Soup of This Day #384: The Weight Of Being So Much More
The Sacred Union of Stoppers – This is Everton keeper Tim Howard having a friendly chat with DC United keeper Bill Hamid before their respective clubs faced off in a friendly – Photo: Paul Frederiksen, 2011. Paul Frederiksen is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.
US conservative columnist Ann Coulter has written an article in which she lambastes the popularity of soccer in her country. Apparently she held off on this for a decade for fear of offending anyone. It’s not entirely clear why she’s decided that it’s ok to offend anyone now in 2014 but regardless, Ann has spontaneously let fly with a swerving strike on this world’s most popular sport.
And on soccer mums, liberal mums, kindergartners who play soccer, freeway signs, Longbeach in California, California, Michael Jackson, Germany, juice boxes, lesser beasts without opposable thumbs, HBO’s ‘Girls’, light-rail, Beyoncé, Hilary Clinton, the New York Times, the French, Europeans, the metric system, the French Revolution, guillotines, China, public schools, things that are 147.2cm long, the FIFA World Cup for men and the one for women too, women, David Beckham, Victoria Beckham, Teddy Kennedy and his 1965 immigration law, and languages other than English.
Which is a lot of people and ideas to take aim at – Roughly half the world’s population is made up of women and if you throw in the men from China, Europe and Longbeach, then Ann has a gaping goal-mouth to ping at – but if she’s been holding this in for 10 years, then I guess you’d expect that. Given a centimetre of wiggle-room to squirm through, Ann Coulter was always going to run 100 yards. 100 yards happens to be roughly the length of a soccer pitch and Ann has fair on streaked down one, her right-wing ideology naked to the world and seemingly protected by a half-dozen 300-pound bruisers – Her own offensive midfield of offending.
I’m mostly ok with that. I’m not really offended by her dislike of soccer and I think nobody else should be either. Partly because Ann’s article is riddled with comic exaggerations and also because gazillions of people won’t have their lives affected by what Ann Coulter thinks.
If you’re reading this Ann, I’m only kidding. That was a joke. See, I accused you of exaggerating and then did that myself. There are not a gazillion people in the world. Gazillion is a fictitious number that serious people don’t use.
Serious people like scientists, who instead use real and serious measurements, most of which are in metric. Because the base units of the metric system have such a logical relationship with subsequently derived units. As opposed say, to the empirically tenuous relationship that the length of a person’s foot has with anything bar their shoe size.
Don’t get me wrong – Here in foreigner territory we still respect a person’s foot. It’s just that it turns out that there are so many different sizes of them.
Tim Howard for instance seems to have fairly big feet which he clads in fairly big soccer boots whenever he takes to the playing field as the keeper of the United States Men’s National Team (USNMT). Big feet can be useful for a keeper to have, especially if he or she wants to be good at blocking attacks in close. This kind of action is known as shot-stopping, and it’s a combination of bravery, reflex reactions and insanity.
That last bit is best demonstrated by what a keeper will do when an attacker is bearing down on goal with the ball at their feet and nothing to stop them but said keeper.
Who will have thrown themselves at that ball before they even thought about doing that. There is no time for thinking so the keeper won’t have considered injury and the only strategy will be defined by a seemingly genetically programmed need to stop the ball from getting through for a score.
Good keepers will even throw themselves randomly at patches of synthetic leather that they may encounter in other sphere’s of life, having cleverly determined that one day that material may be made into a ball which could be fired at them. Even then it’s not correct to say that a keeper is being pre-emptive. Instead it’s more accurate to define being pre-emptive as being a keeper. It’s just never too early to thwart an attempt on goal, to stop it dead.
Tim Howard can kill such an on-field attack like few others. Against Belgium in a recent round of 16 match at the 2014 World Cup, he was required to stop the match ball a record 16 times, too often in one-on-one situations with one of those big hoofs stuck out to block a near-certain shot away from danger.
It was an extraordinary effort and an individual one as well. Keepers are a part of a team but they are also alone out there. In spite of Ann Coulter’s belief in the inherent socialism of soccer, individual players are held accountable for their efforts and none more so than a keeper. The folk who wear the gloves don’t need reminding of this – There aren’t many practitioners of the craft who don’t measure themselves scientifically against a higher standard than any spectator, or even right-wing columnist, can provide. Tim Howard for instance may have stopped 16 attempts but he’ll be remembering the two that he couldn’t get to, and that helped defeat and eliminate his USMNT 2-1.
Still, Tim Howard’s efforts have stood out and seen him gain a fair amount of adulation. His back-story helps – Howard was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome early in life and in addition, has a reputation for playing through injury. He’s a solid person, the kind most fans would welcome into their team. I’m one of those fans, even if Howard plays his club football against Liverpool FC – Simply, Tim Howard’s ethos is a reason why I’ve enjoyed the success of the USMNT this World Cup.
There are other reasons, two of which I’ll touch on now:
The USMNT doesn’t really have much of an identity beyond who they are. They are invariably referred to as just the USMNT. Likewise, the US Women’s National Team are logically the USWNT.
In Australia we know our national men’s team as the Socceroos and our national women’s team as the Matildas but those are nicknames and some people – Particularly those outside Australia – may not be able to identify exactly who is being talked about when one of those handles comes up in conversation. While ‘Matilda’ is generally a female name, ‘roos’ (Short for kangaroos) can be male or female. That variation is actually quite critical to the reproduction of kangaroos.
The US meanwhile are saying it clearly, unambiguously, we have a men’s national team and a women’s national team and they are of equal importance so we need to distinguish between the two. This World Cup that is on now features their national men’s team, while next year’s World Cup will see their national women’s team going for glory.
That’s quaintly officious – A little bit of equality wrought out of a seemingly mundane naming convention – and I like it.
My final reason for supporting the USMNT is a little more visceral – It’s because it offends Ann Coulter. Given that she be hatin’ on a lot of the good things in this world, that seems like a noble objective to shoot for.