Thursday, May 22, 2008

Isolated Soccer Fan, Terrible Rule

I had the good fortune to have lunch yesterday with a great friend whom I had not seen for many months. He was nice enough to meet me a Hopper's Brew Pub in Midvale. I asked him to meet me here because I wanted to watch the UEFA Champions League Final.

For the first time in over 50 years, the match was between two EPL teams, ManU and Chelsea. I don't like either team but I dislike ManU about as much as one can dislike a team.

We ate and visited during the first half. We did witness a couple of nice goals. He has an all-consuming job and had to get back. So I stayed there and watch the remainder of the match on ESPN2.

It was 1-1 at half. After 90 minutes, it remained tied. There was no change after extra time, so they were forced into penalty kicks. Manchester United won 6-5 over a more-deserving Chelsea.

I watched this game completely alone...in a grill/sports bar mind you. It shows how little interest there is in America, especially in Utah, for the best soccer in the world. If the UEFA Champions League is like watching Major League Baseball, watching MLS is like watching minor league baseball--fun and okay but lacking world class quality. The UEFA Champions League Final is the equilivant of watching the Super Bowl.

There is one thing that FIFA and the beautiful game lacks: how to end a match that ends in a tie. PKs are the worst way to end a game. It would be like a basketball game ending in a tie and having a half-court shooting contest; or a series of field goals without the both football teams on the field; or a home run hitting contest in baseball. The NHL does it right in the playoffs -- a sudden death 20 minute period (and so on) until a game winner.

At the end of the match, there were a few non-fans watching (who happened to be in the facility) and one Mexican soccer fan from the kitchen just getting off work. There was no one there to talk about the finer points and to complain about about lousy PKs.

My daughter, who happens to be in England, watched the match in a pub in Manchester. To say the least, her experience was much more engaging than mine, something she'll remember her entire life.

Tough to be a fan of the beautiful game as a Yank. That's just our lot.

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