FIFA obviously has a ruling that every soccer announcer broadcasting the World Cup to North America must have either a Scots or a Yorkshire accent. It seems that for the last month, that’s all I heard – even in the Caribbean.
Not that I object. Their voices are actually soothing and vocabularies invariably richer when you compare soccer announcers to NFL colour commentators.
In fact I realized something very important about the announcing in this year’s World Cup. The rhetoric of the announcers was couched in the language of civilized people. There aren’t any warriors or generals and definitely not battles. Simply, they are players, coaches and games
They are just games and the world wasn’t staking its national manhood on them – we were just having fun. And that is why I, a non-sports fan, have fallen in love with the World Cup.
Sure national pride is at stake, but the nations competing for the World Cup don’t take a life or death approach to broadcasting it (although this year the governments of England, France and Italy appear to be doing so). In other words, the Dutch people will get on with their lives tomorrow.
That’s the difference between soccer; and baseball, hockey and football. Our sports media drives us to take these games far too seriously.
I’d like to see the FIFA style manual. I’m sure that somewhere within its instructions to broadcasters there is a clause that simply says “If the play isn’t interesting, you don’t have to hype it beyond the edges of the known universe by raising your voice 300 decibels – it will eventually come around.”
Adjective phrases like “greatest ever” or “never before in the history of sport” are rarely if ever used in soccer.
It’s been said that baseball is a thinking man’s game and a game of strategy. If that’s true then soccer is a chess master’s game. Keeping everything in flux with 20 men running hither and yon makes baseball seem infantile.
Another nice feature of soccer is the scoring system. One goal – one point. No self-aggrandizement. Not six points and on the third Thursday of odd-numbered months in even numbered years the score quadruples with a conversion except in months with ‘R-s’ in them. (I had to ask my wife how much a touchdown was worth).
Soccer scoring is so easy even an ancient Roman could understand it. Actually they invented soccer and I’m sure they took a quick look at all the options and decided Caesarea LXXIII over Londinium XLVIII just wasn’t going to cut it. The game would be ancient history before you figured out who won. Roma 1 Visigoths 2 was much more manageable.
Soccer athletes are pretty cool too. They are athletes, not human refrigerators barely able to move for more than thirty seconds without a commercial break or Novocain. Soccer players play constantly for 45 minutes at a stretch and actually work up a sweat. Something the American players who pitch deodorant off the pitch might well learn to do.
Finally there are the venues. The World Cup brings prosperity and recognition to the host cities and countries. Philadelphia and Miami look much the same except for the palm trees.
South Africa, Berlin and Brazil are truly different cultures and it’s wonderful to see them and see their citizens having fun and hosting the world.
After years of bad press, I think it’s time for the country of South Africa and the African continent to start emerging from the shadows to a much more positive place in the world. South Africa proved it could host the Cup although even friends of the country expressed fears it was not capable.
With such a stunning performance, one can only say, “Well done, South Africa!”
I watched the closing ceremonies with tears in my eyes as puppeteers in life-sized elephant costumes circled a watering hole that symbolized hope for the land and people. Something that never happened at the Superbowl, except when Janet Jackson flashed her boob and I laughed so hard I cried.
A victorious Italy fan on College Street in Toronto celebrates the 2006 Italian win. © Bruce Kemp 2010