Why I love soccer

Soccer is perfect for people with no athletic ability.
Soccer is perfect for people with no athletic ability.

I’ve been accused in the past of “hating soccer”, just because I don’t put it on the same level as actual sports like baseball, football, and basketball. This is patently ridiculous – you can enjoy a concert by a local band even though they’re not as good as Mozart or the Beatles. I’m writing this post to show the world that I think soccer is awesome, and I don’t care who knows it. Here are some reasons why I love this great game:

Reason #1 – Soccer is great for kids

I would rank soccer up with the all-time great schoolyard games like Red Rover, tetherball, kickball, and hopscotch. For little tykes that aren’t big enough for football, tall enough for basketball, or patient enough for baseball – soccer is perfect. They can run around constantly, and it’s a very simple game so there isn’t any nuance or strategy to confuse their little kid brains. Someday I hope to be a parent, and I will definitely encourage my kids to play soccer until they are old enough to handle actual sports.

Reason #2 – Soccer is great for Europeans

Let’s face it – it must be tough to be a European sports fan. We Americans dominate in all the sports people care about, and their efforts to break into these sports is lackluster at best. For every Dirk Nowitzki, there are ten Darko Milicics. Soccer gives them a game they can excel at, and something to do in between Eurovision Song Contests. Soccer is very popular in Europe where popular teams like Manchester University, the Real Madrids, and the AC Romans give the locals something to cheer for.

Some Europeans have even taken to calling soccer “football” in the hopes that it will one day gain the prominence of American football. I think we can all learn from the example of great European soccer players like Pele and Ronaldo, who devoted their careers to soccer despite being athletic enough to probably play minor league baseball. 

Reason #3 – Soccer is great for Seattle

I live in Seattle, and we recently suffered the worst thing that can happen to a city: losing an NBA team (maybe it’s not worse than hurricanes or terrorism – but remember New York and New Orleans still have NBA teams). In this time of tragedy and hardship, the city was desperately in need of another sports team – one can only go to so many Mariners and Seahawks games. We didn’t get another sports team but we did get the “Seattle Sounders”. They play in the “Major League of Soccer” (so-called to set it apart from minor leagues like AYSO and FIFA). I have never been to a game, but I’m told literally hundreds of fans show up to cheer on the Sounders against other MLS teams like the Houston Dynamite and the Toledo Mud Hens.

You may think that the Sounders couldn’t possibly heal the wounds left by the Sonics departure – but I offer this sweet analogy as a counter-argument. If you had your hand cut off, would you rather replace it with a hook, or leave it as a stump?

Reason #4 – Soccer brings countries together

Every four years the biggest event in soccer happens: the World’s Cup. I believe they only have it every four years because it’s rather expensive for most soccer teams to travel to a tournament every year. At the World’s Cup, every country sends a team (even Antarctica!) and the teams compete to see which country is the best! Even the USA sends a team (I believe we send the high school soccer team that submits the best essay).

With all the wars and discord going on in the world, it’s good to know that occasionally we can all get together and show that deep down we’re all the same – we all enjoy running around outside kicking a little ball into a net. Even those of us from countries that aren’t good at real sports.

In conclusion, I hope this article has put to rest the silly notion that I don’t like or respect the game of soccer. I’m going to head outside for a game right now!

I answer “Dear Prudence”s mail

I could do her job. Right?
I could do her job. Right?

One of my dreams is to become a professional advice columnist. It’s tough to break into this gig, there are no entry-level advice columnist jobs. Most people are born into it (both “Ann Landers” and “Dear Abby” have passed from mother to daughter). It’s also a female-dominated profession (Dan Savage notwithstanding). I’ve decided to show my advice-giving chops by answering letters from the popular “Dear Prudence” column on Slate and the Washington Post. The current author of the column, Emily Yoffe, does a decent enough job, but I think I can improve on her responses (which you can read here if you want to compare our answers).

Dear Prudence,
I’ve been happily married for more than 30 years. Recently, my husband received a text message from a man saying that he was going to use him as a cover so he could visit another man in a neighboring town. This made me suspicious, so I looked in his wallet and found a visitor’s pass to a gay men’s health club. Then I found a gay porn DVD and Viagra in his gym bag. On his computer were gay Web sites. My husband had an excuse for everything. He said a man he works out with had given him the DVDs and the pass, and he didn’t even know what they were. The Viagra was so he could be “ready” for me. He didn’t know how the gay Web site cookies got on his computer.. Last weekend, I came home unexpectedly and found him masturbating to gay porn. He said he wanted to see some porn, and this was the only thing he had because he didn’t know where to get anything else.  I feel as if my whole marriage has been a sham, and I don’t know what to do.

—Who Is He?

Dear WIH,

You better hope that he’s gay. If I were a woman, I’d rather be married to a gay man than a man too dumb to find heterosexual porn on the internet and too stupid to get what’s going on when a guy at the gym hands him a DVD full of gay porn (sidenote: are there really gay gyms?). Look at it this way – after 30 years of marriage, most straight husbands aren’t aroused by their wives either. Have your husband email me and I’ll give him some tips on lying to you more effectively so you can live out the rest of your days in denial.

— NotPrudence

Dear Prudence,
My wife and I recently had a large gathering of friends over the weekend. I was talking to my friend when his wife walked in, sat on a chair, and joined the conversation. When they both left the room minutes later, I saw a red stain on the fabric of the chair. I quickly cleaned it up. About an hour later, my wife came up to me and said she had found blood drops all over the bathroom floor. Just as we were beginning to wonder what was going on, another guest came in and told us that my friend’s wife had just gotten up from a chair outside and left quite a bloody spot.  This woman is married to a dear friend, and I hope to have them visit again, but this behavior is not acceptable. What should I do?

—A Bloody Mess

Dear ABM,

I’m confused by this question. Did she cut herself? Maybe you shouldn’t leave sharp objects lying around. Unless you can be more clear about how the woman was injured, I’m afraid I can’t offer up much in the way of advice.

— NotPrudence

Dear Prudence:
About four months ago, my wife and I found out that my 18-year-old son’s girlfriend had a Twitter account. It became a guilty pleasure for us to occasionally look at this account to see what was up in her life. About two months ago, as they went through a breakup, it became heartbreaking for us to see her reaction. We were going to leave it at that, but since the breakup, I have occasionally gone back to see how she is doing. I know that my wife and son have no idea that I am keeping up with her. Even though she never posts anything salacious, I feel a little like a dirty old man. I make a vow to stop, but a week later I find myself going back just to see how she is doing because I convince myself that I am doing no real harm. Should I be worried about my behavior?

—Can’t Stop Reading Tweets

Dear CSRT,

It is clear that you are in love with this girl (I’m calling her “Lotweeta” – get it?) – but are you in love with the real person underneath or just her heartbreakingly romantic tweets? I know it sets my heart afire when I read “OMG Dustin just txted me that were braking up? i’m so sad i’m gonna go to the mall and kill myself in front of skechers where he works”.

The solution is simple – divorce your wife and propose marriage to this girl (“@Lotweeta – hey U, I’m ur exes dad. I luv ur tweets – want to go to vegas and get hitched?”). Whisk her off to a backwoods cabin and force her to do nothing but twitter all day long. Forbid her from speaking unless she can say it in 140 characters or less. Don’t let your friends and family judge you – they are just jealous because they don’t have child Twitter-brides of their own.

–NotPrudence

Honing your trivia skills

my high school trivia team
my high school trivia team

Having lost on multiple game shows, competed on high school and college quiz teams, and participated in all manner of bar trivia competitions, I consider myself an authority in competitive trivia. I’m pretty good (but not great – see the Jeopardy video link on the sidebar). I’d rather be good at something people care about, like football, but being good at trivia is better than being good at, say, long-distance spitting. I’m a pretty competitive person, so if all I could do was spit really far, I’d probably enter those competitions. As it is, I quench the competitive fire by competing in trivia games.

Many people ask me how they can improve their own trivia skills, so I’ve decided to share with you all my secrets to becoming a trivia master. Now you too can beat your Aunt Hilda at Trivial Pursuit, or win a free basket of Xtreme Chicken Nacho Fries at Tulligan’s Bar Tuesday Trivia X-Travaganza.

The key is Negative Reinforcement Studying. Trying to memorize long lists of facts will get you nowhere – you can memorize facts and names all day long but it won’t help you remember any of it when the Nacho Fries are on the line.

Scientists have studied this problem and found that the best way to remember things is to tie them to an experience. Negative experiences work better than positive ones. For instance, what would help you remember the name of the Secretary General of the UN?

  1. You study and memorize the name “Ban Ki Moon” on a flash card.
  2. Ban Ki Moon comes up, shakes your hand and compliments your haircut.
  3. Ban Ki Moon runs up, kicks you in the stomach, and takes your wallet.

I think most of you would go with answer #3. For this reason, I like to structure the negative and painful events in my life so that they improve my trivia skills. Here are some examples of ways you can use this technique to improve your performance in specific subjects:

  • Geography. Have a humiliating sexual encounter in every world capital. Then when you’re trying to remember the capital of Cambodia, just think of the shameful one night stand you had with a street vendor – “oh right, that was in Phnom Penh!”.
  • Chemistry. Every night for 118 nights, cook a meal using one of the elements of the Periodic Table. It’s tough to memorize that element “Rg” is Roentgenium, but you’ll never forget it if you make it into Roentgenium Tuna Casserole and it makes your pee glow green.
  • History. Dress up like historical figures and go deliver lectures “in character” to gang members in the worst neighborhood you can find. As you’re being beaten to a bloody pulp, think about how Robert E. Lee or whoever would react to this situation.
  • Government. Attempt to get a restraining order issued against you by all 100 US Senators. Roland Burris is optional.
  • Film. Watch the entire AFI 100 Greatest Films back to back without a break. You may have to use a machine to keep your eyelids open like in A Clockwork Orange (which ironically is one of the films you’ll watch).
  • Literature. Turn off the television and actually read some of the books. This is one I just couldn’t bring myself to do.

The next step is to figure out what are the important facts to remember, and which ones you can safely forget. Here are some examples:

  • Presidents. I memorized all of them but it was a waste of time – the only ones that you ever get asked about in trivia competitions are Washington, Lincoln, Ben Franklin, the Roosevelt brothers, and the new guy – what’s-his-name.
  • U.S. States. If it doesn’t border an ocean, it doesn’t matter enough for bar trivia. Exception: the state you live in, you should probably know that.
  • Art. Here are the only artists that matter to anyone in 2009: Monet, Michaelangelo, Picasso, Van Gogh, Dali, Thomas Kinkade, and the guy that draws Family Circus. Memorize their life stories and major works – next subject!
  • Music. Trivia question writers love to write questions about dead Italian composers. Make use of the mumble technique – just answer “Fettucine Tortellini” in a low, garbled voice, and it will sound close enough to Puccini or Verdi or whoever.
  • Math. Ignore this subject entirely, people who are into trivia don’t know math and people who are into math don’t know trivia.

I hope this helps – now go out and win those Nacho Fries!