Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sports I Love: Soccer*

I began my not-so-illustrious soccer career at the same time most children do in the United States: at a fairly young age, when "playing" is more equivalent to "everyone chasing the ball and sometimes accidentally kicking it in the goal" than what one would generally see when watching, say, the World Cup. Although sometimes that kind of thing still seems to happen on corner kicks, even at that level.

Upon reflection, however, it should have been a tip-off that I often preferred the yummy orange slices at halftime to actually being on the field. I spent most of my youth soccer career playing fullback, which was just as well for me because we had a few really good forwards who kept the ball on the other side of the field for the majority of the game. On one memorable occasion, however, I was placed in the net as the goalie, where I promptly allowed several goals and was never called upon to serve in that capacity again.

Despite my reluctance to actually move around the field (another manifestation of the laziness that has kept me from my destiny as an Olympic athlete), I do remember enjoying myself and even (gasp) practicing at home. I had a stake that you put into the ground with a long elastic cord that ended in a closed net for the soccer ball; this way you could kick the ball as hard as you wanted and it would snap back in your direction, which I liked because: less running. I eventually even figured out how not to get in the face by the returning ball.

After years of acquiring soccer trophies based on very little effort and consistently good teammates, things started to get more serious as I got older (although my future in-law and I did spend a lot of time singing "Take Me Out of the Ball Game" during yawn-inducing junior high games). When the time came to try out for a real soccer team in high school, on which girls occasionally got spiked or tore ACLs and were expected to actually run continuously for a horrendously long time, I bowed out. I also disliked the coach intensely, and decided that one sport (basketball) was enough effort for my modest energy resources.

However, despite my non-dramatic departure from competitive soccer, I still do enjoy watching it being played. I usually follow the men's and women's World Cup, and was able to attend a few women's games at Gillette Stadium when it was held in the United States several years ago. I find the sport aesthetically pleasing and enjoy that it forces me to be a patient viewer even more than baseball does. Plus: at least one announcer usually has an accent. I also enjoy being cast into a nostalgic frame of mind about my decade in the soccer trenches. Maybe I will stop by the store for some orange slices to eat during the next World Cup match . . .

ETA: I am now being told that I also played enthusiastically not only for the orange slices, but because I liked kicking people. Good to know.

Meditation Index

*I am calling it soccer and not "football," purists, because a) that's what I've always called it and b) to do otherwise would make my actual (forthcoming) football post more confusing.

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