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Letter from the Editor

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Have you caught World Cup fever yet? It's a question that gets asked every four years. Will this finally be the year that the World Cup turns Americans into soccer fans?

Uh, no.

Let me run some numbers by you: 0-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-1, 1-1, 1-1, 1-1, 2-0, 2-0, and — whoa! — 4-1. If you guessed that these are the scores of the first 12 games of this year's cup being held in South Africa, you are a winner. Actually, you're not a winner; you just tied a bunch of other people who also guessed correctly. But in soccer, ties are cool, or even great, if you are the underdog. As in, Whooo! America tied Great Britain, 1-1! It's the miracle on turf! Not.

Anyone who thinks football-, basketball-, and baseball-crazed Americans are somehow going to be seduced into becoming fans of a sport that takes 90 minutes (and counting) to produce one or two goals is dreaming. It's like going to the zoo and waiting for the pandas to mate. No wonder the announcers go nuts when someone finally scores.

Soccer is 60-year-old Sting making tantric love — endless foreplay that peters out with a whimper — because no one knows when Sting, or a soccer game, is going to finish. Ostensibly, soccer games last 90 minutes, with the clock counting up. But when there's an injury or other stoppage of play, the clock keeps running and that amount is added to the end of the game. But, weirdly, no one on the field knows how much time that actually is, so players are running around at the, say, 93-minute mark with no clue how much longer the game is going to last. It ends with an official waving a flag, and everybody just stops. (Except for the idiots blowing the plastic horns known as vuvuzelas.)

This is no way to win over Americans. We're thrill junkies. We like countdowns and last-second scores. At the end of a close game, we want our teams to pull the goalie, toss a Hail Mary, or make a fade-away jumper while falling out of bounds.

And Americans want to bet — on the point-spread, the margin of victory, the over and the under, etc. But how much fun can that be when all those numbers are "one"?

The best thing about soccer is that it's watched in bars, and there is lots of drinking. Given those circumstances, we might be able to come up with some pretty good USA soccer hooligans — if anyone cared. But they don't.

I do want a vuvuzela, though.

Bruce VanWyngarden

brucev@memphisflyer.com

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