Let’s get this out of the way early — I watched three World Cup soccer games last weekend on TV for a total of a half hour of edge-of-my-seat soccer action.
I had no clue what was going on.
One of the games was broadcast in Spanish and I didn’t even know it.
Yes, I am one of those obnoxious Americans that thinks the world ends on the shores of the Atlantic... or Pacific, take your pick.
Still, the more I watched the more I think I’m getting the hang of what is called “World Cup Soccer.”
First off, nobody has any idea who is playing. There is no USA emblazoned across the chests of these jerseys. No Portugal. No Brazil — and when you do see the host country’s name it’s misspelled. Who spells Brazil “Brasil?” That’s like the Greeks calling Greece Helenos.
Yes, there are names on the backs, but the only name I know, Blake Donovan got cut before the World Cup even started.
Then I see this player from Uruguay, Suarez, take a bite out of somebody’s shoulder and I thought I was watching “The Walking Dead.” What would possess a man to rise up during a sporting event and take a bite out of his opponent?
Besides Mike Tyson, nobody knows the answer to that question. What could tick a player off to the point that he decides to take pause during the heat of a game and snack on the shoulder of the opposition?
Again, it’s all part of the vast kaleidoscope of soccer that I do not, or will never, understand.
But I think I’m getting an idea now. It’s all about the referee.
Hear me out on this one. It’ll be the only thing that makes sense by the time I’m through.
The first thing they do with the referee is stick him on the field with 22 prima donnas and expect him to keep some semblence of order and calm. He can’t do it.
Second, the game is 90 minutes long, except for what they call “extra time,” which is added on at the referee’s discretion for time lost due to an injury on the field - which occurs about every five minutes.
Third, the clock keeps time backwards, starting at 00:00 and counting upward to 90 minutes.
So, you know going in, this game is all messed up. It’s no wonder nobody scores. They can’t keep time right, how do you expect anyone to score?
The clock winds down to zero. The crowd chants, “THREE! TWO! ONE! ZERO!” and scream and cheer from here to Happy New Year.
But not in soccer. They count, “58... 59... NINETY!”
And the game’s still not over with. That’s when the announcer with the bad British accent says, “Oh no, we have extra time,” and they all wait while the guy carrying the little sign on the sidelines flashes a three, four or five, to designate how much extra time is to be played.
So, he throws up a five.
But that’s really not five minutes. Not exactly.
The USA vs. Portugal game was 95 minutes long, which was about 94 minutes and 48 seconds too long because everything you wanted to see in the USA/Portugal game happened in the last 12 seconds.
It happened that way with all three games I watched. Whatever happened that was worth watching happened in the game’s last 10 seconds.
And in Spanish. Backwards.
I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. Not until the referee suddenly blew his whistle and without the fanfare of a “THREE! TWO! ONE!” that was it.
Just in time for Sportscenter.