Subject: Loving The Game Despite It All (long)
Date: Sun, 05 Oct 1997 22:03:36 -0500
From: Paul Mettewie 


Trying to follow and appreciate world soccer
from the United States is a difficult and pre-
carious pursuit. Each week is fraught with
niggardly petty little difficulties in just
simply try to watch or listen to the game you

Game transmissions and highlight shows that
I took for granted when living in Italy or
Brasil seem now as unattainable as a winning
Lottery ticket. It certainly is not a question
of being overwhelmed by too much soccer, it is
a question of being frustrated by the failure
of getting *any* soccer.

I now log for you a typical week in the life of
a calcio-fussball-footy-futbol fanatic in the
US of A. Land of the Free, and Home Of The
Desperate(ly seeking a live feed of Champion's
League match.)

First, let me say that I am not a frequenter of
bars. Well, I used to be, but that was when I
could withstand an afternoon/evening/night of
drinking, bad food and cigarette smoke. That
rules out most US sports bars with their
desired satellite dishes. Back then I could
bounce back quickly from the hangover/upset
stomach/bloodshot eyes/nausea accumulated
from a night of drinking/eating/partaking
involuntarily of second-hand smoke. Now I do
this once or twice a year and regret it
immensely the following morning. Once every
week during soccer season is out of the

Age or wisdom? A little of both!

And most of these "sports bars" aren't open
at the hours I want to watch soccer (early
Sunday morning). And if the game is later
on Sunday, there are a *few* American Football
fanatics almost everywhere in the bar that
object to even one of 26 screens being focused
on anything but pictures of giants smashing
into one another at high rates of speed. Oh,
yeah, a couple of guys want to watch a re-run
of "Home Improvement".

So, that rules out bars. For many reasons.
But the conservation of my health is turning
me to thoughts of crime.

I decide I am going to use the advantages of
modern technology to watch. The satellite dish
is a wonderful invention, but there is one
problem that soccer fans in Chicago know well.
Only one dish network is worth getting if you
want first-rate international soccer --

But there is a problem with DishTV. The
satellite that midwest subscribers must
point at to get RAI International with its'
excellent slate of Serie A games is over
Denver and quite low in the sky. So you
have to point your dish at the west and
very low. That means a clear line of sight
with no obstructions over 15-20 feet high
is needed to the West.

Well, they say that 95% of the forested lands
in the United States have been cleared now.
Well, it seems the 5% left is clustered in
the way of access to the satellite of my

I have always been a lover of nature, who
has decried the clearing of trees for
yet another strip mall, or another Block-
buster Video, or another McDonald's. But
I would be lying if I didn't think about
poisoning an oak or maple or two over the
last year. God help me.

Hmmm...sneak out at night with a can of
powerful herbicide and inject it into
a tree in multiple locations. I would really
have to jack into a tree to do that kind
of damage. Probably have to tap into the
roots as well as the heart of the trunk.

Not to mention I would be sneaking into
someone else's property, not only being
guilty of killing a tree, but also of
trespassing and malicious damage to a
neighbor's property. Not exactly my cup
of tea.

So Paul, what did you do this weekend?

I mowed the lawn, seeded the bare spots,
stripped some old paint, layed some new
insulation in the ceiling, and I, er...


I er, killed two trees.

WHAT! Why!?!?!

Ah, er, because, er, I couldn't point
my dish at a satellite.


Ah, heh, yeah. I just can't take it any
more, I missed Juve against Inter!

WHAT! For a lousy soccer game?!?!

I slink away ashamed. How low can I sink
to see a child's game of adults kicking
a ball into a net! Madonna....

But this is just the start of the agony.
Okay, no dish now, I have to settle for
the delayed RAI USA broadcast of the second
or third choice games and whatever I can
get off of Telemundo and ESPN2. I add to
that the Internet with its' live update

Well that should do, right?

Yeah. Right.

I get up early Sunday to monitor the live
goings-on of Serie A matches. I click over
to the RETE! site to see about their live
update service, a good way to follow all the
games until RAI USA's delayed broadcast
comes on a local origination channel on my
cable provider at 10 AM.

I click on the live update -- no updates.
I back out of the page and check to see
if indeed live updates were promised and
I see, yes, they are promising live updates.

I click again on the site. No updates. Just
a listing of one game with no details. I
look at my watch and calculate the time to
Italy. It becomes obvious that I am correct
in assuming that the games are indeed going
on in Italy.

I am also unfortunately correct in my dis-
covery that RETE! for whatever reason, is
not doing updates this weekend. Technical
problems, the webmaster is sleeping with the
webmistress, whatever the reason, there are
no updates for me to see.

Okay, not going to give up. Cruise over to
Daily Soccer website to check out any
partial scores. Not likely, but maybe they
will be updating it quickly.

I don't even get the chance to get disap-
pointed here. There is no update, there is
not even a page. Just a big SERVER ERROR
message from my browser. Oh shite.

Eek. Okay, how about Nando Net?

An excellent service from a North Carolina
newspaper, it has a good news server for
soccer scores.

No scores yet.

Oh shite shite.

I go then to the website that provides
RealAudio radio updates on Italian soccer
scores. I know what will be the answer from
this attempt before I try, but I go ahead
anyway. I am starting to wonder if I
am secretly masochistic. Well, this is already
answered -- I have been an Inter fan for over
twenty-five years!

I click on the site several times before
finally winnowing my way onto it. Then I
click on the RealAudio icon, closing my
eyes against the expected and feared
message of doom.

But I can't type and hold my ears closed
at the same time so I instead hear the
dreadful "error plink" and a message that
states in unmerciful prose:

 CAPACITY. See error 29 on the RealAudio

Yep. Expected that. That site is always
full. If you don't log in a 6 AM US Central
time, you ain't getting into this site. I
will have to get used to sleep deprivation
I guess...

Triple shite.

Okay, there's always RAI USA, god bless my
cable provider for putting Italian soccer
on their local origination channel, even if
it is delayed and not the best game of the
week. Hey, that's the best that they can get
because the best games that are shown live
are on RAI International and can only be
seen on -- you guessed it -- DishTV.

I sit back and see that the game this week
is going to be a good one, Udinese against
Sampdoria. Should be good soccer with as
much offense as you'll see from any Serie
A side. I am as excited as one can be over
a tape-delayed second-choice game. Whoopee!

The game is every bit as good as I would
hope. A veritable pinball game for Italian
soccer as Montella and Samp assault Udinese's
goalie, Turci, on one hand, then Bierhoff
and Udinese make Ferron's life miserable
in the Samp nets on the other.

The game is 3-2 at the half, Udinese ahead
 with both Montella and Bierhoff having
scored, although the talented German misses
a penalty kick. Ferron, despite having
surrendered two goals is playing well and
saves the furiously struck but centrally
placed penalty kick.

I note Menotti walking out for the second
half and wonder if he would ever consider
doing the same for Argentina again. I
settle down for another intense half of

I didn't get the chance. Barely several
minutes into the second half:


A sharp squeal and the picture mutates from
the green pitch of the Friuli into a huge
cathedral! WHAT!?!?!?!

Oh no! Not the Church of the Latter Day
Saints! Not them again!

This has happened before -- the dreaded
biannual convocation of the church, which
is blithely spliced directly into the
soccer game without even so much as an
excuse me! No more soccer today.

What's worse, no Novantesimo Minuto, the
daily highlight show that wraps up all the
games. The Church show will last through
the slot for Novantesimo Minuto.

Oh shite, shite, shite, shite, shite!!!!

Well, Inter is playing in the night game.
So I decide to go into the website for
RealAudio updates on radio. I am going to
login early (and, as it turns out, often)
to the site to make sure I am not forced
off the server by traffic.

I decide to go down fighting.....

This is just one sample day from a soccer
nut's life in the United States. I am sure
many others have stories like this or worse.
I am fortunate indeed to have access to the
Net and RAI USA. I am also fortunate to be
able to buy, and am able to understand,
Italian language sports newspapers on the
same day, or at most, one-day delay.

Many have it much, much worse.

I sometimes think I get just enough
soccer to torture me into wanting a wee
bit more. It's got to be a conspiracy.
Ah, well, there's always next year, when
the much-rumored Soccer Channel will debut
and save all our lives with wall-to-wall
international level soccer.

Yep. And I got the winning ticket to the
Lottery right here in my pocket.

-Riff"Really, I swear, will you loan me a thousand against it?"Ster