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The World Cup Guide for Americans

Think of soccer as an exclusive competition for NFL kickers, says Chris Matyszczyk.

The United States has saved the world on so many occasions that one would have thought the world might be grateful by now.

You would have thought that just a couple of stars and a stripe might have been accommodated in the flag of the United Kingdom. You might have wondered whether, perhaps, the French might have given McDonalds a Michelin star. And whether Spain might have simply renamed itself Eastern Arizona.

I say this for a very specific reason. I want everyone in America to watch the World Cup and I don't want you to think I'm some lardy, patronizing European who thinks he knows better.

You see, while I hail from the UK, I am an American these days. So please allow me to help you look at soccer -- and the World Cup in particular -- through the prism of American sports. I have plenty of beer.

I have heard so many criticisms of soccer from Americans. It is too slow. There are often few goals. Sometimes, none. The offside rule is baffling and the players fall over as if Lee Harvey Oswald was still alive and had it in for every one of them.

All of this is, in some literal way, true.

Yet, given that the whole of the rest of the world -- yes, even Uzbekistan -- is beyond doolally over this simple sport, perhaps you could be too.

Think of it as an exclusive competition for NFL kickers.

You know that in the NFL, kickers decide so many of the games anyway.

Dilettante wide receivers who attempt to dance. They don't play soccer.

So soccer has done away with the lumbering, steroid-addled linebackers and the dilettante wide receivers who, as did Jerry Rice and Chad Ochocinco, prove their lack of talent even on "Dancing with the Stars."

Soccer does away with running backs whose career generally lasts just three years, less time than it takes for you to create a bond with your Starbucks barista, never mind someone whose shirt you're supposed to wear.

Soccer does away with left guards, right guards and centers. They all take up far too much space. They all take far too many drugs. They all eat far too much food. And you can never remember their names anyway.

In soccer, there are no preening QB's in girly pants fleeing defenders, says Chris Matyszczyk.

Soccer has also done away with those preening pilferers of column inches--quarterbacks.

Yes, they throw touchdowns and marry models.

But the minute an opponent evades the blocking, the quarterback runs away as if several ferrets had suddenly made a home inside his long and-- may I be the first to say it-- rather girly pants.

Kickers have ice in their veins and, just occasionally, vodka or tequila on their breath. (Well, it's the vodka or tequila that may help their veins become a little icier.)

They rarely overdo the celebration. After all, who didn't see Arizona's Bill Gramatica go down in agony after making a 42-yarder against the Giants in 2001? Now that was ugly.

Kickers have ice in their veins and, just occasionally, vodka or tequila on their breath.

And kickers, unlike players from any other position, come from every corner of the world, marry the girl next door and go on to become accountants and salesmen. What could be more American than that?

Oh, you prefer baseball?

Well, then might I be the first to say this: girly pants. The sort of pants that were last seen in early episodes of Charlie's Angels.

But pants aren't everything, are they?

So how about this? Each soccer game lasts half as long as a baseball game. And at no point do they stop the game so that everyone can stand up and sing a song about, well, going to the game.

This habit seems especially absurd, given that Americans sing this song when the game is almost done.

At a soccer game, you can sing anything you want at any time you want. Each country has its own tunes and its own lyrics. (Though I must say that the tune to Pet Shop Boys' "Go West" seems to have traveled far and wide in the soccer world.)

When you hear the drums that will bang an incessant African beat during the World Cup, your heart will lift far higher than it does when you wonder whether Prince Fielder's pants will come off as he rounds the bases at 3.5 mph.

Still not convinced? Alright. How about no TV commercials? This is surely a powerful argument. Whether you watch the NFL or baseball, you surely see more adverts than action.

The adverts during ball game broadcasts always seem to be same ones. And they always come on twenty times. Why be subjected to phrases like "Know what 2:30 in the afternoon feels like?" as, yet again, some cheap, lame voiceover tries to tempt you from your stupor into ordering a gnarly, caffeine-infused concoction that is supposed to keep you alert until the Rapture.

Annoying TV commercials won't be an issue during the World Cup.

This won't happen during soccer games. The World Cup matches have only one break, just because you have only one bladder. So you can miss every single advert and marvel that such a thing is possible in America.

As a bonus, the one true walking advertisement in soccer (I said "in" soccer, not "for" soccer) will not even be playing. England's David Beckham (surely you have heard of him) will not be seen in shorts. He is injured, but, also, not terribly good.

I hope I have at least given you some emotional potato chips upon which to chew and, hopefully, reassess your preternatural prejudice.

If none of these have worked, I will try my last fling.

Very soon, America will be a Hispanic country.

The Hispanic culture has always been very partial to the world's most wonderful game. It has brought to the World Cup finals imagination, verve, and even, at times, very short goalkeepers with highly colorful shirts (who could forget Mexico's Jorge Campos in both 1994 and 1998?).

So, if all the obvious glories of the World Cup still cause you to utter expletives and bury your head in decaying Astroturf, surely it is worth thinking of your children.

They will be growing up in an America much different from yours, an America that has soccer at his heart and the NFL somewhere nearer its feet.

Cristiano Ronaldo. Even American women love him, says Chris Matyszczyk.

There are those who are already ahead of you in this thinking.

Should you have daughters, you will know that both Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton have almost pulled each other's extensions out in order to win the heart of Real Madrid and Portugal star, Cristiano Ronaldo.

So give your kids a head start to happiness. Watch the World Cup with them. You will all be the better for it. You will all have a more prosperous, harmonious future. Soccer will, you see, soon be the American Dream.

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