I got an e-mail recently asking me if I cared much for football.
Anyone who knows me knows that such a question is an easy one to answer, but there’s more to this story.
You see, the gentleman who wrote the e-mail was a Scottish friend of mine, and the “football” he was referring to is played in shorts and a T-shirt instead of shoulder pads and headgear.
Now I don’t want to get into a semantic debate over the use of the word football. I get it, OK?
I understand that “real” football is what we call soccer and the sport that dominates Friday night in East Texas is a red-headed stepchild derivative that sprung forth in Ivy League universities in the years leading up to and following the American Civil War.
But don’t blame Americans for this abuse of nomenclature.
According to a recent study on the matter (conducted by my Internet browser, citing the research of Google and Wikipedia), the origin of the term “soccer” come from our cousins across the pond in England.
You see, apparently the Brits were bickering over who got to call which sport what, leading some high-minded Oxford dons to weigh-in. The more Celtic derivative of perpetual hand-offs and drunken post-game revelries became known as “rugby” football while the more refined T-shirt and shorts branch took on the proper title of “association” football, or “soccer” for short.
Of course, as we Americans are wont to do, we couldn’t help but do a little meddling into foreign affairs.
We took the proper structure and tactics of “association” then combined it with the fierce raw-boned tenacity of “rugby” and later added what I believe to be one of the greatest contributions Americans have ever made to human sport: the forward pass.
Now, this friend of mine was asking because he was curious if I was “following the World Cup much” and if so, with whom had I cast my lot?
I couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit at this.
As much of an aficionado of sports as I am in general, and as much as I tried to invest some thought and consideration into what is without a doubt the biggest sporting event in the entire world, I just … couldn’t … do it.
I tried to watch some of the games, especially when it was my own country in competition, but whatever enthusiasm I was able to marshal going in, it soon dissipated and became more of a clinical observation.
Maybe it’s some sort of physiological conditioning I suffer from, having long since grown accustomed to this time of year representing the long wait for the first whistle of two-a-days.
Perhaps it is simply due to my ignorance of the long and venerable history of soccer, and its development and ongoing evolution that robs me of such an investment.
Or, rather, maybe I am just so utterly cut off from the global community that I prefer to wallow in the ghetto of my suburban American upbringing, rather than open my eyes to the broader world around me.
But I certainly do not hate soccer, as seems to be the American stereotype.
I am glad to support the efforts of our local Rusk County teams and am glad even to have my own children learn and play the sport. I can also appreciate the great endurance and athleticism required to run back and forth across a massive field for nearly 90 minutes non-stop.
Nevertheless, I think I shall remain rather content with our humble American sports.
As each week brings us ever closer to autumn, I grow eager for another gridiron season. The collisions of trench warfare, the high spiral, and the stutter step juke that leaves a defender grasping for air.
Though soccer contains its own culture of tribal warfare between a host of rival nations, I think I am more inclined for the closer regional rivalries between competing town and universities.
Give me Overton vs. Carlisle and Henderson vs. Kilgore over Brazil vs. Argentina or France vs. England.
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.