Randy Smith: Thoughts On Soccer And Its Surging Popularity

Monday, June 30, 2014 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith

Okay……I admit that I’ve never been a soccer fan. Not on any level. I have always thought that soccer was boring; you know……. kind of like watching paint dry, or watching two hogs fight over a turnip. Game after game ends 1-0 with the most exciting part of the match being when the game’s only goal is scored.  Even though I have learned a little about the game, I still can’t understand the game’s mystique.

The excitement over the United States Soccer squad playing in the World Cup is something I have been able to avoid. Last week, when the USA needed a win over Germany just to advance to the next round, I saw online that Germany won 1-0. I thought, well…..it’s been a good run for the Americans. They played well and picked up a lot of fans. A few minutes later I read, “USA loses 1-0 but still advances.”

How does this happen? In other sports when you lose you go home. Soccer is the only sport I know where you can lose 1-0 but still advance. I asked my son-in-law, who is a former college soccer player, “how did that happen?” He replied, “Because it’s soccer.”

Oh I see.    

On Sunday evening we were gathered at my house and the TV was turned to ESPN. We planned to watch the Yankees-Red Sox game that night from Yankee Stadium. The soccer match between Costa Rica and Greece was on and as no surprise, the score was 0-0 after two periods, plus an overtime period.  In soccer when you’ve played all day and into the night and neither team has scored, you go to what is called penalty kicks to determine a winner.

Costa Rica and Greece would have five kicks each and if one of the kicks gets past the other teams goal keeper, it would count as a point. They would determine the winner based upon how many kicks out of five go into the goal. Costa Rica won as Greece missed one of their goals. Fans were shouting, crying, throwing small children in the air and celebrating greatly.

I said, out loud to no one in particular, “So it’s over? That’s it?”

My son-in-law assured me that the game was indeed over and that Costa Rica had won.  I thought for a few moments and came up with this conclusion. If baseball were like soccer, then after nine innings if the score was tied, players could move out to around second base, and toss the ball up and hit it toward the outfield fence. If the ball goes over the fence it counts as one point. Each team would get five chances and the team with the most balls over the fence would be declared the winner. Or you could have an opponent hit ground balls to a defensive player of choice and the most balls that get by, out of five would make that team a winner.   

Those ideas make as much sense as the old overtime rules in Georgia High School Football. A game ending in a tie would be decided by penetration. In other words, the team that moves the ball further into enemy territory would be declared the winner. The final score would read, Dalton 21, Ringgold 21, with Ringgold winning on penetration.

Don’t get me wrong. I think soccer is a great sport for younger children. It teaches footwork and some other skills; but it is still boring to watch, on any level. I told my wife what I was writing about and she said, “Fine….just don’t write anything like Ann Coulter did.”

After further discussing this with my son-in-law, he assured me that his ancestors born in this country go back several generations.

I have several friends who are soccer fanatics. They don’t understand why I can’t understand why soccer is creating quite a stir. On the other hand I don’t get what soccer is all about. If you are thinking about inviting me to your house to watch the World Cup on TV, invite someone else. I would rather stay home and count the tiny tiles on my bathroom floor. 

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Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer. He is currently teaching Broadcasting at Coahulla Creek High School near Dalton, Ga.

His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for thirty years.

He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga Television for more than a quarter-century.

In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith.) They have three grandchildren, Coleman, Boone and DellaMae.

To contact Randy: rsmithsports@epbfi.com




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