But I Don’t WANT to Watch Soccer!

John Blesso
5 min readNov 20, 2022

Being OK with Finding the World’s Most Popular Sport Meh.

The World Cup starts today and words cannot begin to describe my excitement, and that’s because ZZZZZZZ is not a word.

I’ve tried to watch soccer. Like multiple times. Although I never tried harder, or with greater expectation, than during the 1994 World Cup. I was living in Paris and the French were still opening up whole new worlds for me and once I acquired the taste for previously unimaginable things — things like raw horsemeat or the congealed head of a pig — I just figured that these people (who further invented the ménage à trois) had cracked the code to L-I-V-I-N. So when a guy in my neighborhood invited me over to watch U.S. — Switzerland, I was fully primed.

Setting out on that balmy summer night, I loved hearing the sounds of excited fans cheering the action through open windows, one living room segueing into the open facade of a restaurant, and then another apartment all along the Boulevard de Ménilmontant. And not only did I hope that the Americans would beat Switzerland — I hoped we’d win the whole damn thing. I knew this was improbable, but as that match came on the heels of the 50th Anniversary of D-Day, I figured that our odds of winning the World Cup were at least as good as that time we kicked Germany’s ass despite having Nazis shooting down at us from the tops of cliffs.

I arrived a few minutes into the first half where I found a half-dozen guys crowded around a medium-sized TV that was too close to the ground. I cracked open a beer and quickly learned that my biggest challenge to watching soccer is the tenuousness of possession, which certainly feels more definite in basketball. (Making a steal and fast-break — at least to me — way more exciting.) And it wasn’t long before I began taking out multiple loans against my attention span. But then, suddenly, a Swiss player begins advancing the ball down the field toward the goal, sending my watchmates to the edges of their seats, and then another Swiss player changes gears, picking up speed on the other side and now they’ve got their pocketknives out and he’s ready for the pass and then!

That pass was intercepted.

Hey, no big deal — it happens to a lot of soccer players. But what I couldn’t believe was how all of the men around me, despite that anticlimax, were still brimming with a heightened level of stoked anticipation — as though I were in a roomful of men experiencing female orgasm.

It should be noted, however, that I’m just a casual sports fan who probably needs at least the promise of bold and definite Great Moments. I need knockdowns and knockouts; alley-oops and off-kilter three-pointers fired off at the buzzer; diving catches and walk-off home runs. And I’d prefer to watch such feats performed by freakishly large specimens. So it’s a challenge for me to watch men — many of whom are no larger than me — changing possession over and over and over, running up and down a field the size of Rhode Island, this couch-gripping action broken up when players fall to the ground and clutch their knees in mock pain. (If watching men play the victim were my thing, I’d pay attention to Donald Trump.)

That match culminated in a 1–1 tie. And while I knew there were ties in soccer, I had figured that was just for the regular season and was shocked to learn that ties happened in the World Cup. (It may not be a fair comparison, but ties — at the professional, championship level — feels a bit like kids’ sports where everyone gets a trophy.)

Nevertheless, I did go to a bar to watch the championship match between Italy and Brazil. I always knew there were a lot of Brazilian expats living in Paris but I didn’t know there were THAT many. And if you were going to choose a people with whom to commune as they celebrate their national pride, I’m not sure that you could do better than Brazilians. I was having a great time only to then be beside myself to learn — after overtime, with the match still tied —that the entire World Cup would be decided by penalty kicks.

Far be it from me to tell Big Soccer how to make its rules, but let me just say that in the United States we would never — never-ever-ever — decide a championship match like that. We get a lot of things wrong in this country — things like dark money in politics, the prison-industrial complex and Drs. Phil and Oz — but one thing that the United States has always had in spades is ZAZZ. We value stakes and we know how to put on a show. I mean, imagine this: It’s Game 7 of the NBA finals, and the score is still tied after the first overtime and so…the championship is then decided with a free-throw contest.

We would never do that!

I can’t BELIEVE Big Soccer routinely robs its fans of the objectively superior drama of a sudden-death O-T. Be honest, soccer fans. Wouldn’t you rather watch exhausted men power through indefinitely? Dragging ass up and down the field like a bunch of war-torn grandmothers, until an offense running on bloody stumps and powered by nothing more than fumes, blind determination (and whatever performance-enhancement drugs soccer players take) finally busts through a decimated defense and scores?

Also, do you realize how much ad revenue you’re leaving on the table doing it your way?

Anyway, Italian star player Roberto Baggio missed his kick, handing victory to Brazil. And even though I’m of Italian descent, I was glad Brazil won and soccer was an incidental part of a memorable night out in Paris.

Roberto Baggio after losing the World Cup, although many believe he totally scored with Madonna.

Only maybe it’s me. It’s hard not to question my disinterest in the world’s favorite sport, a sport that several billion people watch — and not as a form of punishment or community service, but of their own free will. Because whenever you hold one opinion, while several billion others hold an opposing view, there’s a better chance that you are flat-out wrong. In fact, that’s exactly what I said twenty years ago to people cheerleading the Iraq War. So a real upside to my accepting that I don’t like watching soccer is that it helps me hold compassion for the thick-headed. Besides, the list of things that lots of people like but I don’t is long. (TikTok, David Lynch movies and K-Pop are just a few.) But life is funny and maybe one day I’ll be surprised to suddenly appreciate the poetic drama of this beautiful game that transcends borders and cultures and economies, thus affirming our shared human existence in a pinnacle of international excellence.

But you’d probably sooner find me dressed up like The Elephant Man while lip-syncing to BTS on TikTok.

Still, I’ll for sure tune in for the final match. Because even if the game doesn’t interest me, I figure I’ll at least enjoy the Halftime Show.

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John Blesso

John Blesso is a writer, performer and builder fascinated by food, politics, and our collective refusal to stop doing crazy dumb shit. He lives in Beacon, NY.