Posts tagged ‘martyr’

February 10, 2013

Jake Versus the World – A Self-aggrandizing Sports Story

I hate soccer. If you thought you knew me and you didn’t know that, well, you didn’t know me. Now you do. Nice to finally meet you.

Anyways, back to hating soccer. I realize that the majority of the world now wants to burn me at the stake, draw and quarter me, stone me, or just otherwise deliver harsh, visceral judgment upon my body. But know that I will be a martyr for the anti-soccer cause; like Saint Stephen, I shall see the risen Christ in my last moments and he certainly won’t be holding a soccer ball. To quote Obi-Wan, “if you strike me down I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

Sorry. My self-righteousness sidetracked me again. Let’s start over.

I hate soccer. I’ve been called an “ignorant American,” which I find insultingly inaccurate. I am not ignorant of soccer; I’ve played enough FIFA ’06 to have a decent grasp of its rules, basic strategy, and 2006 stars. Elementary and high physical education classes forced me to play the sport. Friends have attempted to convert me; an ex-girlfriend seduced me into watching the World Cup willingly. Romantic interest drew me to girls’ soccer games. I attended a professional soccer game because my favorite band was playing the post-game party. I even have a favorite (albeit for infamous reasons) “futboler”: Zinedine Zidane. But outstanding in my twenty five years have been three of specific but not comprehensive experiences which have developed and defined my opinion.

I’m not certain how old I was (probably eight or nine) – I know this was not my first negative soccer experience – but canonically it sets the tone. I sought my mother in the kitchen, prepared to make a bold profession of absolute truth.

“Momma, do you know what?”

“What, Honey?”

“Baseball is the greatest sport in the world!”

“Hmm, well, Honey, most of the world would disagree with you.”

“What?!” My worldview was rapidly restructuring.

“Most of the world plays soccer and doesn’t really play baseball.”

In a matter of seconds, my worldview had finished its rearrangement. The nuisance which had previously just served as the target of my angst when it hijacked the football field at recess had suddenly become my nemesis. When my classmates decided they wanted a break from a hand utilizing sport like football, they’d turn to soccer. When I tired of uncovering soccer-related conspiracies (Ghostwriter style) beneath the jungle gym with girls largely indifferent to my cause – which is to say when I gave in to my athletic, competitive nature – I dragged myself onto the repurposed football field and played the one position which allowed handballs. How could the world not just condone, but prefer, such idiocy and injustice to the use of the hand?

My response was immediate, yet consciously measured: “I hate soccer.”

The second event in the holy doctrine of soccer abhorrence. I was homeschooled from fifth grade though seventh grade. In that final year my mother decided her bookworm eldest child was not getting enough exercise (she, of course, was the one who, after that fifth grade season, mandated no more football until high school – I’m not still bitter) and enrolled me in the homeschool soccer league. Having just turned thirteen, I was placed in the “13 and up” group, full of soccer loving, foot- fetished -skilled teenagers. It took me all of five minute to know that I was not going to take this. Quick on my mental feet, if not my actual feet, I told the coach I had my mom’s keys in my pocket and I had to run them over to her – on the other side of the park. I then proceeded to spend the next two hours running around the woods by myself, pretending to fight off orcs, giant weasels, and other such belligerent foes, all the while not play soccer. I got away with that ploy for about a week.

When my mom caught me, she wasn’t really mad so much as dismayed. She pulled some strings and got me into the 12 year old group. While this wasn’t the ideal situation of not playing soccer, it beat being humiliated by a sadistic mob of Pelés and pre-bust Freddy Adus (don’t tell me I’m an “ignorant American”). I went from being the youngest and least athletic player on the field to the eldest and most athletic. My strategy was to hang out as the left side defender (talking to the goalie about how much better any sport was than soccer) and let the other kids play soccer. If the other team dared bring me the ball, I would resist picking up the fumble and instead make the steal. I’d dribble drive straight to the net and anyone in my way risked getting run over. I scored a lot.

Lastly, I was sick the day my freshman PE class (filled with a number of sophomores from the JV football team) picked which sports they’d play that semester. I, and a surprising number of said football players, ended up in ping pong and soccer. The former? Awesome. The latter? Horrific. Fortunately, during the soccer sessions we had an all football team. While the lanky British, Middle Eastern, and South American players tried to bedevil us with their fancy footwork, we merely bowled them over. If you want to flaunt your technique, we’ll flaunt our power. We won a lot.

I hate soccer. The vitriol with which I express my animosity emerges in waves. For the better part of two years I had tamed my rhetoric after nearly driving a roommate to tears of frustration. Interest in soccer girls forced me to bite my tongue or divert the conversation. I’ve been unleashed for about seven months now, and I’m enjoying my ideological freedom before I visit my soccer playing baby sister (okay, she’s not a baby, she’s eight). She’ll never get me to like soccer, but for her I can go beyond biting my tongue and encourage her. I’m excited that she has found a sport that she loves and excels in; I just wish it was one that used hands. Hopefully she can forgive me if she ever reads this.

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