Every four years, America likes to flirt with the notion that it will finally start acting like a civilized nation. I’m not talking about politics and presidential elections, I mean, every four years we act like this might finally be the time we learn to love soccer. Yeah, I don’t see it happening this time either. Not yet. But it is trending on Twitter. It’s setting ratings records on ESPN. And it’s pushing viral internet content, tons of clever and stupid memes, as well as 16 Reasons Why Soccer Stars Are The Hottest Thing Since Fire Met Wood listicles, and in a way that maybe, just maybe, when it’s time for the next World Cup Americans won’t still act like soccer is something their kids play. Who knows? For now, if you’re dealing with Americans who still don’t understand why World Cup soccer is rad, share with them these five little words:
“Soccer Is Just Like Sex”
Most Americans fail to recognize this evident truth, and thus, they miss the subtler pleasures of the game. Perhaps point out a few of these ten similarities and they’ll start to understand the world’s most popular game better:
1. Like sex … soccer is a lot of action that may not result in any scoring
One of the first things people new to watching soccer like to say is “There isn’t enough scoring! Soccer is boring!” They are, of course, wrong. Although soccer has goals, the sport is not goal-oriented like some middle-aged Mid-Atlantic used car salesman. Soccer is about rhythm, tension, constant exertion, graceful coordination and satisfaction of the soul. You know what may explain America’s reluctance to embrace it? Soccer is inherently female. Goals in soccer, like female orgasms, are elusive. To score requires timing, repetition, teamwork and it’s all helped along by a flexible and open attitude. Scoring is never easy or automatic. Now, basketball is like masturbation, you’re guaranteed there will be scoring. Not with soccer. Like, no one is surprised when a match is scoreless at the end (just as one shouldn’t be surprised if a woman doesn’t reach orgasm. It happens). In fact, soccer kinda proves what some women want men to know: you can sweat for ninety minutes, never score a goal, and everyone can still be well and fully entertained.
2. Like sex … soccer is not about one person — it’s best when it’s shaped by teamwork
The appeal of soccer might feel difficult to explain to someone stuck in a bar with raving, babbling, cussing, frothing, drunken World Cup fans. The non-fan may wonder why anyone would get so excited about a pass: a guy kicked the ball well, who gives a shit? Isn’t that his job to kick the ball well? Yes, it is. But as simple as it sounds it’s not easy when everyone is equally good at kicking the ball well. That’s why something so simple becomes worthy of this spectacle. Consider it the Kardashian Effect: it’s how something simple to do, like having your picture taken, becomes worthy of worldwide spectacle and coverage. Soccer relies on the Kardashian Effect. That’s also why teamwork is so critical. It’s why Kim needs Khloe and Kourtney and Kylie and Kenner and Kanye and Bruce Jenner. When a person watches soccer and only focuses on the scoring, they miss out on all the teamwork and all the little touches that led to the goal. A beautiful pass like Cristiano Ronaldo’s cross that led to the equalizer goal in Portugal’s match versus America is a thing of beauty.
In fact, Ronaldo’s pass was far more important than the header that poked it in for the goal. When you can appreciate all the little touches and attempts, and do so, for the full ninety minutes of a soccer game … that only helps you in the bedroom.
3. Like sex … good soccer is gonna make you get sweaty (which is sexy)
Other than those times when your rental car’s air conditioning totally fails during your drive across the oven we call Arizona, most of the times when you break a sweat you’re doing something that feels good. Why? Because you’re likely moving your body. Hockey players will often lose ten pounds during a game just from sweating. Now, soccer may not be that grueling, but if you play, unless you’re the goalie, you’re going to sweat. Sweat is sexy because it reminds us what someone would look like if they were having sex. If you want to see beautiful athletic men, basically super models running around kicking a ball, all sweaty like they would look if they were having sex, then soccer might be your new favorite sport. You see, the real beauty of soccer is that it’s a game of near-constant flow. It’s constant exertion and lots of sweat. Sexy, sexy sweat.
4. Like sex … playing soccer it’s easy for a person to get hurt from the smallest things
Watch five minutes of a World Cup match and you’ll likely see seven guys flop to the ground clutching at their foot, their ankle, or their knee like Kathy Bates just hobbled them with a sledgehammer Misery-style. Flopping in soccer is like fighting in hockey. It’s not officially part of the sport, it just is. Soccer revels in the drama of the flop and flail. The idea is to draw a foul and a free kick or a penalty kick. All the acting is an attempt to get the ref to flash a yellow card, or if the acting is really exceptional, a red card. This reliance on theatrics makes soccer players look like wimps. They’re not. Is a basketball player a wimp for trying to draw a charging foul by falling backwards on the court? No. It’s expected. The same goes for soccer. Besides, there are still a lot of gnarly injuries in soccer due to all the collisions, head-butts and twisted knees, also the high kicks to the face and knees to the groin. Soccer players are tough.
5. Like sex … soccer matches require a clear understanding of “the rules” and What Deserves A Warning
There are things you shouldn’t do in bed (or wherever it is you like to have sex). You know, the things that might deserve a warning. In soccer, this would they would call for a yellow card. Like, let’s say, you’re having sex with a new partner and without any warning or preparation you haul off and smack their ass. Some partners might like the surprise and the sting – others might not, they might cry foul and show you a yellow card. Soccer’s rules are always up for interpretation. Was the slide-tackle too rough? Was it from behind? Did the defender touch the ball with his foot first? Is he Brazilian? There are so many factors to consider that the rules wind up looking as arbitrarily enforced as they are in the NBA during the Finals. In soccer, two warnings, two yellow cards, count as a red card. That means you can’t play in the next game. That’s like if you surprise-smacked your partner’s ass real hard, they didn’t like it and then you finished in their hair. After those two warnings, you’re not playing in the next game. Or maybe you pull a red card. When a ref flashes the red card that’s an immediate ejection. And because it’s soccer what constitutes a red card is not exactly clear. But once you’re over the line – that’s it. Once the card is seen you’re gone. Let’s say you pull a mid-sex surprise hole-switch without any preparation, finger stimulation or lubrication – for some that can be a red card. But that’s not true with all partners. It’s the same for soccer.
6. Like sex … soccer really brings out a person’s cultural influences
Germans like crisp passes. Latin American teams play with the ardor of their passion as their egos stoke them to victory or doom them to defeat. African teams often follow this same path to glory or defeat. Russians rely on a size advantage to make up for a general lack of speed – they brutalize and intimidate other teams. Japan looks at the game somewhat differently. They will include dazzling headers as routine parts of their passing game, even more so than the flashy Brazilians. When you watch enough soccer, you see how a culture shapes a team’s game-plan. Just like with your sex partners, you may notice patterns. Don’t expect an Englishman to play like Pelé and don’t be surprised when your new Brazilian girlfriend wants to go dancing since she considers dance like foreplay. Cultural differences run deep and will shape a team’s game.
7. Like sex … if you get hurt, or you need a rest, you can always call for a substitute
What are swingers and poly-amorists? They’re just late-game substitutions to keep the game interesting. Right? Soccer can be a brutal, exhausting sport, much like modern relationships. Sometimes, people will call for a substitute. This isn’t due to a weakness of their relationship, or a moral flaw on their part, as much as it is about keeping the game riveting and close. When a couple calls in a substitute, they’re just looking for new ways to score. In the exact same way soccer is very international.
8. Like sex … scoring relies on passing which relies on anticipation and attention
As we’ve already covered (nearly) every goal requires lots of little touches before that final score. What makes all those little touches add up and work together is attention to the little details. The ball needs to hit the right spot on the foot. The head needs to be at the perfect angle. The geometry needs to line-up in order to get the ball where the other player can shoot and score. To do this requires teammates to work together to anticipate all sorts of factors. Just like in the bedroom, when teammates are able to anticipate each other and they pay attention to each other the more often they score.
9. Like sex … soccer is far more interesting if you’ve played it before
Sex is not nearly as much fun from the sidelines. Porn looks different once you’ve had real sex. Soccer is the same way. If you’ve never played, if you’re a soccer virgin, you might enjoy watching your first game. Maybe. But if you’ve played soccer before you watch it, it’s way cooler to watch. Little things make more sense to you. And when I say “play soccer,” FIFA video games totally count as playing soccer. Who needs physical elitism? It’s the same game. Video games are just a cousin of porn. It doesn’t quite feel the same but you do get a feel for it, even when it’s digital.
10. Like sex … sometimes there is a tie, ninety minutes go by and no one scores
Ties don’t suck! When there is a draw, as they call them in international soccer, it means no one lost. That’s worth a point. Not losing has value. This is something Americans might want to read and re-read and commit to memory. Not losing has value. It’s not always all about winning. There is a third level. There is the sky above and the valley of shadow below and the horizon between. Tying is like heading out for the horizon, unbeaten and ready to go again.
In order to help those-who-are not-yet-fans-of-soccer understand the appeal of the game, just remember to tell them these five little words:
“Soccer is just like sex.”
Enjoy the World Cup!