In a now not so recent issue of that rag we all know as SI, I read an article by Chris Mannix entitled "Are you like me? (I bet you are) I bet you hate soccer". For the ignorant, the article was an attempt by Mannix to immerse himself in soccer and its culture for five days in an attempt to exorcise the demons of his days as a nine year old goalkeeper and turn him into a football fanatic. While the experiment was not a total success, Mannix did have a few of his own preconceptions about the sport dispelled with a little help from La Barra Brava and a few South American football teams. As a diehard football fan myself, I originally thought that maybe I should vent my spleen about this in a longwinded blog. "How can this fool Mannix not see the wonders of the beautiful game etc. etc." I quickly realised that this would be inneffective. I would either preach to the choir or manage to infuriate a Cornhusker fan so embittered by the fact that his team no longer matters that he takes it out on soccer blogs for being a "stupidass sport no one cares about" or something to that effect.
Then as I reached the end of the article Mannix said something which got me thinking, "After five days and six matches I can now say that I enjoy soccer at its best, though I continue to despise it at its worst. And the biggest problem us you are as likely to see a mess as a masterpiece. But how do you know going in?"
For me, the last sentence sums up one of the best things about sports. You don't know. You never do. We've all done it, built games up to be one of the greatest contests since David and Goliath or the Battle of Waterloo or the Irresistible force paradox and we have witnessed games like OSU 3-35 USC this year, or the 2007 and 2008 BCS games (I don't mean to pick on OSU here, but they haven't exactly done themselves many favours). But every so often you do build a game up, and you get the beers in, get your mates round, huddle round the widescreen that is so big you've had to set it up in the backgarden (and that you fully intend to take it back while its still under warranty otherwise your kids definitely aren't going to college) and prepare to watch the game. Waiting with baited breath, comparing pregame notes and thoughts, forcing yourself to go to the bathroom during the breaks or banning bathroom breaks altogether as they are too distracting and you get a game you'll never forget. England vs Australia, The Ashes at Edgbaston 2005, England vs Australia 2003 Rugby World Cup final, Manchester United vs Bayern Munich, Nou Camp, Barcelona 1999, the 2006 BCS game and SB XLII are a few of mine. Or perhaps you caught a game just on the off chance which turned out to be an instant classic. Appalachian State v Michigan is just one example.
And it makes it completely worth it. Not necessarily because your team won, you might not even have been backing anyone in particular. Simply because it was a contest that couldn't have been scripted. They say truth is always stranger than fiction, thankfully its more exciting too. Forget Survivor and American Idol, this is the real deal, and always has been. If go to watch a sporting event thinking "Well I wonder if this is going to be exciting?" you should probably stay home and watch Big Brother, isn't it exciting enough that you don't know? Go and find out!
I'd be interested to know what your favourite moments from your time watching sport are. Surprises, thrillers, shootouts etc.