So soccer isn't your cup of tea? Many found it wasn't so bad

July 18, 1994|By PHIL JACKMAN

A prime tenet of sports is wrapped up in the expression: "To each his own."

You enjoy lacrosse? Fine, good luck to you, Skip, Chipper and Buffy. And if football is your passion, rush right out to 33rd Street and scream "Colts" every time the public address announcer screams, "Your CFL. . . "

Yeah, baseball can provide a buzz, especially when the home team repeatedly blows games at the end by following the pack and bringing in a so-called stopper when the guys doing the pitching previously seemed to be doing just fine.

People shoot pistols, rifles, baskets, pucks and arrows, jump barrels, swing from rings, throw heavy weights, ski down a hill at 70 mph, row boats, wrestle and stand behind a bunch of sled dogs plowing through 1,200 miles of Alaskan cold.

The true sports fan is a very versatile individual, willing to give any athletic endeavor a full chance to capture his or her interest. If it just doesn't work, the fan will say well, to each his own.

To those legions of Americans who just spent the month making snide remarks about soccer, belaboring us with tales of how uninterested they have been, rest easy. World Cup is over.

And it's truly unfortunate you didn't choose to get involved, join in and allow the majesty of the big moments to wash over you. Then again, some people insisted the moon landing 25 years ago did nothing for them, either.

Yes, 120 minutes Italy and Brazil played with nary a goal to show for it. Key people were injured and staggering after a rugged six-game schedule in far-flung stadia in oppressive heat over a month's time just to get here. Sad that perhaps the ultimate team championship in sport came down to a five-on-five shootout. But exciting.

Sad, too, that Italy would give up the Cup to Brazil by proving almost feeble by netting just two of five shots from 12 yards away. The main reason for this is, if the competition had proceeded to sudden-death shootout, Azzuri might have ended up being represented by the driver of the team bus.

Many will insist that Brazil was the better team throughout the tournament and deserved its record fourth Cup triumph and first since 1970. No argument.

But as ABC's analyst Seamus Malin said: "This is not the way to decide the world championship of the world's game." His suggestions for improvement include "sudden-death overtime, not a 30-minute overtime, then a shootout. Or, a replay three days later. It has to be natural."

Colleague Rick Davis agreed, reminding, "The game of soccer is a collective effort. Then teamwork is sort of put aside and it goes to individual skills, a goalie against a shooter only 12 yards away."

It can be argued that many of the players were too exhausted (or injured) to go on, but you can bet action in the late going of regulation and in the 30-minute overtime would have been far different if the teams didn't take comfort in the fact of it ultimately going to a shootout.

The topic will be argued for a couple of years until FIFA, the game's governing body, comes to its senses and, like Wimbledon in tennis and the U.S. Open in golf, doesn't allow its championship to be decided by a tiebreaker in the fifth set or one lucky shot on the first playoff hole.

The sun was glaring down on the Rose Bowl yesterday when the game ended, the teams could have played on for at least five hours to the delight on 100,000 spectators. If that didn't do it, they could have opened up the concession stands again and flipped the lights on.

Sure, it would have been cruel and unusual punishment for the losers. But at least the runner-up would have departing knowing it was beaten where it should have been beaten: with guys running up and down the field, not lounging around in the midfield, watching as their mates stamped their years of work in a game of Russian roulette.

Each of the 52 games involving two dozen nations over the last month was not a classic by any means.

But play was often brilliant, the crowds were huge and appreciative and World Cup USA 94 will go down as far and away the best among the 15 staged to date.

Anyone who didn't bother to tag along for the ride, do yourself a favor, watch for reports of a video cassette capsulizing this exalted event.

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