Hey, America: It’s the World Cup! GO! FIGHT! WIN!

Hello, my loyal readers? It’s that time of four years! It’s the World Cup! What’s the World Cup, you may be asking? Well, it’s a sporting event where Americans in the US and abroad pretend to be interested in soccer while investing as little emotional energy as possible in the unlikely event that we get on a roll and start winning.

We all know America’s relationship to soccer. You join as a league as a kid, take some cute team photos, and then proceed to throw it to the bottom of the sports scrap heap, looking up at ice hockey and women’s tennis. Every few years, something will happen which will make the sports media proclaim, “Maybe THIS is the event that will make soccer tip in the US.” Even the arrival of a certain celeb player married to a Spice Girl didn’t help. If I can tell you what I want, what I really really want, I wanna AH!, I wanna AH!, I wanna AH!, I wanna AH!, I wanna really really really really zigga zig understand soccer. (Sorry, had to go there.)

Let’s not forget the oft-forgotten about sixth girl, Zaatar Spice.

So yesterday, I found myself at HaGov, the relatively new sports bar in downtown Jerusalem. Hey, this World Cup thingymabob only comes around every four years. As a pretty huge sports nut, I can hop on the bandwagon for a few weeks and pretend to care, right? Especially living in Israel as a true member of the international community, it would be a shame to stick my head in the sand and ignore what’s considered to be the biggest sporting event in the world. (I know, Americans, it’s hard to believe it’s not the Super Bowl even though they tell us every year that 47 trillion people around the world are watching it. Having lived here for four years, I am a bit skeptical. Aside from the crazy Americans abroad staying up all night, who are these people? I’ll do it MAYBE twice a year, I have doubts as to whether Ping Fu Chung is staying up to watch The Who perform at halftime (that’s The Who, not Mr. Hu. This comment proves that I am a dumb American.))

So if we’re going to watch soccer, the least we Americans can do is be self-aware, right?, recognizing who and what we are? Sometimes it takes stepping out of your American comfort zone to do so. A few observations from watching the US-Algeria game yesterday:
  • There I am, with my buddy Phil visiting from the US and Neil, a British oleh who lived for 3 years in the States while on shlichut. Phil and I are both big sports nuts who are trying to understand what the hell we’re watching, mostly to no avail. Want to know if you’re a bona fide soccer fan? Here’s a good measuring stick: if you walk into a game and say “Hey! Which color are we?”, you’re probably not getting free tickets to Wembley Stadium anytime soon. And going forward, sorry, I’m calling it football. When the rest of the world all agrees on the name and we don’t, probably a fair idea to go with them. A direct quote from Neil on my Facebook wall:
Yes Benji, logically the game where you spend 95% of the time throwing the egg shaped thingy or holding it in your hands should of course be called FOOTball.

Only one way to answer that….USA! USA! USA!

Gee, is it Purim already?

And then there’s the standard (non-metric system). 12 inches to a foot, 3 feet in a yard, 1760 yards in a mile. Can we just agree that we screwed up? Great, let’s move on.

  • Here’s another way to identify the “Yanks” watching soccer. They get overly agitated over the wrong things. One of our players could bludgeon the opposing goalie’s fibula with a crowbar and our fans would scream “BULLS**T!!!! BULLS**T!!!! OH, COME ON, REF!!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!!!!!!!!!!” This is of course not related to football but any sport which involves a team we root for. Replay means nothing. It’s all about the fun of chanting “BULLS**T!!!! BULLS**T!!!! OH, COME ON, REF!!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!!!!!!!!!!” And when one of our players had possession of the ball and kicked it anywhere within 400 feet of the goal, “OMIG-D!!!!!!! HOW COULD WE MISS THAT!!!!!! SO CLOSE!!!!!!! OOOOOOOOOOOOOH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”(I think I’m going to start reacting this way any time I am confronted with Israeli bureaucracy or bad service. Like when Bezeq led me to believe I’d actually be getting internet yesterday when in actuality, they were just installing the phone line.” “ARE YOU FREAKING SERIOUS, BEZEQ??? YOU COULDN’T HAVE TOLD ME THIS ON THE PHONE WHEN I ASKED YOU TO PLEASE SEND A MAC PERSON?!?!? BULLSH**T!!! BULLSH**!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!!!!!!!!!!”

  • At some point in the first half, the stat “Possession: 54 Algeria/46 USA” flashes on the screen. I ask Phil, “What the hell? Why aren’t they even? We have possession, then they have possession, back and forth. Isn’t it like ‘drives’ in the NFL?” Phil has no idea. When I ask Neil later, he reveals that these are the percentages of time each team has had the ball. “Boy, we are really idiots, aren’t we?”
  • Neil made me laugh making fun of the same old chants at American sporting events (as opposed to the clever, specific, and always fresh English football songs (hey Brits, can someone teach me some good ones?) “DEFENSE! DEFENSE! OFFENSE! OFFENSE!” “Da da da daaaaaaaaa da daaaaaaaaa CHAAAAAAAAAAARGE!”(pause, trying to think of what to yell next)”DEFENSE! DEFENSE!!!” Hilarious.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
  • Did you see the US goal taken off the board on an offsides call? Some Brit said about the Americans, “now somebody has to go explain it to them.” That made me laugh out loud. How embarrassing that the world thinks we’re idiots. Maybe it’s because…
  • A group of yeshiva boys march into the club mid-game chanting, “USA! USA! USA!” Can we all agree that we need a new cheer? And how about this rule? If you can’t name 3 players on the team and get excited for a total of five minutes every four years, you are not allowed to cheer. “How cute, the Americans are pretending to care.”
  • With the minutes counting down, we’re going down to the wire. Not looking good at all. Damn-I actually watched two games this year and it’s already coming to an end. When suddenly….without warning: “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” High-fives! Screaming! Cheering! USA! USA! USA! (five seconds later) Uhhhh….so what happens now? Thanks to my other friend Tony who helped me and Phil figure it out. On that note, this FB status got 14 wonderful “likes”:

    -Ignorant American soccer fan

    Ok, be honest, who out there thought it was over? Don’t lie. That’s the funny thing-we’re high-fiving, yelling, celebrating what’s being called America’s biggest goal in history, and two minutes later, it’s back to normal life. If we were real fans, wouldn’t that be a bigger deal? So apparently we play Ghana next, this Saturday night. I’ll be back at HaGov if anyone’s looking for me. Come out, everybody! I swear, we’re going to score a ton of touchdowns. And if anybody makes fun of us for being morons? Well…umm…err…

    USA! USA! USA!

    I really can’t wait to switch to WordPress if only to stop this buggy font switch. Argh. Bulls**t.

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