Embrace all sports competition. Yes, even the World Cup.

Thursday , June 12, 2014 - 6:44 PM

The flopping? I hate the flopping.

The rolling around like you’re about to keel over at any moment? Get up and act like a man.

The phantom calls from agenda-driven officials? Gimme a break.

The endless whining from pouty-faced players? Oh man, that drives me crazy.

The primping and preening prima donna athletes? C’mon fellas, get over yourselves.

Yep, the NBA Finals are totally unwatchable.

I’m kidding, of course. But you get the point, right? When it comes to American sports fans, soccer is almost always a hot-button topic, which is to say there are some really strong opinions on either side of debate. It seems there just isn’t a lot of middle ground. You either have an incredible “passion” for the “world’s sport” or you think it’s played by a “hooligans” and “commies.”

Fair enough? OK, maybe I’ve generalized a little, but you get the point.

Admittedly, now that the World Cup is underway the divide has lessened somewhat. Now is the time when people like me who hardly qualify as soccer diehards can, even in a small way, get behind the biggest and most popular sporting event in the world.

Oh sure, the World Cup also seems to be a clarion call to all the goobers on either side of the love soccer/hate soccer debate. Now’s the time for the zealots to really drive home whatever point they’re trying to make, never mind the fact nobody is listening anymore.

Today, however, I hope you’re listening, I hope you’re all listening. That means you, zealots, and you too, casual observers.

Listen up because I’m not writing this column again … at least not for another four years.

Just as I like baseball and football and basketball, hockey, golf, auto racing, boxing, MMA and The Olympics, I like soccer. Granted, some of those sports I like better than others, but I respect each one on its own merits. Personally, I appreciate good competition in whatever sport I happen to be watching. Generally speaking, if opposing sides are trying to inflict their will on the other, I’m all for it.

While fully acknowledging that not every sport appeals to every individual, I appreciate the fact each sport comes complete with its own nuances. After all, that’s part of the beauty of it. Football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer … you name it, it’s often the little subtleties that make them exciting. But I suspect that’s something we casual observers of the World Cup already understand.

It’s the goobers, geeks, haters and zealots who simply don’t get it. I’ve seen you on message boards and social media trolling for someone to take your bait.

Or maybe you really believe what you’re saying.

Either way, you call yourselves sports fans but I’ve got my doubts.

I’ve got a buddy who’s an absolute soccer nut. He can’t get enough of it, especially during the World Cup. Nothing frustrates him more than when anti-soccer types tell him the game is too slow and boring.

Ironically, he hates baseball because – you guessed it – it’s too slow and boring. To make matters worse, he loves confronting baseball fans with those “facts.”

I know other guys who bemoan soccer because of the flopping and the whiny athletes who contort their faces like fit-throwing 2-year-olds at every referee’s call. They find that sort of behavior deplorable.

Of course these guys also love the NBA and I cannot help but smile at the irony.

Look, if you’re a sports fan you’re not legally or even morally required to like every form of competition from Aussie rules football to Norwegian team zip lining. But for crying out loud, be careful when you start crying out loud about how you “don’t get” soccer or baseball or … whatever.

Really, it says more about you than it does the sport in question.

Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at jburton@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo

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