Thursday, June 10, 2010

Whodathunkit?! The 3 Best Things You REALLY Want To Know About The World Cup

Because the divorce judge was drinking when custody of this feature was decided, Whodathunkit?! is a joint venture between Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! and The Best Of Everything.

I've made up my mind. I am, like, 98% certain to watch a World Cup match.

Okay, 70% certain, with the percentage going up if you count "probably dozing off a bit with the TV tuned to the US-England match" as "watching the World Cup."

The World Cup -- which I'm led to believe features soccer, which, in turn, I'm led to believe is considered a sport by those parts of the world that Americans only venture to in order to bring back trinkets that they could have bought at Pier One but then they wouldn't be "authentic" -- begins today, and like everything else in soccer, the beginning itself is screwed up.

Because when I say "the World Cup begins today," I mean, of course, that it begins tomorrow -- since if you ask me (you probably wanted to but didn't know my phone number) a sporting event begins when, you know, the sporting event begins. Not when Shakira sings. Lots of things happen when Shakira sings, and none of them count as "the beginning of a sporting event."

The more I look at that last sentence, the dirtier it sounds.

Anyway, the World Cup has come around again, and I've decided that I'm going to watch it and follow it and even root for teams, a decision I made based on several factors.

First, it's the only truly worldwide event that happens every four years. Unlike other so-called worldwide sporting competitions (I'm looking at you, Olympics)(Actually, I'm not; I'm still looking at that picture of Shakira), the World Cup is said to take place every four years, and actually does take place only ever four years. The Olympics don't do that anymore. They say they do that, but the Olympics are a continuous event now. Like the NBA Finals and Lady GaGa, they never seem to go away.

The World Cup, on the other hand, happens every four years. Or maybe it happens more often. Who knows? This is the first year I've decided to follow it.

Second, my decision to follow it was made based on the fact that the U.S. takes on England in the opening match. I'm not sure if the US has ever played England in soccer before -- and I know I'm supposed to call it football, or maybe futbol, but let's face it, "Rest of the World," you're going to do what Americans say you have to do, or we're going to overwhelm your country with some combination of military force/Levi's Jeans/goodwill visits from Larry King. So get with the program (i.e., the US) and call it soccer.

As I was saying, I'm not sure if the US has ever played England in soccer before. I'm also not sure if "England" is the right word for the country - -aren't they sometimes called "The United Kingdom," or am I getting United Kingdom confused with Magic Kingdom? (The last time tha that happened, I ended up sharing a tea cup with Prince Charles.) But I know they play each other this Saturday, at 1:30, and that's got my competitive and creative juices flowing (which means you don't want to sit next to me on the bus)(unless you're Prince Charles).

For example, I came up with the most awesome ad ever for US Soccer -- not a hard competition to win, since the last most awesome ad ever for US Soccer had a surfeit of English Junk:

This guy was once famous for something or other.

Whereas my ad would use "balls" in a more poetic/metaphorical sense.

Here's my idea for the ad -- and you can go ahead and use it, whoever it is that is in charge of promoting US Soccer; don't worry about payment, I'll sue you later on. Not being good with Photoshop, and in fact not having Photoshop on my computer (collective gasp!), I'll have to use the power of words to convey the idea.

Here's the idea, via words. Don't pull an eyeball-hammy reading it:

The ad opens on a scene showing a soccer... um... field? Pitch?... whatever, and it's kind of nighttime and kind of daytime, with lights and people cheering. You get the idea. Use footage from an NFL game to overcome the fact that on average, soccer games draw a crowd of 6 in the US. As the camera homes in on the field, we see some British players [we know they're British because they have bad teeth and haircuts from the 1960s, and also they sweat in a nonphotogenic way] running downfield kicking the ball. They get to the American [I.E. Good Guy] side of the field, and are met with US soccer players who, from the waist down, are wearing shorts, socks, and shoes -- soccer garb. From the waist up, they've got revolutionary war coats on and tricorner hats [NOTE: This will appeal to Tea Partiers, because they're dumb]. The US players steal the ball, knock the Brits around a bit, and generally look great doing so.

At the end, the players line up over the crumbled bodies of their British foes, and the voice over says:
"234 years ago, we told them to take their king and shove him. Now, we're going to prove we've still got balls!"

I've got goosebumps. You probably do, too. Flaunt them.

That ad would be almost as good as the ad that really also made me want to watch soccer, although I didn't understand the ad, really, until I read the explanation on I'm talking about Write the Future, Nike's Hononymical Ode To Soccer Via That Guy Who Directed That Naked Japanese Girl In Babel:

That ad is awesome, and probably even more awesome if you know who those people are. Like I said, thanks to, I kind of get it. Plus I like the music.

Finally, I've decided to watch the World Cup because, why not? It's not like I've got anything else going on. Summer is a dead zone for sports, and if I can find something, anything to watch while spending most of my time praying that Better Off Ted hasn't been cancelled, I'll take it.

But I understand that you, like me, may not be entirely sold on soccer -- that it may take more than Shakira's butt and yodeling rock songs and puns about American Balls to get you to watch soccer, and so that's why I, like always, am here to present you with some insight into the mystifying world of this sport that the rest of the world loves so much, a sport that this time around might actually capture the interest of America and take off like a pop cultural phenomenon on the par of, say The Muppet Show (it won't), and as always, that insight is presented by giving you The 3 Best Things You REALLY Want To Know, with this time those things being related to the World Cup, vaguely.

This'll give you something to talk about after you've used the line "The US should make it out of their group," which is the only actual-soccer-related line I know, and which I drop into conversation all the time, as shown in the actual transcript of the actual conversation I had this morning:

Cop: Do you know why I pulled you over?

Me: The US should make it out of their group.

Cop: I'm going to taze you.

Me: Goalie? Andrew Rooney?

Let's get on with those things you want to know!

1. Shakira stole Fozzie Bear's line to promote the World Cup:

I didn't just put Shakira's picture at the top of this post by accident; it was for a "valid business reason," and by that I mean "Sweetie can't get mad at me for this one," the business reason being that Shakira is some sort of official spokeswoman for the World Cup. She's going to perform her song tonight at the Opening Ceremonies -- what is it with worldwide athletic competitions and opening ceremonies? -- but you can get a sneak preview of it now and then spend tonight watching Parks & Recreation re-runs:

Waka Waka is, of course, Fozzie Bear's signature line:

But Shakira was forced to use Waka waka in her song, because what else rhymes with Africa? Nothing. There's not a single other word in the world that rhymes with Africa.

Or maybe Shakira was intending her song to be a multifaceted tribute to Africa, Fozzie Bear, and Pac Man, because if you google the phrase "what does 'waka waka' mean" you'll get, as the first result, a link to a definition that hilariousily claims Pac Man is called Pakkuman. Ha ha! Right!

Speaking of Pac Man, isn't it about time that we, as a world, decided to make Donkey Kong into a double-entendre of some sort? I'm thinking something along the lines of "Man, that chick was Donkey Konging me all night long."

In reality, waka waka is said to mean almost anything. One source (?) says it means Do it in Cameroonian (which might be a real language; I'll have to check on that later), while another claims that waka means canoe in Maori, which I know is a real language because Alan Dean Foster once wrote a book that I read, and the book was called Maori.

Alan Dean Foster also wrote Splinter of the Mind's Eye, proving that you can get paid for writing fan fiction, so as soon as I finish this post, I'm going to send off my Phineas & Ferb novelization to every major publisher.

2. Nobody can actually win the "world cup." Unlike the Lombardi Trophy, which pretty much everyone and their brother gets to hold up after the Super Bowl (unless you lose and pout your way off the field, right Peyton?), and unlike the disgusting traditions surrounding the Stanley Cup, which apparently is used to feed the smelly, drooly dogs owned by smelly, drooly hockey players , the powers-that-be who are in charge of Soccer Universe don't actually let anyone ever win the World Cup.

Except Brazil.

Brazil is the permanent owner of the previous World Cup, called the "Jules Rimet Cup" (it was named after Richard Nixon, who used Jules Rimet as his pen name when writing crosswords for the LA Times in the 1930s).

Looks classy, doesn't it? And not
at all like it's made of

The Jules Rimet Cup, as befits a world-class trophy, didn't always spend all its time sitting in a pawnshop in Brazil (I'm guessing); it also was hidden in a shoebox under a guy's bed in World War II, to protect it from occupying troops, who likely would have used it as a bong.

Despite the incredible levels of security and commitment implied by keeping a trophy in a box under your bed, the Jules Rimet Cup somehow fell into evildoers' hands, anyway -- and by "evildoers" I mean "a small dog named Pickles."

This may not be the actual Pickles, but
it's not like a dog can sue for libel.
Can they? I'll see you in court, Pickles!

According to the official World Cup website, run by someone called "FIFA," this actually happened:

Then in 1966, the cup disappeared while on display as part of the build-up to the World Cup in England and was only recovered, buried under a tree, by a little dog called Pickles.

If you're keeping track of things England has lost, it's

1. North America.
2. Australia
3. The Spice Islands.
4. The Jules Rimet cup.

On the plus (?) side, they've gained Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow.

There was not even a 0.00000001% chance that I was
going to post a picture of Madonna here.

The Brits aren't the only ones to treat the Jules Rimet Cup as though it was less valuable than a McDonald's Shrek glass; the Brazilians, having won the right to keep the Cup forever, promptly had it stolen by bandits. FIFA claims the Cup was probably melted down -- but I think I'm right about that Pawn Shop guess.

In any event, they're not taking any chances anymore. FIFA now doesn't let anyone keep the cup. Winners hold the Cup until the next World Cup competition, after which it returns to FIFA.

Unless Pickles gets it first.

3. Who's the underdog I should be rooting for to win against all odds, with a movie someday being made about it in which a washed-up actor will play the coach?

I tried to look up the odds of teams winning, at a site called "World Cup Odds EU," figuring that Europe must be good for something, and gambling on soccer might be it. But instead of a nice, easy list of teams followed by odds, the way the US would do it (also known as "the correct way"
), I got all kinds of groups and things, and numbers with commas in them instead of decimals and got horribly confused.

So I had to retreat to the heart of America -- Las Vegas -- and try to find real odds there. But that was even worse. At this site, I saw something that said I could bet on South Africa vs. Mexico tomorrow, with one team being "+175" while the other was "+145."

Rest of the world: If the US wanted to use Celsius and kilometers, we'd let you know. Quit trying to wreck stuff by making it simpler and easier to use, because when you do that, I can't figure out which team I'm supposed to put the mortgage money on.

Before I ended up putting 13 hectometers on Serbia, I clicked away from the site, and decided to arbitrarily pick New Zealand:
Shown: the 2010 New Zealand
world cup team (starters only)

New Zealand is my Underdog-To-Root-For in the World Cup primarily on the basis that any country which has suffered the indignity of Guillermo Del Toro insulting it deserves a pick-me-up, and what is a better pick-me-up than being picked to win it all by an obscure sports blog?

Seriously, what's a better pick-me-up than that? 'Cause I need something to give Sweetie to make up for that Shakira picture.

And this one:

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