Gary Rotstein's The Morning File: From one World Cup novice to all others ...

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A lot of yinz turning on the television today might stumble upon the noon World Cup soccer match between the USA and Germany, an important one in helping determine whether America continues paying attention to the sport for a few more days before forgetting about it for another four years.

To help educate newcomers before they watch, we provide answers — with the caveat that we have absolutely no understanding of soccer — to some basic questions arising after two weeks of World Cup action.

Q: Uruguay defeated Italy this week after one of its star players bit the shoulder of an Italian defender during the match. Is this standard for soccer, and should the U.S. emulate it to advance to the round of 16 remaining teams?

A: Ever since boxer Mike Tyson began teaching kids to bite opponents in the youth recreational league in which he was coaching in Las Vegas, it has become a popular and accepted part of the sport. It has opened up scoring opportunities and turned what seemed too dull a spectator sport for many Americans into a very exciting event this year.

Q: Is all of that biting the reason that so many players in the World Cup fall to the ground grimacing in agony every half minute or so?

A: No, that’s different. Players are taught that any time an opposing player comes within 5 feet of them, they are to behave as though an assassin’s bullet has struck them in either the knee or temple or both, in hopes of drawing a yellow card or red card for their opponent.

Q: What are all these cards for?

A: Players try to collect one in every color, so that when an opponent puts a card down on the table, they can top it with the same color and advance their tokens toward the finish line. Or that may be a children’s game of some sort. We’re not sure. These international sports are very complicated.

Q: I like to hear those Spanish-speaking announcers yell “Gooooooallll!” when someone scores. Will ESPN have an announcer do that if the USA scores today?

A: No, ESPN will have some dull analyst discussing geometric angles and principles of physics involved in a soccer ball directed one way by a human foot colliding with a human head that aims it in another direction.

Q: Speaking of which, aren’t there a lot of concussions from all the times players strike the ball with their heads in violent fashion? Does that explain why so few players successfully kick the ball into that massive goal — their brains are now misshapen and lacking the ability to process spatial relationships?

A: Something like that.

Q: With those extra minutes called “stoppage time,” I never know how long a game is going to last, so I can’t set my DVR properly or plan for walking the dog or getting anything else done in life due to all the uncertainty. Would it kill them to let us know during the game what to expect in the way of extra minutes?

A: The concept of fixed, precise time is a purely American notion that bewilders the rest of the world, similar to other U.S. cultural staples such as school shootings and Donald Trump.

Q: I always root for underdogs, so I would love it if a team like Ghana or Cote d’Ivoire won the World Cup, but as a typical geographically challenged American, I don’t have any idea where those are, or if they’re countries or continents or cities or what. Is there any requirement that you must know where the players are from in order to root for their team in the World Cup?

A: Just so long as you can clearly distinguish which teams have the best-looking players in shorts, wherever they’re from, that’s the main thing.

Q: I really miss the beautiful symphonic melodies of the vuvuzelas that were so constant during the last World Cup. Will I be able to hear those today?

A: Those have been banned as the biggest international nuisance short of al-Qaida. So let’s hope there’s no sign of either one of those in Brazil.

Q: My understanding is that if Germany and the USA tie today, it guarantees that they will both advance to the next round of the World Cup. So wouldn’t it make sense for the players on the two teams to run around aimlessly, back and forth and back and forth, just kicking the ball out of bounds a bunch, except for when they fall down a lot, and never score any goals?

A: Well, yes, of course — it’s soccer, after all.

 


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