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DVR and World Cup Soccer…..a match for the ages:

22 June 2010

I, along with millions of others, have learned to truly appreciate my DVR system and the newfound freedom it provides.  The machine has truly liberated me from the whimsy of television program scheduling.  Those of us blessed with digital video recording technology in our homes have escaped the time restricted oppression of live broadcast sports and learned to gleefully fast-forward commercial breaks with great satisfaction.  Never has DVR been more integral to my programming selection decision making model than with World Cup Soccer.  I watch every minute of every game…….on fast forward. 
                As a former player, I thoroughly enjoy the nuance, skill and strategy of World Cup soccer.  But as a spectator it can be incredibly frustrating to watch.  I liken it to descriptions of combat, “minutes of exhilaration, excitement or fear, surrounded by hours of frustration and boredom.”  Fortunately no one dies in a World Cup match, they just act like they’re dying sometimes.  My solution: DVR the games, fast forward as fast as you can until the score graphics change, watch the goals.  This is no secret, I’m sure tons of people do this, but I find it considerably enhances my soccer viewing experience.  My time commitment is reduced by 300%, my in-game frustration level is way down, and I avoid the dreaded scoreless tie post-game loathing.  I highly recommend DVR soccer.  FIFA should really get in on this, maybe get a FIFA licensed DVR out to Europe or South America, they could make a fortune.

Of course, I still watch complete games for my favorite teams.  The best way to do this is at a bar with friends but that doesn’t always work out on weekdays at one in the afternoon.  Speaking of which, the United States plays Algeria on Wednesday the 23 in their final group stage match.  Win and they’re in, tie and advancing is a lot less certain.  Needless to say, it’s a huge game for the Americans, and after the excitement and controversy surrounding the U.S.’s last game there will be plenty of hype.

If you’ve missed the action so far, the final group stage games are happening now and will end on Friday.  Next begins the round of 16, with single elimination games, extra-time, and penalty shootouts.  The United States team has been completely unpredictable so far finishing with two draws.  Giving up early easy goals in their first two games only to mount furious comebacks (against Slovenia) or benefit from extreme good fortune due to goalkeeper error (against England).  Also, the American media has seized upon an egregiously poor call that disallowed an American goal in the Slovenia game and probably cost the American’s the victory.  This controversial slight and subsequent outrage might do more for American soccer than the MLS ever could.  Talking heads are indignant, editorials are scathing, people are pissed.  In other news, perennial powerhouse Brazil has looked brilliant, breezing through their first two matches.  The European champion, Spain, has dominated even though they suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Swiss.  The powerful but young German side, always contending for the Cup, have also looked good but suffered a 1-0 setback to Serbia.  Argentina looked surprisingly good under the direction of the flamboyant ex-superstar Diego Maradona.  Predictably, the English have been a disappointment, tying the Americans and Algerians, scoring only one goal in the process.  The Brits are on the verge of elimination, as a U.S. victory could send them home.    Regardless of your affiliation, this World Cup’s story is taking shape and a lot of good soccer is on the way.  As I write this, the French are on the ropes and the inspired South Africans are making a run at advancing, so clear out your DVR and fast forward your way to great soccer.

One Liner:  “England is the Chicago Cubs of World Cup soccer.”  With a rabid fan-base, high expectations, and a star-studded roster, the Brits can never seem to get it done at the World Cup.  They are a model of steady prolonged failure, having only won the Cup once, in 1966.  The only difference between the Cubs and the English is that the Brits always have the talent which makes perennial defeat even more frustrating for our allies across the pond.

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Basics:

Soccer (or football as it is more commonly referred to outside of the United States) is the most popular sport in the world.  More...

Terminology:

MLS: Major League Soccer, a soccer league established in America to mirror the other major leagues in basketball, football, baseball, and hockey.

Direct kick, Indirect Kick: Both are free kicks awarded for fouls.  Direct kicks may be struck directly into the goal whereas an indirect kick must be touched by another offensive player before shooting on goal.
 
Penalty Kick: A one-on-one style free kick between goal keeper and shooter, given for egregious fouls in the penalty box.  Also used as part of a penalty shoot out to decide tied matches after extra time.
 
Offside: offside is called when an offensive player, or attacking player, is passed the ball and there are not at least two opponents between him or her and the goal line. Usually, these are the goalkeeper and one other defender, but not necessarily.  Offside is judged when the ball is struck and attackers that are even with the second to last defender are onside.  This makes offside the most controversial rule in soccer because its usually a close call and can decide goals and games.
 
Red Card/Yellow Card: To be “booked” with a yellow card means you have committed a particularly egregious foul.  A red card means the player is ejected and his team must play shorthanded , as they cannot replace him. Two yellow cards in a single game equal a red and the player is sent off.
 
Striker: A Striker, forward, or attacking player is one whose primary purpose or role on the team is attacking the opponents goal with the intention to score.  Generally, strikers rarely defend and are on the receiving end of passes and crosses.  Their strength is usually their shooting ability or penchant for eluding defenders enroute to goal.  Strikers are well known players because they score the majority of goals.
 
4-4-2:  Terminology for team playing formations. 4-4-2 means four defenders, four midfielders and two forwards.
 
FIFA: FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) is the international recognized governing body of soccer.  Designed to codify a common set of rules for international play, FIFA has overseen, organized, and promoted the sport for over 100 years.  FIFA is responsible for creating and running the FIFA World Cup, tallying world rankings, certifying officials, and approving rule changes.

Relegation: The bottom few teams in a European soccer division are subject to relegation at the end of the season.  This means if teams don’t perform they are demoted to a lower division and replaced by the top teams of the lower division for the next season.  Can you imagine the Kansas City Royals being demoted and the New Orleans Zephers going up to the major leagues? That is the concept applied to MLB.