Monday, October 6, 2008

Updates and an old blog I forgot to edit...

Greetings to all my friends and bloggers around the world. I'm still in Chambana, preparing myself for the fall season and the incoming winter. Now, here would the time when I'd rant about the awful transition where there's no fall. But, the girl I love told me a few days ago that it's already snowing in good old Россия (or Russia for all of you!), so I guess no complaints here :).

It's been a good few months since the last blog: My committee is pretty much all involved in the work with my dissertation, my leg's healing well (I've even started jogging), and things are going well overall. And... I'm going home for Christmas! Tickets are booked and I'll have all my arrangements made pretty soon. Of course, there'll be plenty of Gonzo 2.0 live from Colombia (in fact, I may even have a guest blogger... fingers crossed on that one!)

No twins update this time... there'll be time for that too! Now, on to the blog:

Blogo Bonito: About Fútbol/Football and Other Thoughts Regarding the Beautiful Game!

[Blogger's note: I originally wrote this blog around the time of Euro 2008 (or, as some call it, the Brazil-Argentina-free World Cup) and I recently found it hidden in my archives. So, I'm unearthing it!]

This blog is all devoted to The Beautiful Game and its fans... especially those who refuse to capitulate and continue calling the sport as it was meant to be... fútbol, futebol, fussball, FOOTBALL (if you're a fan of American Rugby, er, American Football feel free to stop reading here). Right now, a quick disclaimer...

Yes, I am VERY WELL AWARE of the origin of "soccer" as a reduced form of "Association Football." So, spare me the history lesson (and please don't even try to pull that off on me... you'd be suprised how much I know about the history of U.S. sports, particularly basketball, so let's leave it at that!). Any of you who has followed my "quest" on Facebook ( knows that I'm all for the Footballución... and I think that David Beckham is a freaking sellout (calling Football "sockah"... COME ON! All Old Trafford with me... SELLOUT!)

After that, let's get back on track... and let's get this game started...

First Half: Why I love Football...

First things first, my love for football comes primarily out of geography: As a good South American, fútbol is a big deal. Our sports lives come to their pinnacle every four years, during the World Cup... an event where (sarcasm spoiler here) World actually means several countries are represented by their national teams, unlike, say the World Series... and where whichever team becomes World Champions actually defeated teams from other parts of the world... unlike, say the NBA or NFL World Champions (ok... I'll cut the NFL some slack since they're World Champions by default; after all, the only place on earth where this kind of football is played is the US... which makes me wonder... shouldn't the Canadian Football League and the Aussie Rules champions be declared World Champions under that same logic? I can't cut the NBA much slack until they actually win a Gold medal in the Olympics or win a FIBA World Championship). So, it's no suprise that the Championship Match for the World Cup is watched by BILLIONS around the world, which I don't think even the Super Bowl can claim, let alone the NBA Finals or the MLB "World" Series (an ironic thing, this "World" Series thing since Japan actually won the World Baseball Challenge in the US no less!). Football is one of the sports where national pride is always at stake, where not making it to the largest stage doesn't mean you get to pick the best players at the draft, and where an embarrassing defeat becomes a scarlet letter every time your friends from the opposing country meet you... because players come and go... victories and defeats live forever (ask Brazilians, the defeat in 1950 still stings... or the Germans in 1966, they'll tell you the ball never crossed the goal line... etc, etc, etc).

The other reason I love futebol is the fans at stadia around the world. With apologies to all professional sports fans in the U.S. (some of whom are dear friends), the passion that football triggers is unrivaled. I always make the argument that when I see fans in baseball/basketball/American football dancing around a BONFIRE, we can claim they're truly hardcore. Also, football fans don't need cheerleaders or PA announcers to tell them to make "NOISE" (as I've seen in games at college or pro levels)... football fans at the stadium are ready to chant, scream, and wave all 90 minutes. The most harcore fans won't even consider sitting down all the time. Some football teams may have cheerleaders, but the bottom line is, fans at these games are given free reign to celebrate the game... it's not about how many celebrities you can spot (and quite frankly, I'd find it rather ridiculous to see Hollywood celebrities at a football match... they'd be so out of place... I mean, "it's hot" is not something fans would chant, right?)

Another reason is the game itself. You have 11 players on each side, 10 of whom are actually expected to help on both sides of the pitch. You only get THREE substitutions, which means that at least 16 players won't have much of a timeout for a good 90 minutes. I can only think of another game that expects this much from a small group of players... RUGBY, but that's for another day. In futebol, you don't see such a thing as a dude that only comes in a few times per game to kick the ball (punters and place kickers, yes, it's you I'm talking about!). A futbol roster is about 18-22 players, not a whopping 60 (like some American Football rosters). Plus, in football, pretty much ANYONE can be part of that Holy Grail of football otherwise known as the GOL... a defensive linebacker scoring a touchdown? Technically possible, but more unlikely than a defender scoring a goal... In addition, football IS a contact sport, so contact is expected and, with a few exceptions, there's no bad blood when contact happens. Plus, since there is neither protective armor nor excessive weight differences among players, that prevents some injuries from going further... I mean, sure, there are football players who have torn their ACLs, broken legs, noses even... but how many of them have suffered a PARALYZING NECK INJURY? I mean, for that to happen in a fútbol match, we're talking about a defender who's the love child of Chuck Norris and the Incredible Hulk... in American Football, all it takes is a 350-lb linebacker.

Second Half: Things I love (and hate) about The Beautiful Game

Having declared my passion for fútbol, there are things I really enjoy and some that really irk me about the game... here's a list for you!
  • I love the celebrations... when a team scores a goal, the rest of the team enjoys it genuinely. It's not about how outlandish you can be or how much of a selfish bastard you can be (T.O., Ocho Cinco, yes, I'm talking TO and ABOUT you... your celebrations actually exclude everybody and their mother!). Plus, more often than not, the players remember someone special when they score. Goals have been dedicated to parents, girlfriends and wives, friends, etc. Yes, there's some showboating involved when you wear the picture of your child underneath your shirt to show it after you score... but how many touchdowns are dedicated to babies? And, of course, LeBron always thinks of his mama when he shoots a buzzer beater... right?
  • I really hate it when they show the players during the national anthems and they're not singing. Guys, you know they're gonna show your mugs during the introductions, so PLEASE learn your freaking national anthems. We're not asking you to learn some scientific law here, just your anthem. And please, don't freaking chew gum during introductions either!
  • I love the fact that, with football, Earth is literally a pitch. Right now, on any random street in Europe or South America (to name two), a big-time match is taking place. These street warriors won't make it to Sports Center tonight, but every time you play a match, bragging rights are on the line. I played a few of those myself!
  • Fútbol is a sport where you can be a fan of multiple teams without feeling you're a traitor or a fairweather fan. You can follow a team in England, Italy, or Spain, Brazil or Argentina (by the way, I put those as binaries because they're somehow mutually exclusive. In the South American context, it's okay to root for a local team and a team from Brazil or Argentina... but you don't root for teams from both countries... that's called jumping on a bandwagon) plus your home team and that's fine. That's a luxury that other sports really don't have (maybe Rugby is an exception here).
  • I really hate the excessive violence from fans. I do. That's the first salvo that any fútbol-hater uses to bash the beautiful game. And it's our fault. I believe violence has to leave the stadia and our game. Nothing wrong with the extreme passion of the sport... after all, there's nothing wrong in and of itself to get mad when those 11 cats are making your country look bad on the pitch. But, how does violence help? It doesn't so PLEASE QUIT IT!!!!!
Finally, the main reason I love the game... Because very few things in life can send a WHOLE COUNTRY to hell and back to heaven in a matter of seconds.... very few things in life paralyze an entire city for an hour... very few things in life become a language of its own that transcends religion, ethnicity, nationality, creed, and even gender... after all, across five continents, many of us know what it's like to bite your nails and dream every four years, what it's like to learn about players from places you wouldn't know about otherwise, to love and hate your country all in one afternoon, to find ways to connect with people from other countries...

... and that's all thanks to the BEAUTIFUL GAME!

That's why I think that an edited version of the Bible would include this paragraph...

And after creating the world in seven days, God saw that everything looked good yet his seventh day was missing something... something that would create excitement and passion for that day... so, on the eighth day, God created FOOTBALL... and all was good!

That's it for now. Till my next blog, I bid farewell!

The Blogger, the Thinker, the Provocateur...
Raúl A. (El Patrón)