I love watching the World Cup. I don’t even care that scoring can be separated by an hour or more. (We Americans, I am told, love scoring too much.) If you like strategy, team effort, and the pure geometry of a sporting contest, there is nothing like a high-level football match.
But for pure, unadulterated and un-interfered-with action, and the triumph and heartbreak of individual effort, there is nothing like watching golf, seriously, with baseball a close second. (The major difference with baseball is that an umpire can still make a difference in the outcome of the contest, but video replay is starting to eliminate much of the guesswork in the national pastime. I’ve been watching baseball seriously for more than 60 years, and I won’t have a major issue when balls and strikes are called by a robot.)
It is the pushing and shoving and grabbing of jerseys in these World Cup matches, and dubious writhing on the ground after a bump from an opponent, that besmirches the beauty of soccer. Compare the obvious attempts by soccer players to generate a penalty call and a potential yellow card for their opponent –- some of those attempts so audacious as to attract a yellow card from the referee –- with the penalties golfers call on themselves. Or compare the tugging on a jersey or an elbow to the head in soccer with the “nice putt” and “great shot there” one golfing competitor shares with another. Referees in soccer make a call every few seconds, it seems, yet officials are only called to a golf match on the rare occasion that golfers in a group cannot agree on a ruling or if they don’t understand the rule. Golf may seem slower, but the interruptions to a soccer match, a football game or a professional basketball game make those sports far less than elegant.
Those who don’t play golf consider watching it boring and pointless –- in the way a Philistine considers a visit to a museum a waste of time. Yet talent in sport is best revealed absent the collision of bodies, constantly faked injuries, life-debilitating concussions or the judgment of fallible human beings known as referees or umpires. In that regard, golf on TV could not be more exciting.
Now if Fox can only get the camerawork right.