Much to my surprise, it came to my attention this week that not everyone reads ShoreBilly’s Swill. I know, I was shocked too. The reason I know this is because people are still trying to recruit me to be a soccer fan. Had everyone read my piece two weeks ago, then they would all know to stop trying to get me to join your little cult. In fact, the sport has substantially less credibility to me now than it did at the start of the World Cup. If you couldn’t get me to climb aboard two weeks ago, you definitely won’t now. Let me give you a quick recap of what I’ve seen these past couple of weeks.

Let me start by saying that no, I’ve not been watching the matches, but I do work in a bar, so every time I look up, it’s on. And there’s no escaping the highlights no matter where you are. I’ve seen many players and fans travel tens of thousands of miles to sit for hours and watch something that ends in a tie. REALLY?!! Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t competition by definition an event that ends with a winner and a loser? Otherwise, what’s the point? It’s nothing more than practice, and surely people don’t need to travel halfway across the world for a dress rehearsal.

Perhaps it’s an extreme analogy, but allow me to illustrate my point. Say my wife was in labor, and I drove her to the hospital (not really a stretch). We check in, get prepped, and she spends the next several hours grunting, pushing, and agonizing in excruciating pain. Eventually, the doctor pushes his chair away from ground zero, pulls down his mask, looks at his watch and proclaims; “well, that’s it. We tried. I even added a few minutes for the epidural, but we’re gonna call it a day.”  He leaves the room, we say thank you, we check out, my wife is perpetually pregnant, and everyone is cool with this. NO! Freakin finish it!

I’ve also seen a pathetic never ending stream of ‘flops’ that make Lebron James seem like a totem pole. This is the ritual where grown men repeatedly toss themselves to the ground in hopes of gaining some sort of advantage over the other team by tricking the officials. Every match has been laden with nothing but drama and theatrics for two weeks, making the acting in amateur porn seem Oscar-worthy. I actually get embarrassed for these guys since they don’t seem to possess enough sense or dignity to be ashamed.

If all of this isn’t enough to destroy what little credibility the sport already had to me, now throw in grown men biting each other. Wow! If a guy is notorious for sinking his teeth into another dude while on the field of play, is he really the one you want to send half way around the world to represent your country? It seems to me that with his unique skill set, he’d be much better suited to be at this week’s Nathan’s hot dog eating contest than in Brazil playing soccer and eating man jerky. I don’t know how stringent the drug testing is for this event, but they might want to start testing for bath salts instead of steroids. The last time I heard a good public cannibalism story it was about a couple of homeless junkies in Florida. I’m just saying, they might want to expand the testing. (When I first wrote about the man I dubbed, ‘the South Beach Faceavore’ I was really hoping I’d get to reference him again, thanks for indulging me.)

Now let’s chat for a moment about the officials. I believe it’s the only sport where the referees not only wear cute little shorts, but in their shirt pocket they carry a stack of colored flash cards, a tiny little notebook, and a crayon. If this whole international officiating thing doesn’t work out they have a bright future as kindergarten teachers. Maybe that’s what they’ll do for the next four years to fill the void when nobody gives a crap about soccer.

Do they send all of these referees to a special school to learn just how walk? They all have the exact same gait when they are about to make some sort of pointless (to the laymen) call. It’s like they have the same training as runway models. They strut into a clearing with an exaggerated stride like they just came out to do the encore in a drag queen show. They stop, put their heels together and snap one of those bright colorful cards up with their elbow at a perfect 90 degree angle. The whole process to me looks like a Nazi soldier giving Waltzing lessons to someone.

The referees all have the same facial expressions when a player challenges a call or contests their authority. They have the raised eyebrows, wide eyed “how dare you question me” look. This usually happens just before they reach into their card pocket. They have the look of the elementary school gym teacher who has reached his plateau in life and is there because it’s the only place where he can be respected and intimidate people.

I’ve it said before and I’ll say it again, I don’t hate soccer. I have nothing personal against the sport, its participants, or its fans. I admire the enthusiasm with which I’ve seen people watch the matches these past few weeks. It’s just not for me. I agree wholeheartedly that soccer has its place. I think it’s great that there was an after school activity for all the boys who didn’t make the football team. It prevented so many from turning to a life of Dungeons and Dragons. I’m not saying the football players were better, but everyone who played soccer growing up watches football, and nobody who played football watches soccer.

As if all of these things I mentioned weren’t enough to drive me away from the sport, there’s the exclamation point at the end. That perpetually irritating, walking oxymoron known as white guys with dreadlocks! Pair it up with the sounds of vuvazelas (which I’ve already discussed) and count me out.

With soccer being more than just a sport, but rather a way of life to many, I’m sure I’ve pissed a few of you off with this one. Relax, it’s just a fun, silly article poking fun of stereotypical activity…that’s what I do. I have 4 children, 2 of them have already played soccer competitively, and more than likely the other 2 will as well. And if necessary, I’ll get my hypocrisy on, research the sport, and coach their teams. World Cup just makes good fodder for this column, so thanks for playing along.

All of that being said; GO U.S.A.!!! Happy Independence Day everyone!

Until next week, Syd Nichols