A few weeks ago, Pax Arcana sat in a hotel room in Berlin watching the UEFA Champions League Final match between Manchester United and Chelsea. I don’t often watch soccer, though I will tune in for big matches like that one or the Euro Cup or the World Cup or what have you.
Salon sportswriter King Kaufman neatly sums up why this is the case, even for sports omnivores like me. It’s not that soccer is not a physically challenging sport fraught with danger. It’s that soccer players in general spend so much of their time flouncing around on the pitch and generally being whiny-ass-titty-babies about everything around them:
As an American brought up on the big four sports here, I just can’t get around the fact that soccer players act like such weenies so often. As silly as they are, those war metaphors that have been connected to sports like football and even baseball have some resonance.
Fans of those sports will put up with the occasional delicate soul if he’s talented enough — nobody expected Wayne Gretzky to grind in the corners or drop the gloves — but we expect our athletes to be fighters, to leave it all out there, battle to the final whistle and so on.
As an example, Kaufman cites the abhorrent posturing of Sotirios Kyrgiakos, a Greek defender who may or may not have cost his team a goal against Sweden in the Euro 2008 tournament yesterday. Kaufman describes in painstaking detail how Kyrgiakos collapsed to the turf — as if he was hit by lightning — as the ball bounced dangerously in front of his goal. Eventually, after the ball careened off a goalie, two defenders, and the tailgate of a Ford Festiva, Swedish forward Henrik Larsson knocked the ball into the goal.
Kyrgiakos lay motionless on the ground throughout the entire play, just a few feet from the action but unable to muster the strength to stand. Until the goal was scored, when he got up and resumed his place in the game.
Now picture Kendrick Perkins playing dead under the hoop while Kobe Bryant evaporates into the open lane for a winning shot. Can’t do it, can you?