The Unkindest Cut

Jan. 19 - The United States national men's soccer team played Denmark's national team in a "friendly" match yesterday. Friendlies are just like regular soccer games, except they don't matter.

I'd been looking forward to the game and had hoped to watch it with friends at a local sportsbar. I thought all the Danes I knew would be excited about the game, since it's practically a national holiday whenever the Danish national team plays anyone. (It's almost always a national holiday in Denmark anyway, so that's not actually saying much.) In the days leading up to the game, however, none of the Danes I spoke to even knew the game was taking place.

"I think our next friendly is against England," one told me.

"I know we're playing the states, but I don't think it's Sunday," said another.

"Where's the can opener?" said a third.

These were representative responses. No one really cared. No one was especially interested in watching the game—which is probably just as well, since it wasn't available on television here and ended in a tie.

So my first chance to be a stark raving American and root loudly and proudly against Denmark fizzled away. This missed opportunity could have been very upsetting—the kind of trauma that leads to binge-drinking or violent psychosis—except that I'm still not a big soccer fan. I'm a football fan. And while the Danes and Americans were kicking that little black-and-white ball up and down a sunny California pitch, my beloved Patriots were smacking hell out of the Colts in a cold and snowy championship showdown in New England.

That game was televised in Denmark, as all the NFL playoff games have been, and I wouldn't have missed it for anything—not even coverage of a jello riot at the nude supermodels convention.

It was football the way it's meant to be played: two tough teams slugging it out in the cold, dark, snowy hell of a New England winter—with my team dominating. I was so excited that I called my old man for some quality father-son football bonding.

My mother answered the phone. We chatted briefly and I asked her to put my father on.

"I'll get him," she said, "but give me a minute... he's watching the big soccer game."

* * *

(Okay, in fairness to my father he had been watching the football game, and had even given me play-by-play coverage of the opening minutes over the phone as Trine and I raced home from her own father's place, where we'd had dinner. His interest in the soccer game was purely academic. His allegiance, I knew, lay totally with the Pats and the NFL. And for all I knew he had merely switched over to ESPN during a timeout or commercial break. But mitigating circumstances don't make for very good anecdotes.)

* * *

I also have to confess that soccer's been growing on me a little since I've been out here, but only a little. I've been much more impressed by rugby and team handball, which are fast, violent games played with hardly any pads—and that hardly ever end in ties.

Denmark has qualified for this year's European Cup, and I intend to give them my full support. But the minute they're knocked out of the Cup (if they're knocked out of the Cup), I'm done with it.

You know how they could improve soccer? Give every player a stick. "You can't use your hands," the new rules would stipulate, "except to wield your stick. But you can do what you want with the stick."

That would get soccer some attention in the states. That or nude cheerleaders. Either way.

* * *

On January 19, 1793, French king Louis XVI was condemned to death. He was guillotined in Paris on January 21.

January 19 is the birthday of Junior Seau (1969), Desi Arnaz, Jr. (1953), Dolly Parton (1946), Shelley Fabares (1944), Janis Joplin (1943), Tippi Hedren (1931), Jean Stapleton (1923), Paul Cezanne (1839), Edgar Allan Poe (1809), and Robert E. Lee (1807).

Happy Monday!

2004, The Moron's Almanac™

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