Wally Matthews

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Sunday, June 30
Updated: July 1, 2:41 PM ET
 
A thrilling end to the World Cup

By Wallace Matthews
Special to ESPN.com

I have a confession to make. I'm a highly trained professional sportswriter and I don't know Ronaldo from Rivaldo or Ronaldhino from Rustu.

Ronaldo
Ronaldo sure has done well for himself since his days as a smashmouth talk-show host and TV reporter on "20/20."
And you know what? I am not sorry. And I am not ashamed.

I don't feel I have anything to be embarrassed about.

There, I said it. And so, too, can you.

Soccer Apathetics of the world, unite. Now that the World Cup is finally over, it is safe for all of us to go public once again with our indifference toward the World's Most Popular Sport.

I know most of the world loves it, but that doesn't mean I have to. Most of the world loves Coca-Cola, too, even though it will peel the paint off a Humvee.

Go ahead, knock yourselves out with it.

Same goes for soccer.

I, for one, am sick to death of the wild-eyed soccer zealots who would have you believe that anything but unbridled enthusiasm for soccer automatically stamps one as a xenophobe, a blockhead or a Neanderthal hopelessly mired in the Dark Ages of the 1900s.

Based upon my own unbiased self-examination, I am none of the above.

I don't dislike other nations or the people who come from them. If so, I would have to dislike two of my own grandparents, who came from Italy (where they love soccer).

I am not against trying something new. And I have been walking upright for years now, except on days when my lumbago kicks in.

I don't even really dislike soccer.

To do that, I would have to care about it. Even a little bit. Which I don't.

Friends often ask me, "What is your problem with soccer, ignorance or apathy?''

Well, I don't know and I don't care.

So, yes.

With me, it's not only soccer. I can take or leave the NHL. And golf and tennis don't do much for me either.

But for the past month, it has been beyond politically correct to become immersed in the World Cup, or at least pretend that you were.

It was virtually required by an act of Congress.

If so, I have been in violation of that act.

I'm sure there are plenty of people out there just like me who are afraid or ashamed to admit it, and this I understand. The peer pressure has been nearly unbearable.

Never was it worse than when the U.S. was still alive in the tournament. To admit to having no interest in its travails was almost akin to advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government. You would have thought we were talking about the U.S. Marines invading Afghanistan, not a bunch of guys kicking a ball around in South Korea. Next stop for the Soccer Apathetic was an interment camp. You know, in order to Safeguard Our Way of Life.

Thankfully, the Germans ended all that in the quarterfinals. It was, to some extent, acceptable to ignore soccer once again.

But there were still too many people out there, especially those covering the event for various print and broadcast media outlets, who continued to equate an indifference toward soccer with some terrible character flaw, or at very least, indisputable evidence of a closed and intolerant mind.

Of course, by taking that view these people revealed themselves to be everything they accused the Soccer Apathetics of being.

I'm sure the World Cup is fine entertainment for the five billion people out there who, I am told, are more enlightened than me, and more open-minded and tolerant and sophisticated than I am.

I am not about to preach that others should join me in a month-long shoulder shrug over a sport that the majority of the world goes ga-ga for.

But please don't tell me I have to get with the program, just because everyone else has.

That kind of thinking is indicative of a real character flaw -- the irresistible urge to jump on a bandwagon because everyone else is doing it.

And trying to paint anyone who refuses to climb aboard with a brush soaked in derision is a brand of intolerance that goes against everything international competitions like the World Cup are supposed to be all about.

My indifference toward soccer has little to do with the game itself, although as an unrepentant advocate of the opposable thumb, I would like to offer one bit of advice to soccer players around the world: You've got hands, haven't you? Use them.

My main complaint with soccer is that to my vulgar, untrained, Americanized eye, the game has little coherent rhyme or reason.

It's not the lack of scoring, per se. I would rather watch a 1-0 pitcher's duel than a 16-15 Coors Field Special any day.

It's the lack of scoring opportunities and the prevalence of what appears to be aimless, non-productive scampering around in the mid-field that kind of kills the suspense in a soccer game for me.

Plus, they play a little fast and loose with the clock. And what's this nonsense of 11 guys playing a whole game against 10 or 9 or 8?

Sorry, I'll pass.

Call me an Ugly American. Call me a moron. Call me a dinosaur pathetically out of touch with the next wave of sport.

Just don't call me when a soccer game's on. I've got things to do around the cave.

Wallace Matthews is a regular contributor to ESPN.com







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