I’m watching the Columbia vs. Greece game as I type this.  I think the big thing that prevents me from really enjoying it is that there seems to be no chance of a sudden score from anywhere on the field.  I mean, in American football (which I understand is called “gridiron” by the rest of the world–much better name for it.) you occasionally see 99-yard touchdowns.  It’s unusual, but still it could happen.

But I don’t think you ever see goals that go the length of the field in soccer.  It might even be against the rules, for all I know–never was clear on where you were allowed to score from, exactly.  Also–and this may well be a mistaken impression–but somehow a 2 goal lead in soccer, like Columbia currently enjoys, feels much bigger than a 14-point lead in a gridiron game. I don’t know if it is, but it feels like it.  I’d be interested to see the in-game win probability comparisons, though.

Okay, this isn’t directly connected to learning about soccer, but it’s still soccer-related.  About a month ago, there was some kind of collegiate rugby tournament on television.  I watched some of it, and it was surprisingly enjoyable.

Rugby seemed to me to be almost exactly halfway between soccer and American football.  It’s like the missing link in the evolution from one to the other.  From an anthropological perspective, it was cool to see how it had changed.

It was kind of like the desperation, lateral plays that teams will sometimes use at the end of football games–the 1982 California vs. Stanford game being the most famous example.  (Aside: why don’t more teams use that in lieu of the “Hail Mary”?)  It was like a continuous lateral play.  For those who find the pace of football too slow, rugby might be more their speed, more soccer-like.

I’m surprised it isn’t more popular than it is in the U.S.  I suspect it’s because the players don’t look as impressive as football players, since they don’t wear helmets or pads.  I think a faster-paced version of football could really catch on.

(Part 1 is here.)  The big difference between soccer and football is the pace–with soccer, play just goes on and on, in a more or less continuous flow. With football, everybody sets up runs a play which takes usually not more than 20 seconds, and thenfootball stop and set up to run another play.

This is kind of weird, because if you think of sports as a substitute for war, football is more analogous to 19th-century European warfare, with units being moved carefully into position and then executing maneuvers.  Soccer is faster and more anarchic.  I wonder how this relates to the fact that soccer is popular in Europe and football is popular in America.soccer

On another note, I think football looks cooler than soccer, largely because of the helmets. (Some people I know think they look stupid, though.)  It looks like there are robots out there fighting, as opposed to just guys in shorts and polo shirts.

As I think I’ve mentioned before on here, I’ve never had much interest in soccer.  I prefer American football.  But lately, I’ve been trying to learn more about soccer.  It is the world’s most popular sport, after all.

Naturally, for me, the first step in this process was to get a soccer video game and give it a try to make some attempt at getting a feel for the game.  This may not be a perfect method, but it’s how I started to learn about football.  I’ve also been watching highlights of real soccer games, but I can tell I’m going to need to know more background about the teams and so forth before these will be really interesting.

So far, from what I can tell, it seems to be a game largely based on angles–the best way to score that I can see is to take the ball and allow a bunch of defenders to follow you down one side of the field.  Then, you kick the ball to one of your players who will most probably be running open down the center or opposite side.  This is soften how goals get scored that I would almost think this was just a bit of video game-ness, except I’ve seen it happen a fair amount on the highlights, too.

On offense, the game is mostly about trying to exploit mismatches that you lure the defense into.  In this respect, it’s a lot like football, except that in football the mismatches are created before the snap with the deliberate placement of players and personnel groups, whereas in soccer they get set up on the fly, even in the wake of other plays.

I still have a lot to learn.  For instance, I understand that there are different formations in soccer, though I can’t yet tell what they are, or what the purpose of them is.  It still all looks like two disorganized groups running around to me.