Soccer has all the action of your grandparents playing bridge. More shots are taken on any night with tequila in any given dorm room on campus. The most crooked televangelist has done more saving than a soccer goalie.
What makes people want to watch soccer is a complete mystery. What would cause anyone to wake up at 2 a.m. to do so is along the lines of the meaning of life in terms of my utter incomprehension. But this is exactly what 12 or 13 Americans are now doing for the U.S. World Cup matches. The last game was television's highest-rated American soccer match since the 1994 World Cup, which is to say more than 10 soccer-crazed people from Europe were watching.
As far as I can tell, this is the storyline of every game: Game starts, ball is kicked around the middle of the field for about 45 minutes, ball is accidentally kicked toward the goal, ball hits goalie in the stomach, repeat until 90 minutes is up.
In the United States' 2-0 win over Mexico earlier this week, each team had just six shots on goal. If you figure that each shot on goal contains about five seconds of real action, that's one full minute of action out of the 90 on the clock. U.S. goalie Brad Friedel has made 19 saves in 360 minutes. That's one every 19 minutes. In four games, the team has two players with more than two shots on goal. Not only are soccer teams not scoring, it looks like they're not even trying to score. Friedel's save percentage isn't even 75 percent, which means more than one in four shots on his goal will go in. And he's considered one of the best keepers in the world, too. It would seem like that kind of number would make teams shoot, but no.
So, you say, maybe the U.S. team just has a great defense that doesn't allow shots on goal. But Brazil, the powerhouse that is at or near the top in every World Cup category, is leading the pack with only 32 in four matches. That's eight per 90 minutes. And that's the most anyone can muster. So, in between the extremely sparse attempts at scoring, what do soccer players do during a typical World Cup match?
o Friedel uses his average 19 minutes of free time in between getting hit in the stomach by shots to do a number of activities: Balance his checkbook, make an omelet, catch up on Friends, look for four-leaf clovers and take his dog for a walk.
o Star forward Brian McBride tries to brush up on his foreign language skills by listening to the other teams' "How many American soccer players does it take to score a goal" jokes (the answer: Three or four to let the opposing player through the defense and one more to hit it into the wrong goal).
It's nice that they can keep themselves busy, but I could think of a better way of spending my hours between 2 a.m. and 10 a.m. than watching soccer players wear a groove into the center of a field for 90 minutes. Sleeping comes to mind, but rearranging my closet doesn't sound too bad either. It can get crowded in there.
There's just no reason to watch a soccer match. The game's strategy, which I just have to assume exists, is completely lost on someone who doesn't strap on the knee-highs and shin guards. Any sane person will simply wake up at a normal hour and catch the 30 seconds of highlights on Sportscenter.
Oh, wait a second. I knew I shouldn't have signed up to be a soccer goalie. The ball's finally coming over here. I guess my break's over.