Sunday, March 04, 2007

And What's With That Round Ball?

Here's another excerpt from my book "My Friend W." This piece originally appeared on the op-ed page of the L. A. Times on June 21, 2002, just before that year's World Cup tournament.

The White House today released a copy of a letter from President Bush to Joseph Blatter, president of the international soccer association charged with organizing the World Cup:

Dear Joe:

As you know, I'm not a big soccer fan. Like most of my fellow Americans, I don't know an offsides from a corner kick.

But I do know one thing: People in this country don't care for soccer. It's not that they don't want to like it. It's just that it's so darn boring and confusing.

I think it would be a great step toward world peace and international understanding if all the world's nations could compete in one sport together. I understand you've already got a lot of nations onside with this soccer thing. Here are some friendly suggestions to help sign up the rest:

* Stop calling it football. It's not football, for Pete's sake. Football is the Giants versus the Redskins, the Cowboys versus the 49ers, Notre Dame versus Ohio State. Your game is soccer. S_O_K_E_R. Got it?

* Please put more lines on the field so we know where the players are. How about some horizontal, parallel lines every five yards or so to let us know where the action is?

* Give the players some helmets and padding. Boy, it's hard to watch a guy hit the ball with his uncovered head, or collapse in pain when someone bumps him, and not think this is a cruel and dangerous sport. I assure you that protective equipment will make everybody safer.

* Let one team have the ball for more than 10 seconds. Why not give each team four tries to make 10 yards, say? If they do, they get four more tries. Then you've got some continuity instead of the current chaos.

* Stop the clock once in a while. The referees have whistles; why not let them use them? I'm sure the players could use a break, and I'd sure like a chance to get a snack or use the bathroom. And you know what, Joe? I bet you'd get a lot more advertisers. You might even want to consider splitting each half up into two quarters to provide more ad time.

* Change that offsides rule. Who the heck understands that? I can't even figure it out in hockey, where they've got a blue line and everything. Why not line both teams up and call that the offsides line or, say, the line of scrimmage?

* I've got one word for you, Joe: cheerleaders. A group of attractive, athletic young ladies is always entertaining for the folks in the stands and those watching at home. Let's face it, Joe. Your game can be a bit of a yawn_fest, and it's always nice to look at pretty gals.

* Let the players use their hands. Joe, they look like a bunch of sissies out there with their arms hanging limp. Let 'em catch the ball and pass the ball. If they have to kick it, why not set up some goal posts at either end and let them try to kick the ball through the posts?

* Now this playoff business, or what you folks call the World Cup tournament. I used to be in the baseball business, and I did OK. But it wasn't from holding playoffs every four years! You gotta hold them every year, Joe.

Now, if you folks could implement these minor changes, I'm sure you'd get Americans coming to your games in droves. At that point, I doubt any of them would even care if you still called it football.

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