“Are you ready for some football?” is a line shouted out by Hank Williams Jr. in the opening moments of ABC’s Monday Night Football. This is not the football of the entire rest of the world; it is American Football. This line came to mind as I watched a bit of the World Cup soccer tournament being broadcast from Brazil.
American Football is a strange thing. First, it has little to do with feet. There are eleven men per team on the field at each time. They crash into each other and try to tackle whomever is holding the ball, and by ball, I mean an eggy shaped thing with pointy ends. It looks nothing like a ball at all. In fact it seems like it would be better to call American Football, Clash of the Titans, or Battle of the Brutes, or at least Pointy Eggy Ball.
Soccer and American football have the same number of players on the field at the same time and that is where all similarities cease. Soccer players are quick and nimble as they move the ball, which has a classic ball shape—round-down the field. Their rapid footwork has the grace and elegance of a ballet dancer. Despite commentators descriptions of American Football’s running backs quickness and nimbleness, they are nothing in comparison to the average soccer player.
I have watched many live games of soccer. I must confess that most of my time spectating has been of little people on a small field. And by little people I mean those of the 5 to 7 year old flavor. These are the games that are most awesome to watch.
You can always tell where the ball is by the gaggle of youngsters chasing it down the field. As it approaches the goal, you can hear the coaches of both teams, the parents and grandparents on both sides of the field yelling...yelling to the goalie, who has found the most delightful specimen of dandelion growing behind the goal and is examining the flower with every ounce of energy.
The goalie refocuses on the game: the gaggle of ball chasing youngsters close in on the goal, and then someone kicks the ball hard.
It doesn’t matter where the ball is kicked. The reactions are the same, one group of parents sigh and moan disappointedly, the other group cheers excitedly. Amongst the best of parents, these reactions last for a brief moment, until both sets of parents shout words of encouragement and the good coaches announce the score of “Fun to Fun”.
Alright, so my description sounds too good to be true, but, at least with little tyke soccer if one player bites another, it can truly be said, “they are just children”.