Orleans or any topics related thereto. It's not that I don't care or I'm not interested, because I obviously am. The most deaths on US soil since the Civil War tends to demand one's attention. It is also less funny than, say, everything else ever.

I think of this space primarily as a humor blog. It was easier to talk about New Orleans back when the media picture of the impact was very, very different. All the stories of deprivation and loss and lawlessness and rape and murder that have come out since make me laugh a lot less than you would probably initially think. Currently the one major source of humor is in the form of satirizing the less-than-perfect response and the subsequent attempts to politically spin the failure on either side. I'm not swearing off that entirely, it's just that it's being done at the moment by people who have more time to keep abreast of these things; people who watch the news coverage and read the related articles while others of us fill our time watching Star Trek reruns and eating cookie dough in a massively heroic program of denial. If I don't see it, it's not happening. And if I do accidentally see it, chocolate chips make it aaaaallll better.

Instead of trying to make the funny out of babies dying of dehydration, I've decided that the Bucket will be dedicated to what the television networks call counter-programming. That's when a TV network offers programming as an alternative to a televised event that is sure to dominate the ratings. Opposite the Super Bowl, for instance, you will often find movies about battered women who kill their husbands and then start interior design businesses.

The idea is that the Super Bowl appeals to men, so the other networks--stuck with no Super Bowl--will appeal to all the chicks out there who aren't watching the Super Bowl. Of course this is a lie because we all know that on Super Bowl Sunday chicks either watch a) no TV or b) the Super Bowl. But it's a convenient lie that makes them feel good about themselves, like they're doing something even though it's pointless and pathetic and sad when they run out some old Movie of the Week rerun nobody gives a shit about.

So that's the model I'm using for my blog for the next little while. With such a plan, how could I possibly fail? This will be the Operating Procedure in the Bucket at least until they get New New Orleans up and running, hopefully about 20 miles inland and on top of about 150 feet of landfill.

With those two criteria in mind--no Katrina and stuff nobody cares about--I present you with today's topic: soccer.

That's right, soccer. Futbol. The Beautiful Game. The Footie. Kickabout. Rhinestone. Didgeridoo. Mango chutney. Yes, it has many names.

As you all no doubt know, by defeating hated arch-rival Mexico in the regional qualifying hexagonal round-robin tournament this past Saturday, our beloved US National Men's Team qualified for the 2006 World Cup tournament finals in Germany next year.

Hey, where're you going? I'm not done yet.

Look, I know most of you put soccer on your continuum of interest right up there with lacrosse and badminton and The Tony Danza Show, but I'm going to sell it to you right now. Not the whole sport, but just the event, the World Cup next year and why you should watch it.

Every four years, the Olympics gets crazy, crazy television ratings here in the US while the World Cup is virtually ignored. My position is that if you're going to devote your time and energy to just one quadrennial international sporting event, the World Cup is demonstrably better than the Olympics.

1) The Olympics are thousands of years old while the first World Cup occurred as recently as 1930. As Americans, I can speak for all of us when I say that things that are old are stupid. Just think how happy you were when they finally replaced that old ornate Victorian stone building in your town with a Best Buy.

2) If you are into that whole "history" thing, I would like to point out that Olympic history is totally gay. All those statues and engravings of naked men grappling with each other... yeah, it's hot, but it's not sports. That's the kind of thing I expect to see at my local bathhouse. I'll be there tomorrow if anyone's interested.

3) Only 32 countries qualify for the World Cup finals as opposed to the Olympics which invites... um... let's see... all of them. I think some of them are totally made up by frat boys as a practical joke just to see if they can do it. Tajikistan? Please. Joke's on them when the have to put together a field hockey team, though. The IOC knows nothing about discretion. The World Cup understands the appeal of exclusivity. It's like Studio 54, except with blood doping instead of blow.

4) If you hate soccer, the World Cup only makes you sit through one sport you hate instead of a hundred. One event means no room for synchronized swimming. Think about that.

5) No crazy countries competing in sports they have no business competing in. Soccer can be played anywhere one can find a reasonably flat playing surface. So Switzerland is mostly out, but everyone else could reasonably expect to play the game. There is no soccer equivalent of the Norwegian beach volleyball team. I know Norway has a long a distinguished coastline, but those aren't beaches. Those are fjords. Have you ever tried to play volleyball on a fjord? No you haven't you liar!

6) The US team has qualified for the event five times in a row now. Before 1990 the men's team was a joke. In 2002 the team made the quarterfinals and currently is ranked #6 in the world by FIFA's 100%-absolutely-bribery-free ranking system. That means we all have a chance to do well and rub it in the faces of all soccer-mad Euros and South Americans and Africans and Asians or whatever continental ethno-generality you hate the most. The World Cup is one of the few events where pissing on another nation's flag is not only acceptable but absolutely required. Work out your antisocial feelings, all in one place!

What's not to love, people? Join me, won't you?

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 8.2



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