I've enjoyed the two World Cup soccer matches that I've watched on TV. Naturally they've both featured the United States team -- when they played England and Slovenia -- because I'm only interested in soccer on the rare occasions when the game means something to my national interest.
By "enjoyed," I mean that I followed the tips I shared in How to enjoyably watch hockey and soccer on TV.
(1) Record the event.
(2) Press "Play."
(3) Then -- this is really important, because life is short and you don't want to waste it on meaningless stuff -- immediately press the fast forward button repeatedly until it is at the fastest speed where the score being shown is still readable.
(4) Wait a while until you see the score has changed. Could be a long while, even at fast forwarding speed.
(5) Press "Play."
(6) Rewind/go back to fifteen seconds or so before the goal was scored.
(7) Watch the goal. Say "Nice, "Cool," "Crappy goalkeeping," or whatever else pops into your head.
(8) Repeat 3 through 7 until the game is over.
(9) Turn the TV off, content that you've watched hockey or soccer in the most efficient and enjoyable fashion if you're part of the 99% of humanity (in the United States, at least) who couldn't care less about the sports but sometimes want to act like they do, sort of.
This has enabled me to get the gist of the U.S. team's World Cup matches in considerably less time than the 90 minutes they last. Usually I fast forward until I see that a goal has been scored, then watch a minute or so before and after this rare event.
Given that the U.S. matches have been 1-1 and 2-2, it doesn't take me long to feel like I'm doing my patriotic duty to (halfheartedly) show some interest in my country's team.
Anyway, I have no idea what's going on in between the goal-scoring. A bunch of guys move the ball up and down the field with their legs, heads, and chests in some sort of mysterious fashion which isn't interesting to me.
Which brings me to my second tip: to appreciate soccer more deeply than the shallow way I've been watching the World Cup, I think it's necessary to embrace a philosophical world view that is at odds with how most Americans see things.
As an aid to getting into this frame of mind, I recommend watching some European films of the existential variety.
The kind that you can imagine Jean Paul Sartre positively reviewing. The kind where the closing credits come on and you slump in your seat with a despairing What the #@$%&! was that about? running through your head. (The original version of "The Vanishing" comes to mind.)
We Americans tend to like order, rules, and easily understood morality. Football (our kind, not soccer) and basketball have discernible plays/strategy. When an infraction is noted by a referee, the reason is clear -- even if not agreed with by a player or fan.
Contrast this with the United States vs. Slovenia World Cup match, where I watched more of the event than the tips above called for since I found the controversy over the disallowed goal that would have won the game for the U.S. was so fascinating.
The referee, Koman Coulibaly, never gave a reason for blowing his whistle. Unless he decides to speak up we'll never know what sort of foul he believed he witnessed, since soccer doesn't require the ref to explain himself, or even indicate which player was responsible for the no-no that cost the U.S. a win.
So in soccer the players run around in a seemingly quasi-random fashion for 90 minutes, often accomplishing nothing, no goal at all by either side, with arbitrary decisions by a laconic referee frequently determining the outcome of the match.
But frustrating to observe for those with a typical American mind set. Consider this marvelous quotation about the disallowed goal attributed to the president of FIFA, the international soccer organization.
"In perhaps every other sport, an explanation of a decisive play would have been provided. But Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, has ignored calls for video replay and has decided against putting additional referees on the end line, saying he did not want technology to rule the game. He has also said that he likes the debate that follows matches, believing that uncertainty and subjectivity boost the sport."
Yes, c'est la vie. Or as we put it, "shit happens."
It's a universal attitude. But for Americans, it's something to be resisted, fought against, a temporary unwelcome situation. For the international soccer culture, it's the way things are, no big deal.