Every four years there is an earth-wide contest to see who are the most obnoxious soccer fans in the universe, during which some games are also played. This is the FIFA World Cup, which, to many Americans, has all the excitement of wondering whether or not you remembered to use that $5 off coupon at your last oil change, but to the rest of the world, is like the Super Bowl and the World Series had a baby, and it descended to earth wrapped in a fiery rainbow and wearing golden shin guards, and then it kicked a black and white ball around on the grass for two hours while every human on earth went absolutely bananas. Which is to say that I don’t think there’s an analogy for the excitement the World Cup has for the rest of the world that an American would understand, but you should know a little bit about it in case your boss is from Uruguay and decides to have mandatory conference room game discussions about Fernando Muslera‘s dismal performance at the Copa América, instead of going over last month’s dismal sales results.
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Yeah, but what if the Gorn had a vuvuzela?
If a game in America were to end in a tie, fans would just wander, zombie-like, out of their favorite sports bar, not speaking, wondering why they just spent twenty dollars on some mediocre hot wings…The World Cup has a few rules and regulations that may seem strange to many Americans, one of which is the allowance for a tie game. As much as Americans now seem to want each of their amateur athletes to get a medal, trophy, new car and a college scholarship just for being able to not tie their cleats together, they also equally abhor anything in their professional sports that even comes close to a tie, draw or stalemate. There must be a winner, or there won’t be a good enough reason for rioting and looting after your favorite sporting team wins their respective world championship; I mean, those cars aren’t going to just overturn and burn themselves. If a game in America were to end in a tie, fans would just wander, zombie-like, out of their favorite sports bar, not speaking, wondering why they just spent twenty dollars on some mediocre hot wings when they didn’t even get the chance to celebrate their world-shattering win or gripe about their sucky team. However, if a World Cup game remains tied after 90 minutes of regulation play and 30 minutes of overtime, then each team chooses their strongest champion and they fight to the death in the center of the field using only objects they can find around them, such as diamonds, sulfur, saltpeter, or — no, wait; sorry, that was that episode in Star Trek with the Gorn. To be accurate, only games in the initial round can end in a tie; championship games obviously have to have a winner, so they do penalty kicks until someone gets a goal, or the stadium collapses under the sheer weight of unbearable suspense and vuvuzela spit.
Funyuns and Caxirolas
You’ll also get no chance for a bathroom break during the game, as there are no timeouts or commercial breaks in World Cup soccer — er, football. This concept is enough to make a corporate American ad agency’s collective head pop off and $100 bills spout out of it, as commercials are the lifeblood of American televised sports. You’ll just have to wait until halftime comes before you can get your Funyuns and Baja Blast Mountain Dew and go potty. Each World Cup also has its own mascot, logo, slogan, even musical instrument. When Brazil hosted their World Cup in 2014, they created the “caxirola” a percussion instrument that looked like an amputated avocado with hives and a handle. Although designed to be more friendly and much less noisy than a vuvuzela, the caxirola was ironically not allowed into games because, in a preliminary match between two Salvadoran teams, fans used them to pelt opposing players. Yay, sports!
So next time you’re complaining that your favorite sporting activity is too violent, or it’s fans aren’t violent enough, just remember it’s only a few short years until you can enjoy some real sporting activity at the next World Cup in Russia, where hopefully the official musical instrument will not be a sawed-off balalaika.
[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”book”]This column is featured in the book Sports Survival Guide for Men[/feature_headline]