Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Primal Foot

These People Seem To Like It
So I've been watching more than a little of the World Cup for the past week and a half. The nice part about it is that it rewards any level of interest. You can just have it on in the background and look up when the announcers get excited, or you can fully buy in and work out some rooting interest based on, well, whatever reason you like to enjoy a country or not. Someone's got a friend who is from Ghana? Well, go Black Stars, assuming they aren't playing the U.S. The Nigerians look plucky, and African sides don't usually make it real far, so yay, Super Eagles. Wait, the Bosnia-Herzegovians are called the Dragons? I may have to rethink this. And so on.

There's also this. The Shooter Kids don't really give a damn about sports. I don't watch them with them, and while I think they can tell one from another, it's really pretty much an open question as to whether they'll be able to tell basketball apart from football or baseball. They are much more like their mom than me on this one, and the only way they are staying in the room with me if the game is on is if it's almost over, or they are trying to openly avoid someone else in the house. I'm a writer, and the TV is in my basement cave. They've got tablets ad laptops and a million better ideas to entertain themselves than to look at my screen, assuming my screen isn't showing them something they are interested in.

And then there was today, and the World Cup.

Ghana played Germany today, and the second half of it was flat-out great. End to end action, four total goals scored, Ghana coming back from giving up the first one to take a lead, only to lose it to Germany late, both sides with opportunities to get the win late. The Shooter Wife was mesmerized. No second screen, no questions about the rules, no getting up to find knitting, a snack, or anything other than the primal moment of Ghana, the team her best friend is rooting for due to genealogy, trying to get the win. I've been married to this person for 15 years, have brought her to baseball and basketball games, have had games on when she's walked into the room a few thousand times. Never saw that before.

Later in the day, the Eldest comes downstairs. The game was Nigeria vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina, and since there was just 15 minutes left and the game was close, I had her wait until the end of the game until I gave up the screen to her and her sister. And within five minutes, because Nigeria had irritated her with timewaste tactics to try and hold their 1-0 lead, she was fully invested and bent when B-H got close but not quite to the tying goal. And while it's not as if she took the defeat very hard, but it was still more than any investment I've ever seen from her, even when I've been watching a game with high investment.

So what is it about futbol, really? Well, it helps immensely that they aren't asking me questions about why something happened, or what the rules are, every few minutes. This game is downright primal in its Good Event or Bad Event experience, and the clear and non-stopping ticking clock in the top left also gives everyone involved a clear indication of just how much longer they are going to have to invest in this. No commercial stoppages is huge, especially to the younger generation of people for whom ads have always been something you can skip or switch off.

Now, I don't think there's going to be much more to it than this, really. I doubt that we're going to do the hopelessly hipster move of picking a Premier League team to support, or rooting for the Union or the Red Bulls. I am a long way past the event horizon of adding new sports to my viewing list, and considering the size of my Netflix queue, and the fact that parenting is not something you move away from just because the kids are getting old enough to do things on their own.

But there's still something telling that this sport reaches them, in a way that no other has. And if you've been giving it all a big miss because well, it's soccer and you've tried it before, it's time to look at it again. This is the highest-scoring World Cup in history, and people from six continents are into this in ways you can barely imagine. I'm not asking you to like it more than other sports, but for a few weeks in the summer dead zone, it's a freaking godsend.

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