Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Because I Want Soccer Fans To Hate Me

My rooting interests in the World Cup are a lot like my rooting interests in the NCAA tournament, whereby family rooting interests aside (my 11 year old nephew is a stone Duke fan, and so it is unseemly for Uncle Rich to be doing cartwheels when Mercer knocks them off), I root for the weird schools. 


Like the BCS or March Madness, the World Cup has the whiff of a mid-80s Bill Murray movie - the one where the snobs invite the slobs over just to show them what they can't have. That's why the BCS was always an SEC-Big 10 party, with a select few outsiders invited so they could potentially get the Carrie-at-the-prom treatment. It's why March Madness selection Sunday provokes screams of anguish from the campus of every 17-14 ACC school when a 27 win team from the MVC gets in, and deeply troubled concern trolling from the announcers when that 27 win team actually wins a game or two.

And then there's the World Cup, which seems to exist primarily so that Europe and South America can remind the rest of the world every four years of what they're not allowed to have. Going back to 1930, the number of winners from outside South America or Europe is precisely zero. The number of runners-up from outside South America or Europe is also - wait for it - zero. It's a lot like the SEC running roughshod over the BCS, except with worse hair and Interpol after the unruly fans instead of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation.

And that's why I root for the teams that aren't from the power conferences, so to speak. They have more interesting stories. They have cooler nicknames - seriously, isn't "Indomitable Lions" way cooler than "The Blues"? For God's sake, the Blues play mediocre hockey in St. Louis. Give me a lion, indomitable or otherwise, any day. And they're not supposed to win, in precisely the same way that Butler's not supposed to win the NCAAs or Boise State wasn't supposed to beat Oklahoma. It's great you're here, you gave us a few thrills, now it's time to go home and let the teams that get the ratings play. 20 out of 32 teams in the tournament are from the "power conferences"; ESPN predicts that 14 of the 16 advancing out of group play will be. all hail the favorites, and the hell with the little guy.

So go get 'em, Indomitable Lions. Knock 'em dead, Blue Samurai and Super Eagles. Stomp 'em flat, Elephants and Desert Foxes and whatever the hell a Socceroo is. Win one for the little guys, which is to say for all the rest of the guys. Because rooting for Brazil or Germany or Spain is like rooting, not for General Electric, but for the SEC as a conference. And that's no fun for anyone.
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