Rick Reilly wrote one of the worst soccer columns anybody’s ever read. This week's Media Microscope dissects it, piece-by-piece.As I might have mentioned before, the World Cup allows us to read some pretty awful soccer writing, some of which comes from people that may or may not have even a cursory knowledge of the sport they are writing about.
It's all pretty much par for the course, but one piece I read this week stood out from all the rest, because A. It's from one of the nation's prominent sportswriters, and B. It's so astounding in its overall hackishness, that I felt compelled to devote an entire Media Microscope towards skewering it and one of my former favorites, Mr. Rick Reilly.
This piece of hackery vomited by Reilly is entitled "World Cup Buzz Kill," and wow, it is jaw-droppingly, mind-numbingly, buzz-killingly terrible.
Rick Reilly is annoyed by the World Cup. So annoyed, in fact, that he's come up with a list of 10 things (not really 10 though, as we'll learn) that annoy him. And away we go (Reilly excerpts in bold, obviously).
1. That pesky cerebrum-blowing incessant buzzing sound coming from the TV set ...the dreaded vuvuzelas, the yard-long plastic horns (voo-voo-zella) that South African fans blow all the time, without rhyme nor reason, when something is happening and when it's not (it's usually not), during timeouts and time ins, during halftime and at the breakfast table and while they're on the bus and while doing their taxes, until you just want to stab two fondue forks deep into your ears and stir. They never stop. It's like having a desk in the center cubicle at American Bee, Inc. They sound like 80,000 yaks getting sick. They are the leading cause of Tylenol sales in the world today.
Oh boy, he doesn’t like the vuvuzelas. What an original, interesting thought that's never, ever been mentioned by anybody else at this tournament so far. Also, nice usage of the "nothing ever happens in soccer" refrain and then mentioning timeouts and time ins, which, of course, do not happen. Umm….I get it? Three awful, awful, one liners at the end, too, that serve no purpose except to remind us that Rick Reilly has to hit a word count to get paid.
2. The embarrassing photographer bibs the guys on the bench have to wear during the game. They're very purple and dorky.
This annoys you, Rick? Really, this is something that bothers you? The bibs the substitutes wear when they warm up so linesman don't see them and confuse them with a player on the field? You really get turned off to the sport because of this? Oh right, word count. Never mind.
3. The Twinkie-fingered gloves goalkeepers wear. No wonder the English goalkeeper allowed that easy shot to give America a 1-1 tie in the Group C opener. You couldn't stop a beach ball with those big goofy things. What, is Hamburger Helper a sponsor? Why must they be so huge? Doesn't Roger Rabbit need them back? And where do the batteries go? How are goalkeepers expected to hang on to the ball with them on? And is it difficult to play goalie while also taking things out of the oven?
Holy mother of God is this stupid. Take out the hilarious Roger Rabbit, Hamburger Helper, batteries and oven jokes, and you're left with the following argument: "I am annoyed by goalkeeper gloves because they aren't bare hands. I would like goalkeepers to make it more difficult for themselves to save the ball. Also, I have a word count."
4. The godforsaken vuvuzelas! Make them stop! One of the charms of soccer is the singing that fans do. There is always loads of singing and chanting because every game is 1-nil, so there's plenty of time for singing and chanting. Soccer fans sing and chant inane hilarious things like, "We are from Norway! We came on a plane! And we are very drunk!"
Irony alert: Rick Reilly criticized something for being inane. Also, in case you hadn’t noticed, this is the same argument as #1, but with 35% more terrible jokes.
5. All the faking. I haven't seen this much bad theater since I saw former "American Idol competitor" Ace Young starring in "Hair" on Broadway.
OK, I'll concede this one. Diving and faking are pretty annoying. You win this round, Rick. But really? An Ace Young joke? You’re making Bill Simmons' pop culture references seem mainstream by comparison. In case you were wondering, apparently Ace Young is somebody who finished seventh on American Idol in 2006. That’s what we call a reeeeeaaaaacchhhh.
6. The yellow cards….I'd love to see that in the middle of an NBA fight. Can you imagine seeing some ref come running up to Rasheed Wallace after laying out Carmelo Anthony with a roundhouse right and sticking that yellow card right in his face? He'd soon be digesting it through his ear hole.
Oh man, can you imagine if a referee went up to Didier Drogba and made his hand into a T-shape in front of his face?!?! He would take his T and make it into an "L," for "“loser!" Am I right here people?? LOLOLOL!
If a yellow card in the NBA meant what it does in soccer, I'd be willing to guess Rasheed Wallace would not, in fact, make the ref "digest it through his ear hole." Because he would then get a red card. And be ejected. Semantics, Rick, ever heard of them?
7. The ties. In the NFL in the past 10 years, there have been two ties. As of Tuesday morning, in the first 11 games of this World Cup, there have been five ties. You will not see more ties at a J.C. Penney's Father's Day sale. I hate ties. Doesn't anybody want to win in this sport? All these ties are about as exciting as a Jonas Brothers roundtable on sex.
A tie?! What is this, a communist sport?! Did Karl Marx invent it, or what?! Everybody equal? Man that is so…un-American. By the way, for those keeping track, we've now had American Idol and Jonas Brothers references. Does Rick Reilly think a lot of teenage girls visit ESPN.com?
8. The World Cup itself. Really? All this running and vuvuzela-ing and pulling off shirts for that trophy? It's gold and small and looks like somebody accidentally melted it somewhere along the way. I mean, there IS chocolate in the middle of that thing, right? Maybe I just don't get it.
Rick Reilly could have erased every word of this article, and just replaced it with that last sentence, and it would have been way better, and more accurate to boot.
9. Stoppage time. Why can't we know how much time is left? Why must it be such a mystery? Whose idea was this? Why do only the refs get to know? Wouldn't it be more exciting if we all knew?
Ohhhh I get it, now. Rick Reilly has never actually watched a soccer game. Wow, this entire article suddenly makes so much more sense.
"Why can't we know how much time is left?"
You see Rick, we do know how much time is left every single match. Watch a soccer game on your television some time. When that little clock at the top of your screen reads "45:00" or "90:00," a referee at midfield holds up a sign with a number on it -- usually it is a one, a two, a three or a four. That number indicates how many minutes of stoppage time will be played in that particular half. It is not a mystery. What is still a mystery, though, is how you make $2 million each year to write articles like this.
10. The vuvuzelas from eardrum-hellas!
And there we have it! Rick Reilly’s 10 (actually eight, because he couldn’t bother to think of two more things and instead just put vuvuzelas three times) things that annoy him about the World Cup!
The sad part about all of this, of course, is that Rick Reilly is actually a very, very good writer. He has been voted National Sportswriter of the Year 11 times, and that doesn't happen by accident.
I remember about a decade ago when I was in middle school and I had a subscription to Sports Illustrated. Whenever I got the magazine, I would always skip through the entire thing and flip to the back page first, so I could read his "Life of Reilly" column. He is the first sportswriter I ever really liked and made a point to read.
Those days seem like a distant memory. For whatever reason, he's decided to mail it in regularly ever since he joined ESPN in 2007. He has, on several occasions, plagiarized himself from old Sports Illustrated columns, and now there's this: a hacky, lazy, stinkbomb of a column that reads like it was written by some terrible Vegas lounge act.
Well, Rick, you may have your extremely large paycheck, but it still has to be kind of embarrassing to produce drivel like this. I mean, hate on soccer all you want -- it's not everybody’s cup of tea -- but at least do it in a relevant and semi-funny manner.
And just so you know, the vuvuzelas annoy me too. But I only needed to say that once.
Seth Vertelney is a regular contributor for Goal.com. You can follow him on twitter.
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