I didn't grow up in a sporty family.
Our primary sport was reading, punctuated by a few bicycle races in Europe (see #5). In fact, I can't even remember a single sporting event on the TV in our house growing up, except the Olympics. Which, oh, yeah, my dad was in for skeet-shooting, and oh, yeah, I did grow up in gun clubs around America -- but that's an odd sport, which I mostly associate with the smell of cigarette smoke, gunpowder, and scotch on the rocks.
So I was surprised at how drawn in I got to the FIFA World Cup this year. I'd been following Manchester City on Twitter and watching a game here and there (my great grandparents lived in Manchester on their way from Poland to Manhattan, so I have a legitimate excuse for the club to be my team). But for the first time ever, I found my daughters and myself sitting around the big TV riveted to not just one game, but a whole series of games. (And watching curling during the last Olympics doesn't count -- that was just utterly cruel TV programing that forced us to watch it if we wanted to watch anything Olympic on TV. PLEASE DON'T EVER DO THAT AGAIN, NBC!)
I'm not going to dwell on why I don't find the big four U.S. sports appealing (football: boring; baseball: even more boring; basketball: the shorts and bad gym smells; hockey: too cold). Instead, I'll focus on what I absolutely love about soccer.
1. The uninterrupted play of each half. There are no timeouts, except in extreme circumstances. The clock doesn't stop. It keeps on ticking, bullying through the drama and adding time if necessary to make up for stoppage. The added bonus is that you don't have commercials except before, during halftime, and after the game...where they belong! So you can really get absorbed.
2. Speaking of halftime, there is no halftime spectacle. No cheerleaders. No fireworks accompanying an overly glittery rock show. It's about the game, people, the game! This is serious.
3. The action is beautiful, like a sports ballet. Especially when they replay moments in slow motion! The athleticism is stunning--the jumps, the headers, the dives, the emotion! No choreographer can beat that.
4. Plus, you can see the players. There are no helmets, mouth guards, or giant padded uniforms to get in the way of enjoying the glorious, amazing, powerful beauty of the players in action. Which leads me to my daughters' contribution to this blog...
5. Hot Boys. Yup. It's true: Fútbol players are HOT. And you can tell they smell good just by looking at them. I don't think you need to be hot to become a fútbol player, but I think you become hot by being one. And did you see Tim Howard on the cover of Adweek? Hot, hot, and more hot. As much because of how he played the game as his looks!
6. It's a global sport. It's such a great way to feel part of the whole world, even while celebrating our tribal associations. As I watched the last few games of the World Cup while wars raged around the world, it just seemed like this was such a more positive use of male energy than all that other stuff men do. It's a fair and fun way to compete.
7. The announcers are elegant. Partly because of their beautiful foreign accents, but also, they are not shouting and making unnecessary noise--unless there is a goal, and then they say, "GOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAALLlLLLLLLLL!" which is always fun. And then, in a droll voice, they say things like "This game is just dripping in drama."
8. And oh, the drama! The emotions--agony and ecstasy. The rolling about on the ground; the screaming in pain, writhing in misery; and the giant pile-on when a goal is scored, the dances of joy, the prayers and passion. And then the misery again. Some of it is fake, I am sure, but some of it is real. Sergio Aguero's red eyes of sadness after Argentina lost to Germany broke my heart. I follow him on Twitter. He seems nice.
9. It's just plain passionately exciting! I guess the World Cup might be more exciting than just a regular soccer game, but heck, it sure was exciting. You literally never know what's going to happen next.
10. It's super simple. It's guys and a ball. Although I still can't quite understand the "offside" call that disqualifies a goal. Other than that, it's easy to understand, fun, colorful to watch, and good clean fun.
Maybe I'll see some of you at Yankee Stadium for the Man City game on July 30th. For the first time in my life, I'm going to a live sporting event for more than just the food.
For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com