What is "scooter soccer," you ask?
As I wrote previously,
The essential rules of soccer were the same, except that instead of standing or running, we sat on little squares of plastic equipped with wheels—the kind that legless homeless people favor or that might be used to transport janitorial buckets. This being public school in the 1980s, the wheels were often warped and twisted, and in order to move at all you had to pound the floor furiously while pushing backwards.
A rare photo of scooter soccer in action. I forgot how much it looks like everyone is pooping on tiny mobile bedpans! Memories!
Hell, yes, I am saying that I dominated at what is essentially Murderball for amputees. Can I get a Milli Vanilli chest bump?
Also, FYI, I did play some soccer without training wheels.
When I was eleven, I joined a local after school team. I asked my parents to let me quit the very first night, but, having already paid for cleats, knee pads, a completely unnecessary sports bra and a non-refundable enrollment fee, they declined. I spent the next eight weeks standing on the field as if my cleats had taken root, refusing to move, waiting for one of the bigger kids to tackle me. I wanted nothing more than to limp home battered and bruised so that my parents—bleeding-heart liberal pacifists—would see the error of their ways and see that they had forced me into a horrifying twilight zone. "We're supposed to run after a ball," I would report. "We're supposed to run even though no one is chasing us and there isn't a bus coming."
So, yeah, I am basically a soccer expert.
And I love the World Cup, because with all that hair and all those abs, it's like watching an episode of Jersey Shore, only with more head-butting. SNAP.
Anyway, now up on the Observer website is my Idiot's Guide to the World Cup. You will learn amazing things. Such as:
Call soccer "football" if you're American.
This is pretentious.
Root for the U.S.
Our great nation does not dominate at soccer. This should be obvious based solely on the fact that the most memorable soccer movies produced by our country were vehicles for Sylvester Stallone (Victory, 1981) and Rodney Dangerfield (Ladybugs, 1992). We'll likely advance beyond the first round, but then teams from South America or Europe will promptly trounce us.
We totally deserve to get our asses kicked just for this.
Try to drop Afrikaans slang.
(A) You're not in Cape Town, and (B) using "now-now" to mean "soon" will just make people think you're Rain Man.
Ask where David Beckham is.
He's injured an Achilles tendon and won't be playing, though he'll likely be mugging (or moping) for the cameras from the sidelines.
Make fun of Kaka.
His real name is Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite; he survived a terrible spine injury (feeling bad yet?); and he was named European Player of the Year in '07. A man should not be measured by his scatological nickname, although one wonders how his parents allowed this to happen.
Compare the World Cup to the World Series.
They are nothing alike. Putting aside the fact that they're completely different sports with completely different rules, 32 countries are represented at the 2010 World Cup; the misleadingly named World Series has two (and that's only if you count Canada-sorry, Blue Jays).
Know your rivalries.
Rooting for Brazil in an Argentine steakhouse is like wearing a Yankees cap at Fenway Park, only more dangerous (knives trump drunken townies in "Green Monstah" T-shirts).
Study the cards.
A yellow card is a caution. A red card expels a player for the remainder of the game. Green Card is a delightful comic romp starring Gerard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell and is not generally used in play (though there's a first time for everything).
If a referee gives you a green card, it means you're a terrible actor.
Brush up on your math.
The 32 teams are initially split, based on rankings, into 8 groups of 4 (basic multiplication, makes sense so far). Each group plays a round-robin tournament so that each team plays each other team in its group once (got it?). Winning a game is 3 points, a tie is 1 point, and a loss is 0 points. The top 2 teams from each group advance to the next round, and so on and so forth, until the competition shrinks from 16 teams to 8 to 4 to 2 to the square root of Pi minus .7725, also known as one, which is the winner.
Embrace South Africa's colorful mascot.
The World Cup mascot, an anthropomorphized leopard with green dreadlocks named Zakumi, makes Mr. Met look like ... well, like an asshole. But Zakumi has one weakness: narcolepsy. According to FIFA's official site, "occasionally ... he may suddenly fall asleep on the spot at the most random times!"
Admire the players' Samson-like manes.
Soccer players are like the Red Sox in 2004, or maybe like Guns N' Roses circa Appetite for Destruction: all hair, all the time. Even if Spain doesn't make it to the finals, they win at follicular excellence this year, with Carles Puyol as MVP.
Root for the Ivory Coast.
O.K., so they probably won't win (if you have money riding on the victor, go with Spain or Brazil), but they could win. Plus, no African team has ever made a World Cup final, and South Africa is hosting this year. And if that doesn't get you misty-eyed (especially after a few beers), your soul is likely the color of tar.