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Friday, July 28, 2006

Why Cenk Uygur Sucks

Since I'm on about football this evening, let me call your attention to a small and insignficant piece of literary excrement recently published on the happy nuthatch that is The Huffington Post.

The piece is by Cenk Uygur, who hosts a radio program that apparently longs to be part Al Franken and part Howard Stern, judging from the number of porn "actresses" interspersed among the politicians on the guest list (and I'm just reading that from Cenk's bio). One can just imagine Howard Dean following the star of something titled "King Dong" or "Garfield II: A Tale of Two Titties."

Anyway, Cenk thinks that football (soccer) is unfair, because of the penalty shootout, and that American sports are imminently fairer because they play all the way to end on the field in the manner of the regular sport. Of course, the penalty shootout is necessary because, unlike baseball players (or cricketers for that matter), footballers do a fair bit of running during the match. Playing 21 innings or 7 overtimes isn't really practical in football, unless you enjoy seeing leg spasms, people passing out, and lactic acid overdoses.

Cenk might suggest that the rules be changed so that it's easier to score goals, but that's not fairness, that's simply cheating to get a more "exciting" result. "Exciting" amongst some American sports fans means that they get to count a lot during the match, to demonstrate they have the equivalent of their "0" level in math. Also, people are bloodied, but that already happens in football.

Cenk writes, "How often have you seen a soccer game where one team completely outplays the other and the weaker side wins anyway based on a fluke goal? The answer is -- all the time." This begs the question as to how many matches this Neanderthal has watched over the years, in-between interviewing on-screen hookers? I suppose the blokes at Arsenal and Chelsea are laughing their arses off at that one, given the number of one-sided massacres they've initiated.

Sure, a fluke goal happens from time to time, just like baseball pitchers occasionally walk in the winning run or let a critical out slip between their legs (apologies to former Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, whom I know must live with that sad memory). Gridiron football players occasionally fumble on the goal line or throw an interception in the last minutes. However, to claim that fluke goals regularly decide football matches is right up there with the "Jews didn't come to work on 9/11" tinfoiled hat nonsense.

Of course, Cenk says at the end that he "loves the World Cup," which of course makes it perfectly logical to entitle the piece "Why Soccer Sucks." I'm sure he must be a true romantic on dates. What does he tell girlfriends, "I really care for you, but you are a ratbag trollop?" Cenk should talk a bit more with some of the Turkish blokes he partially grew up with, who might explain to him the slide tackle in some detail. Then he can tell us about his love for the game.

What Cenk really needs explained to him is that the goal in soccer means so much more than a run in baseball or a touchdown in American football. It's difficult to get goals. Footballers can't just OD on creatine or actual steroids and bash goals in from 100 metres. They can't pick up the ball and run into the end zone after smashing a quarterback into the ground. Scoring is difficult business in football, but that's part of the great charm of the sport. Goals are worth more than a pump of the fist and a run down the court.

Are there problems in football? Certainly. Divers like Cristiano Ronaldo and half the Italian national squad threaten to ruin the game with their cheating and unmanly, incompetent acting. However, American sporting "purists" live in a glass house. What's fair about the designated hitter rule? The beanball or the payback beaner? The hellbent refusal to settle for a tie when two teams have been evenly matched in a regular league match? The chop block? The flagrant foul in basketball? Certain engine modifications in NASCAR? The threat of a floppy-bosomed dowager like Morgana leaping out of the stands to slobber on some hapless infielder?

No, the reason that diving in the penalty area is so foul is because scoring a goal in football is such a wonderfully complex and difficult thing for a team to do. Sure, sometimes a bloke lucks into an easy touch into goal, but usually only after some real work by their team. Scoring a goal isn't easy. That why those of us who play football often go mental after we manage it, and why we value the blokes who do it with great finesse and skill (such as the great Dennis Bergkamp whose testimonial was in the new Emirates Stadium this week...just in case you think I forgot about it).

I once, in the U.S. equivalent of a Sunday League game, scored a goal from the keeper position. now, we played seven-a-side on half a pitch, but I still had to punt the ball a good 50 metres to even reach the other net. The beauty of it though was that I was actually trying to put the ball on goal (mainly because it was a 95-degree Farenheit day in July and my teammates, including Stew, were knackered). I took a chance, had the sun behind me, a slight breeze, and the other keeper lost the ball in the glare and it bounced on the line and into the roof of the net.

I've never gone so mental after a goal I'd scored. One of my mates jogged the length of the pitch to shake my hand. The other keeper looked like someone had put rat poison in his porridge. There are very few things I can think of that match such an event in sport, the Hail Mary or the full-court last second shot in basketball come to mind. The funny thing is, we lost 2-1. The "fluke" shot didn't matter to the outcome, but the beauty of it is that's my most memorable goal. That's football. Win or lose, there's beauty to be found in it.

What really sucks are commentators who try to get cheap attention promoting a row by running down a game billions love. Cenk should go back to asking "adult" film stars about their Oscar chances. Of course he's really just engaging in the old game of sucking up to his friends who are athletic and like the American games over the "non-American" games (even though "soccer" predates American football in the U.S. -which in fact was derived from Rugby, which itself sprung from soccer). I'm sure Cenk got a few pats on the behind and maybe even someone bought him a beer or two. Pity it was for this.


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