For the eight and a half years that I lived in Argentina, when I was between the ages of 9 and 17, whenever a soccer championship approached I fervently requested of the Divinity that the national, or most popular, team ... lose.
Why was I such a heretic in soccer-mad Argentina at the age that most boys are fans, not foes, of sport? Let me count the whys.
Because when the favored local team beats a rival the fans come out in sweaty, smelly, noisy droves honking cars, blocking traffic, making an absolute nuisance of themselves.
Because when the leading team then wins a regional or national league championship, even more fans, some from the team's defeated following, come out in sweaty, smelly, noisy droves honking cars, blocking traffic, making an absolute nuisance of themselves.
Because when a national selection team wins an international championship, the Libertadores de America Cup or the World Cup, out come millions of people (in addition to the regular fans of particular teams), people who have never even imagined the feel of a soccer ball's leather, in sweaty, smelly, noisy droves honking cars, blocking traffic, making an absolute nuisance of themselves.
What's my beef with sweaty, smelly, noisy droves honking cars, blocking traffic, making an absolute nuisance of themselves?
First of all, they all claim "we" won.
Speak for yourself, masked man. "We" didn't win anything. The people who won are the 11 men who trained a lot. Unfortunately, these are the same fools who, when someone puts a microphone in front of them (hugely bad idea), come up with gems such as: "We played hard and the other team fought hard too, but I guess we had better spirit."
Pro-found! One point for soccer players over American football players: they don't say "dee-fence." But that's because Americans have essentially stunk at soccer so far and are light-years away from making a dent in the sport.
Second, when it gets international, soccer becomes the worst instigator of hate-a-thons.
Argentines call Brazilians names, racism pops up, bloody dictatorships prop themselves up; there's even one recorded war (Honduras-El Salvador, 1969) set off by an international soccer match. (Trivia: Hondurans expelled all the Salvadoran immigrants and found themselves suddenly lacking mayors, watchmakers, cobblers, essential folk; the Salvadorans are known in Central America as the hardiest, rise-to-the-top folks in the region.)
Thirdly, like almost every commercialized sport, soccer promotes illiteracy and stupidity and big soccer events simply impose both on the majority, fans or not.
Take the term "fútbol," as the sport is called in South America. It comes from "football," which is what the English youths who brought the sport called it in the 1880s. But then there's "orsaid" (or-SYDE), for off-side and a whole variety of sandlot Spanglish that makes the players look even more illiterate than they are already.
Of course, to folks as poor as Brazil's legendary Pelé once was, futbol has been the path to upward mobility, much the way basketball remains in South Central LA, South Side Chicago, Harlem or Anacostia. But think of the millions of shattered dreams!
Fine, you may say that my attitude is a betrayal of guydom, that maybe I just didn't get the "sports gene" all guys get. Guilty as charged! My sons never had my competition for the sports pages.
In the next two months I intend to studiously avoid all talk, broadcast or news of the FIFA World Cup. I can't stand futbol!