Sunday, June 11, 2006

Saving Soccer

Now, this will sound like blasphemy to my fellow NFL fans, but, having watched nearly five minutes of the World Cup soccer match between Sweden and Trinidad and Tobago...the world has a point. It makes much more sense to use the word "football" for "soccer" than it does to apply it to...American football. After all, the wimpiest NFL players are the ones who specialize in kicking the ball, and they are increasingly drawn from the ranks of soccer players - Europeans.

That said, soccer continues to prosper in America about as well as the metric system; that is to say, it has approximately the popularity of a fart in an elevator. What can be done? Must "futball" forever abandon the world's most profitable market and fanatical fan base?

No! A few simple changes should suffice to bring soccer up to at least the popularity of ice hockey.

First, the soccer field is simply too big. Americans like high-scoring games, not scoreless ties settled by a penalty kick. One big reason is the amount of real estate the soccer players have to cover just to have the chance to shoot one by the goalie. Reduce the size of the field by fifty percent. Tighten up the action. Then put a wall on the out-of-bounds lines so that the constant play stoppages no longer occur. And while you're at it, get rid of the nets on the goals and move the goals themselves at least ten yards out from the sidelines so that players can score from either side of the goal!

Next, give the players some manly-looking pads and helmets so they can stop prancing around like city dandies at a barn dance and start hitting each other! Watching some pansy being carried from the field clutching his poor, bruised shin doesn't have the drama of a full-on snapped lower leg, a lá Joe Thiessman.

Last, and perhaps most radical, allow each team to have one sniper behind the goal, armed with a paint gun. Anyone shot by the sniper sits out for two minutes (five minutes for a head shot), giving the other team a power play opportunity. This should help stop the boring forty minute waits between shots on goal, and enliven the whole game.

I feel confident that, should the World Cup adopt these modest proposals, the sport of soccer will experience a dramatic jump in popularity with Americans, and easily draw abreast of such spectacles as county fair tractor pulls, or even demolition derbies.

Cross-posted at The Jawa Report and Vince Aut Morire.