13 Jul

What are your favorite soccer metaphors?

War leads the way for much of the commentary. We have the midfield general commanding the play, the aerial threat from crosses and the counter attack. The team captain marshals the squad. When a goalkeeper blows it, he’s caught off guard. It’s marching orders for a player receiving a red card. Defenses are bombarded, tactics are deployed, and the victors conquer the vanquished.

Inside the stadium, England fans routinely sing the theme tune to the war movie, “The Great Escape.” A French newspaper reporting on a game between France and Germany saw the Germans moving at frightening speed in the midfield. Cue the blitzkrieg. A British tabloid ran a headline around an England versus Germany clash – Achtung! Surrender. And Honduras and El Salvador went ballistic in 1969, staging a bloody armed conflict after a game between the two of them. War. What is it good for? Absolutely soccer.

If the ammo runs out on the war metaphor, business parlance can pick up the slack. A player is in possession and control of the ball. He can be enterprising or workmanlike in his play, industrious by putting in a good shift during the game. Or be part of an efficient team, monopolizing opponents trying to please the boss, who sits with his contract on the sideline ready to rip it up when he fails to capitalize by scoring goals. The business of soccer is business.

If such burdensome harangues are not your flavor, perhaps a more spiritual tendering can be supplicated. A special player can be messianic or just plain Messi – Jesus saves but Messi scores on the rebound! The Brazilian great Rivelino was blessed with a left foot. Teams enter tournaments on a mission. The goalkeeper is a saint when he saves a penalty. Fans reach ecstasy when their team comes back from the dead having trailed by two goals, only to recover and snatch a win in the last seconds. This year’s Earthquakes have performed such miracles frequently; masters of the great escape – but wait a minute, let’s not mix metaphors here.

It can all drive you a bit crazy. So commentators spring forth the health and illness metaphors to finish you off. Defenses can hemorrhage goals. An attacking weakness can cause anxiety. Feverish expectations can swirl through the crowd prompting the temperature to rise on the field. Players can boil and burst with anger leading to threats aimed at the home team mascot after the final whistle. Ahem, Mr. Beckham, who two weeks ago seemed ready to bite the head off the Quakes mascot at Stanford. Time to take it easy, sir.

It’s that time of year: European soccer players are working hard on their tans. The present season brings a drought for Europe’s soccer fans. They have to make do with the product of paparazzi snapping their heroes sunbathing in paradise. Look at them sipping from Champagne flutes surrounded by dangerous bikinis. Note the dog days of summer.

Here at home, the MLS season is halfway cooked and the Bay Area’s Quakes are hot at the top of the league. They play second-place Real Salt Lake on Saturday. European teams will be arriving on our shores soon as they run their brands through MLS, before kicking off another campaign in August, when Europe’s soccer season begins. It’s back to war.

Alan Black is the soccer columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle

Twitter @footyheader

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