If Soccer’s The Beautiful Game,
How Come So Many Ugly Fans?

 By Jim Berlin 

When an American man says he doesn’t like soccer he puts it out there like a boast, as if his scorn for the most popular game on the planet suggests something grand about his virility.

He will go on to tell you he’s a fan of real football, the U.S. pastime, where each of the 120-plus plays in a game have a beginning, a middle and an end. American football makes sense, man. There’s always something happening.

On the flip side is the guy who thoughtfully strokes his chin and claims soccer is a chess board come to life – the beautiful game – an athletic ballet playing out a choreography designed by the gods themselves.

It may be all that, but millions of its most rabid followers barely register on the evolutionary scale. I first met some of them in the 1990s on a night in Bosnia – the Croatian sector – while standing on the patio of a fifth-floor apartment. Suddenly, gunfire broke out – pistols and AK-47s on full-automatic – and when bullets began chewing up a wall 10 feet away I went to my belly and wondered what had sparked the firefight below.

It wasn’t a firefight. Dozens of men on

  the street, crowded around a portable radio, had just heard that the Croatian soccer team had scored a goal in some tournament or another. Thus they celebrated as all third-world countries do when something joyful occurs: by spraying lead in all directions and to hell with anyone on the receiving end.

But this is neither an indictment of soccer or a shout-out for football. What sports we obsess over is solely determined by accidents of birth. If you’re Brazilian, soccer is your passion. Born in Chicago – it’s football all the way.

In the end – beautiful or not – they’re all, and only, the games people play.


On Super Bowl Sunday…
God is Just Another Fan

 By Jim Berlin

While it’s a bad idea to lie anytime, it is especially egregious to practice deceit on a God-related issue. Yet, in a survey of football fans by the Public Religious Research Institute, 67 percent of respondents denied ever asking God to help their team win.

Liar, liar, sports jersey on fire!

As cameras pan the crowd during critical moments of this Sunday’s Super Bowl, you will see those smoking jerseys everywhere as fans clasp their hands, shut their eyes and move their lips in frenzied supplication for heavenly intervention.

We’ve all done it at one time or another – and we’re all wasting our time.

As a matter of policy, God refuses to involve himself in determining winners and losers – not just in football – but any sporting event. It is, for God, a conflict of interest…of biblical proportions.

Let me explain: Jesus says it right there in the Book of Matthew…if one of his followers has faith, even as small as a mustard seed, he can

tell a mountain to move and it will. Faith, literally, can move mountains.

The problem for God is that there are fervently-praying fans on both sides of the stadium – some with faith the size of a watermelon – and they’re praying for opposite teams to take home the trophy.

God has only one way out of this philosophical mess: Don’t get involved. Period.

So save your breath and save your prayers. On Super Bowl Sunday, God is just another fan.