Soccer is sometimes described as the “beautiful” game. Commentators of English Premier League games, just like some of its players, have gone soft, serving up “beautiful” descriptions that are silly, soppy, and sappy. Their portrayals are more appropriate for rhythmic gymnastics or the ballet than a supposedly contact sport.
Many top soccer pros are renowned for their injury-prone antics and foul simulations, writhing around pathetically after a slight nudge, for example. They may be quite fit these days, and perhaps their team has a nutritionist and sports psychologist, but many are still delicate daisies.
Perhaps the commentary reflects this dainty demeanor because in recent EPL matches I’ve heard the following genteel banalities to describe the action: “delightful pass,” “lovely shot,” “exquisite timing,” “delicious chip,” “precious dummy,” “elegant run,” “playing with personality,” and “sweet exchange of passes.”
Sweet?! No wonder football players and fans think soccer is for weenies. Perhaps these phrases might be more apt: “penetrating pass,” “thundering shot,” “precise timing,” “playing with verve,” “robust challenge,” and “swift interchange of passes.” Surely that would better capture the action, presuming the players behavior warrants.
Contrast the effete soccer lexicon with typical NFL commentary, where a wide receiver would never dare make a lovely catch -- spectacular, maybe, but not lovely. A running back doesn’t make a delightful dummy or pivot, choosing instead an acrobatic one. Special teams don’t move exquisitely, but charge with reckless abandon, perhaps inflicting a late hit. And if there’s anything delicious around, it’s not in the playbook but in the concession booths.
Back in the day, soccer matches included some good ol’ rough and tumble, nonstop action, and the commentary mirrored that. Nowadays, the action is more halting as referees’ whistles seem glued to their lips in order to protect the poor darlings. One wonders if it’s an obsequious submittal to the effete elites’ imperative to degenderize sports.
Graeme Souness, an accomplished player turned coach turned pundit, recently described football (soccer) as a man’s game. He’s half right: it’s also a women’s game. Of course, there are significant stylistic differences, and the woke commentators should not conflate the two in an effort to degenderize the sport.
The women’s version of soccer can indeed be beautiful, and, at times, may be properly described as lovely, delightful, and elegant. That may be why a record global audience (for a women’s Euro soccer tournament) watched the Women’s Euro 2022 tournament. Nevertheless, terms used to describe women’s techniques of play are generally misplaced for the men’s version. Perhaps under pressure from above to avoid “toxic masculinity,” it seems that woke commentators are imbued with gender studies sensibilities.
In fact, a sturdy, inelegant challenge that abruptly interrupts a “sweet exchange” always ups the tempo on the field, and elicits rousing roars from the stands. So here’s to a bit more reckless abandon in soccer, even a marginally late tackle to stimulate crowd atmosphere, combined with some muscular skill, of course. Skill that produces a penetrating pass to a forward with precise timing who unleashes a thundering shot.
Just as there are undeniable anthropometric and physiological differences between genders, it is apparent there are two versions of soccer: men’s and women’s. They deserve their own commentary styles -- one is more raucous and powerful, the other more exquisite and lovely. Maybe the ladies exchange “sweet” passes, but the men try to execute precise ones. One only wishes the commentators were a bit more precise in their analysis.