Ten years ago, I wrote a story for Field & Stream magazine titled “Carp Crazy”, wherein the premise was basically that carp fishing was like soccer in that the rest of the world is stark, raving mad about it, but most Americans don’t get it (or don’t want to).
It was a cool story, not only because the editors popped to have the great gonzo illustrator Ralph Steadman create the opener (there’s a backstory there for another time), but also because it opened my own eyes to the wonders of carp fishing. I’ve been a semi-closeted carp junkie ever since.
As for soccer, my attitude also has improved, though admittedly not to the same degree as the carp fascination. I am enjoying watching the World Cup, and not just because the Colorado Rockies have no bullpen and it’s another couple months until American football starts in earnest . Soccer players are remarkable athletes—supremely coordinated and with great endurance. Heck, even the referees are in great shape.
I still don’t understand, however, why a player has to roll around on the ground like a wimp for five minutes if they get shoved or someone steps on their foot. FIFA, the governing body, is corrupt. Not that the billionaire boys club of National Football League owners is any better. Zero-zero ties don’t really do it for me (if I bought a ticket, I’d want a refund). And I think deciding the final with penalty kicks is criminal. Might as well just flip a coin, or break out the cornhole boards or something. C’mon… play on until the tie is broken.
Beyond that, it is indeed a beautiful game. I like that there are no commercials when you watch soccer. You can sit down and count on 45-plus minutes of action without interruption. Our Super Bowl is so bogged down with commercials, it’s nearly unwatchable. And to dull the pain, we’ve taken to grading the Super Bowl commercials as a sport unto itself, but 90 percent of those now stink also.
The most beautiful aspect of soccer is its simplicity. All you need are people and a ball. I saw that with my own eyes when I fished with the Kayapo people at Kendjam in central Brazil (truly a life-changing experience and one of the best trips I’ve ever been on). When we asked what we might bring with us as gifts for the guides, the answer was, “soccer balls.”
Rodrigo Salles of Untamed Angling even brought some cleats and uniforms, and you’d think those guys (who still wear body paint and feathers, by the way) were ready to take on Manchester City.
In a world where we cannot find commonality in language… or how we measure things… or the sizes of lug nuts or copy paper, it’s pretty amazing that everyone can settle on a standard size of field, and goal, and ball, and the rules that you can’t touch the ball, be offsides, or hack another player. Ball goes in their net more than in yours, you win. Simple deal.
The World Cup, like a good day of getting skunked on the carp flats, reminds me to appreciate the things that unite us, regardless of the type of football—or the type of fishing—we fancy most. It’s all good.
— Kirk Deeter