Thursday, May 22, 2008

Soccer versus Gum Surgery (I'll Take the Latter)

I went to the dentist today. The last of several appointments involving deep-tissue cleaning of my gums. I’m doing what I can to stave off the prospect of actual surgery. So now I have prescription mouthwash that’ll melt the top layer of metal off a Sherman tank, and I’m trying to get good about flossing (rots o’ ruck) and using this weird little gum massager they gave me.

It was an early appointment, and I was done by 10:30, and my mouth felt very strange and numb, and soon after it started to hurt as the novocaine wore off.

[Did you know: There’s epinephrine in novocaine. So as the dentist needles up your gums, your heart rate rises. I always thought those jitters I got were simply from being “in the chair”—or simply the trauma of having the gums assaulted with needles (“Okay, you’ll feel a little ‘pinch’ here”). But no, there’s a more direct reason why it happens. The doc took my pulse: 89. Definitely higher than the normal 70, but apparently in the right zone for an epinephrine fix.]

Later, back home, my mouth hurting more and more, I tried to work a little. Not much luck. (I failed to take any aspirin or acetaminophen, just because I try to avoid taking medicine if possible.)

Finally, I decided I was hungry and recovered enough to get some food. I also figured that I could get a drink (a medicine I do not avoid), so headed off to my favorite sports pub, Sam’s, in Nashville’s Hillsboro Village.

I rarely hit pubs at 3 p.m. in the afternoon. I figured it would be quiet. Couldn’t imagine any major event on the big-screen telly at that time, and besides, isn’t everyone at work?

Surprisingly, Sam’s was bustling. I found one of the last seats at the bar, looked up at a husky guy, and asked if anyone was sitting there. “You are,” he bellowed. “As long as you’re rooting for Manchester United!”

Of all things, a soccer game was dominating the three oversized TVs. Stranger still, there was a goodly number of other guys sitting at tables away from the bar, hollering loudly, urging on the soccer players.

Sore teeth, I thought—and soccer. Ugh.

I ordered a Margarita and some spinach dip with chips. Suddenly, my new pal to my left roared with approval, and I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

The event was the UEFA Champions League, uh, championship, explained to me by Soccer Guy as “the Super Bowl of soccer.” Described by a wire service report as “a night of high drama and emotion,” the competitors were Manchester United and Chelsea, both teams from England, yet the game (match?) was being played in Moscow, of all places.

Soccer Guy explained to me a little of why it was that two British teams were playing in Moscow. Near as I can figure, it would be as if the NFL had gone international in its regular season (teams all over the globe), with, say, Berlin bidding for, and then hosting, a Super Bowl played by the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots.

The score was 1-1 when I arrived at the bar. An hour later, it was still 1-1, I had finished two Margaritas and my food, and I’d been eyeing a TV on the other side of the bar, which was broadcasting Vanderbilt versus Florida in an SEC baseball game. (Could we maybe put that up on just one of the big screens?)

Then a guy came up and asked Soccer Guy about his plans for the near-term. SG said, “I don’t know, man. This could go on a while. I figure at least another hour.”

Another hour? Sure enough, it stayed tied at 1-1, the clock ran down, and then the two teams went into what they call “extra time,” a Byzantine exercise that I’ve never had the patience or interest to understand fully.

I was done. I was driving, so one more drink was out, and besides, the soccer just made my gums hurt more. Soccer Guy didn’t even notice I’d left.

I found out later that Manchester won the game after the extra time expired, beating Chelsea 6-5 in a series of “spot kicks,” which is sort of the equivalent of two football teams (real football, I mean) having their placekickers square off in a field-goal match. Theoretically, this could have gone on forever, so long as each team equaled the other’s spot kicks.

I simply don’t get soccer as a spectator sport. I was dying for Soccer Guy to ask me how I was liking the match. I was prepared to say, “Not too much. There’s just too much scoring for me.”

Watching guys run around with intensity holds my interest for about a minute. Watching them run up and down a really wide and long field for an hour with no one scoring is just plain stupid.

Yeah, yeah, I know: Soccer is subtlety and drama, and you just have to appreciate all the constant strategies of moving the ball up and down the field (and up and down and up and down and up and down), not to mention the sheer stamina factor involved and the occasional semi-violent collision (which fans seem to take as a personal affront).

In soccer, the goalies have different-colored uniforms than their teammates. Soccer has weird things like “yellow cards” and “red cards” (I think they’re like detention slips that get handed out at boys’ boarding schools). The teams committed 47 fouls in this match. (Isn’t that a lot of fouls? You’d think soccer was cleaner.) Then you’ve got your “corner kicks” and “offsides.” (Whatever.) Plus these were British teams, but there were guys playing with names like Van der Sar, Anelka, Cech, Ronaldo and Drogba. (Probably signed as unrestricted free agents from the Eastern bloc.)

I have relatives who love soccer. My sister’s boys play it big-time and they excel. It’s the big, modern suburban game for “civilized” families. But for a Margarita-swilling, couch-potato sports junkie like myself, it’s a crashing bore. (Sorry, Soccer Guy.)

I’m also reminded of the episode of “King of the Hill,” when Hank’s kid Bobby stinks at football and so then gets involved with soccer. It’s hilarious to see Hank wince and grimace when the wine-and-cheese soccer coach announces that soccer is “a game where everybody gets to play, and no one ever loses.”

Yes, and that’s why soccer sucks. Come to think of it, it’s worse than gum surgery.




Anonymous said...

I can understand someone not being interested in a particular sport, but what I can't understand is that someone would get so threatened by a foreign sport to write a long pain-stainkingly boring article bashing a sport which billions love?

Why are you trying so hard to convince us that watching soccer is "boring"? That filled bar of screaming fans at 3pm on a workday seems to indicate otherwise...and they were watching a match happening 6000 km away no less.

Douche Vader said...

I agree totally with this post. I LOVE sports. I eat, breathe and live for sports. Soccer, in my world is not in the top 5 or 6 sports that I would waste my time or effort on. Nothing against those that would, it's just not for me. I grew up in the breadbasket of football (Canton, OH), the son of a season ticket older for both the Browns and Indians (talk about painful) and soccer was something they did in South America. I loved watching Pele on Wide World of Sports for a few minutes, but to spend an hour or more locked in the futile exercise of watching a soccer match is about as appealing as...gum surgery.