Dig Baton Rouge

East of the River

By Katie East

If those t-shirts are true, then Baton Rouge is a drinking town with a football problem. So why are my bars and social conversations being inundated by the World Cup then? And no, calling it “futbol” doesn’t help.

I’m not one of those Americans who thinks soccer isn’t a real sport. I know it takes tremendous skill and athleticism. I just hate when any sport takes over TV and popular culture. Especially ones I don’t understand or can’t play myself. Olympics? I’m looking at you too.

Besides the occasional drunken kickball game I don’t ever play sports anymore. I’m an adult; I have other inactivities to do. I played them all when I was a kid though. I feel like some sports just don’t translate to TV. I think soccer, like many sports, is better to watch live.

I used to be obsessed with LSU baseball when I was a kid. I always knew the batting order and memorized each player’s stats. I remember wearing my purple and gold baseball cap sitting on the cheap metal bleacher seats and loving it.

Never though did I waste three hours of my eight-year-old life by watching a riveting 2-3 run game on TV. For me it was about the experience at the stadium and getting to see just how far one man could hit a ball. That magic and smell of hot dogs is lost at home.

On the other hand, I prefer watching football on TV. I know as an LSU alumnus that is straight blasphemy. Of course there’s nothing like a Saturday night in Death Valley, especially after a day of tailgating on campus. I can still taste those delicious hamburgers.

As a girl who didn’t have football at her high school though, I’m still learning all the rules to the sport.
Sometimes I get wrapped up in the stadium and the band and the Jello shots and it’s easy to not understand a call on the field. If I actually care about the game I’d rather watch it on TV with that helpful yellow first down line. Otherwise, I’m lost.

Sports fans should be more understanding when it comes to the uninformed. Why is it the guys who are so into a certain sport act like you’re an idiot when you don’t understand a call or a penalty? He’ll usually scoff at you while reciting the rule verbatim in a casually belittling tone.

Hey dudes, if you want to commandeer the TV channel at a bar, you have to be willing to explain the game to onlookers.

Besides those confusing pylons and figuring out who’s offsides, I’ve got most of the football law down. Several times I had to play commentator for my sports-challenged girlfriend.

My friend usually just sat confused at some very intense Jets bars in New York. Sure, we have some hardcore Saints fans down here. I’ve never seen anything like the Jets and Patriots rivalry, though. This particular group had some lively cheers, most of which suggested Tom Brady liked sodomy.

Apparently, I was the first person to ever successfully describe to her what a first down was. She was so relieved that someone was actually taking the time to explain the rules to her. I’m sure it was much easier for her to enjoy the game once she had a vague understanding of what was going on.

One sport I couldn’t really help her understand was mixed martial arts. One night we were staying silent at a bar with a group of guys watching MMA. Once they walked away to get more drinks she asked me to explain the rules. I said her guess was as good as mine.

The two sweaty muscled dudes on the TV were in the middle of nearly a minute of panting and pausing the fight. The two kept their heads on each other’s shoulders and held tight on each other’s heads while slightly bobbing up and down from their belabored breathing.

“I don’t get it,” my friend said in her endearingly shrill voice, “It looks to me these guys are just trying not to f*ck each other. Is that the point of MMA?”

I couldn’t argue with her there.

Soccer isn’t the sport in America like it is around the world. It’s not something instilled in us like it is in every five year old in Latin America. Next time you’re watching the World Cup with some newbies around, take the time to explain the game. Not everyone knows who Uruguay needs to beat or what a red card is. Be an ambassador, and don’t forget to buy a beer for the sport illiterate friends in your bunch.

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