Life of Hardin in Paraguay

Laugh as you travel through life with Josh Hardin.

Location: Spring Hill, TN, United States

Josh Hardin began writing in high school and published his first novel when he was twenty-two. He won an EPPIE award for his mystery novel "The Pride of Peacock." His non-fiction work includes "The Prayer of Faith", a book aimed at making personal prayers both powerful and effective. He has traveled widely and taught a summer philosophy course at the International University in Vienna. Hardin grew up in Tennessee and moved to Paraguay in 2006. He moved back to Tennessee in 2008.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Life of Hardin Vol. IV, No. 27

A Foot By Any Other Name

We are smack dab in the middle of football season yet again. Both of them. American football has had the teams of the National Collegiate Athletic Association raving out of control for over two months now, with no ranked team safe from an upset. The NFL is up in arms arguing over whether a team can still complete a season undefeated. And South American soccer--better known as football in every country in the world besides the U.S.--is, as usual, playing every game with a complete regiment of police in riot gear guarding the gates.

Yes, I know. Another article about soccer. But I still wrestle with this phenomenon. It is so bound up in South American culture it is impossible to escape. I gave it every chance to grow on me. Like watching Citizen Kane a second time. Like eating an extra piece of cantaloupe. Like buying another goldfish when the first dies in two days. I just can’t do it.

There really is not much to it. Twenty-two people run up and down a huge, well-groomed pasture and try to boot a ball into a net so huge it should be impossible to guard, and yet score maybe once a game. It is an exercise in practiced futility. It is like eating tapioca pudding with a fork. White rice with chop sticks. Gruel with a coffee stirrer. I think that is why they need S.W.A.T. teams at every contest. Eventually you get tired of sucking gruel and stick your face down in it, then sling it all over the kitchen until someone older and more mature comes in to restore order with force.

Not that they don’t try to spice it up. They say they have plays, but they are all variations of two things: 1) Pass the ball to me and I’ll kick it in, or 2) Kick the ball in when I pass it to you. They make up arbitrary rules like don’t run in front of the other players, don’t use your hands, and don’t kick people. None of this fools me. I know a track meet when I see it, even if the runners have to kick a ball, can’t decide which way to run, and never get to the finish line.

Of course soccer players say the same things about football and basketball and baseball. Basketball I agree. The only wrinkle there is the dribble and the hoop, but it is mainly soccer for tall, coordinated people. Baseball is in a league of its own, and is not bad-mouthed so much as it is gaped at and held in awe. Football, however, receives much of the criticism, mainly because it carries the same name.

It should not be called football, so I have been told on many occasions. You don’t even have to kick the ball with your feet. Soccer you can only kick the ball with your feet. That is real football.

To anyone who says this, I quote this scripture: “Cast out the beam out of thine own eye.” Football was popularized and named in England. And though the word “foot” has zero meaning in Spanish, they continue to say “football.” This is the same thing as if an American were to call baseball “phblat.” It signifies nothing, therefore Spanish speakers have no grounds for arguing for the moniker of football. If they called it piebol, then I could see it. (Pie means foot in Spanish, but is pronounced pee-yeah).

Here is my wisdom. We cut the name in half, kill it so that neither game can have it, and rename both with more apt descriptions. We’ll call American football throwball, or catchball, or runball.

And we’ll call soccer boring.


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