Excitement and relief. Those two words describe what thousands of Mississippi State fans felt this weekend after defeating Louisiana State away from home 34-29, a rare but welcomed victory that finally breaks a 14-year dry spell against the Tigers.
Soon after the game, I was invited to a small party in celebration of the feat. As expected, the conversation had one topic and one topic only: the game.
At this point people usually notice that I am not exactly from around here. My less than enthusiastic, sometimes confused expressions gave it away. I don’t know much about the sport. They also always invite the same question.
“Do you like football?”
“Yeah, I’m trying to get into it.”
“What sports do you like?”
“The other football. You know it as soccer.”
And there it was. The smirks, the laughing and the bashing. I stood there, as I had many times before, hearing all the usual claims: soccer is boring, is just a bunch of diving players, nothing ever happens, it’s easy, etc. Surrounded by a group of die-hard football fans, I had no choice but to laugh it off. You have to pick your battles.
Interestingly, had this happened anywhere abroad, the conversation would’ve been radically different. The regulars: Why call it football when they barely touch the ball with their feet? How exciting can a game be when out of 3 hours only 11 minutes are actual play and the rest are mostly replays and advertisement? What’s with all the padding and protection? Why not play it rough like in rugby, where American football comes from anyway?
Now, don’t take all that the wrong way. It would be easy to get entangled in a battle of the sports, world vs. USA style, but that’s not my purpose. Instead, I bring to you what may come as a revelation for some. Both sports are great.
Football and soccer are fundamentally different sports, but they are both amazing. They both have millions of passionate fans for a reason. Soccer is after all the most popular and most played sport in the world.
Don’t take my word for it, but give it a try. Sit down one day, look for a good Premier League game, and watch it with an open mind, and maybe a friend in the know. Play some FIFA. If nothing else, you will admire soccer for its simplicity, its motion, its purity and the passion it brings to fans.
I am for one growing fonder of football. I even played a Madden video game match for the first time recently. It did not go well, but I enjoyed it, and I’ll do it again.
One question still lingers in my mind though: why are those goalposts so freaking big?