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The Pigskin Prophet: Soccer is cool ... and weird

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For more on football (the American kind), follow The Pigskin Prophet on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/thepig_ns

World Cup brings the legend out of the barn

Wednesday, July 2, 2014 - 11:49 am

The Pig is so desperate for football that for the first time he took in a game that people around the world mistakenly call “football.”

Hundreds of millions of people have to be wrong, right?

While we eagerly count down the days until “real” football begins, this swine nearly stayed awake for nearly 30 minutes while watching the United States battle Belgium in the World Cup on Tuesday.

Just kidding….sort of.

In actuality, the 2-1 defeat suffered by the United States was entertaining. Unfortunately, not many things short of terror attacks bring this country together on such a massive scale. The United States men's national team did just that.

The Pig is a pompous know-it-all when it comes to the pigskin, even if it is just in his own mind. But he is swine enough to admit he knows next to nothing about soccer, other than it produces some really good kickers.

Here are a few of the positives and negatives The Pig took out of his first soccer match:

POSITIVES

- Fan Support. Not sure if it is the excitement (huh?) of 90-plus minutes of soccer or the smell from the favelas, but soccer fans at the World Cup are nuts. They are constantly cheering and yelling and supporting their country, even if their country is not even playing. Seriously, The Pig saw German and Israeli flags flying during the match on Tuesday. That's like a block of students cheering on Leo at a Northrop vs. Bishop Luers football game.

- Athleticism. The Pig may be past his prime when it comes to being in peak physical shape (barely), but he knows an athlete when he sees one. Soccer players aren't walking around at 250 pounds sporting arms the size of Volkswagens, but their cardio is spectacular. Sure, there are times you just stand around, but with substitutions at a minimum, you are running around for 90-plus minutes with only a short halftime for a breather.

- Camaraderie. As The Pig mentioned above, nothing in sport brings the country together quite like the World Cup. You could say maybe the Olympics, but the draw to soccer is that many races are represented on the soccer pitch. Only baseball comes close to having such a diverse team on the field at any one time, and baseball does not have a world-wide event on par with the World Cup. When it comes to soccer, the melting pot of the United States band together to root for the many backgrounds the players have emerged from.

NEGATIVES

- Fake injuries. The Pig remembers watching some of the worst injuries in NFL history … with guys like Joe Theismann, Kevin Everett and Mike Utley seeing not just their careers come to an end but some having life-threatening injuries.

Que to soccer, where every kick to the shin or ball to the face elicits a reaction typically received for gunshot wounds.

It is tough for The Pig to take a sport seriously when a player is crying foul every time he falls down.

If soccer players played football, neither team would have enough players to compete by the middle of the first quarter.

- Time woes. So let The Pig get this straight, the clock doesn't stop? What if someone is hurt? What if there is a yellow or red card being issued? What if (like Tuesday) a drunken fan runs onto the field?

Nope, the clock continues to move no matter what. Then, these phantom minutes called “extra time” are added at the end of the first and second halves.

The Pig has a question, shouldn't there be extra time from extra time? There is plenty of standing around in extra time … no additional time from that?

- Penalty kicks. It is the world's biggest event, hundreds of millions of people are invested in how their country does in the World Cup.

So on the biggest stage in sport, where poor Third World countries can compete with superpowers, a tie game is determined by … penalty kicks?

That is like determining the Stanley Cup Final by shootout, only the goalies are the same size and the nets 10 times bigger. The only hope a goalkeeper has in soccer on a penalty kick is somehow correctly guessing where the kick is going to go.

Well, not entirely true. Players could miss the net entirely, as the United States did several times.

But still, play sudden death OT, first to score. Can you imagine the chaos in the crowd then?

Sorry to be so crude. The Pig just misses football … the “real” football.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email The Pigskin Prophet at nssports@news-sentinel.com.