Shhhhhhh. Don't go spreading this around. But soccer is growing on me.
I know. I've made fun of it for 30 years and now I get soft. Except that this has been festering inside for a while.
I don't know. Maybe it's because my three-year-old might play it one day and his dad can't be a curmudgeon in his lawn chair at the games asking who implemented the offside rule and why that person isn't in prison.
And not that I go around saying the word "unlucky" an alarming number of times.
And I don't know my Juventus from my Liverpool.
But lately, when I feel a soccer joke coming on, I feel hints of self loathing.
OK. I think the turning point was during the last World Cup. I spent a Saturday afternoon watching the U.S. vs. Ghana quarterfinal at the Harp & Hound, Mystic's version of "Cheers." Only one of the great days ever.
Patrons chanted, sang, hollered, howled, cheered, protested. I was there with them. I still quote from that day. And since, I've followed the careers of a few new favorite soccer players, including Mario Balotelli, my new favorite Sicilian.
Anyhoo, now that I'm an unofficial soccer guy, I humbly propose the following changes to the game, so we can all have a better experience:
• TV timeouts: This is the most practical. Soccer would be televised more. Plus, it would give patrons in the crowd and at home time to either fill up on or get rid of concessions without missing anything. (The old me would have made a joke about standing in line until I grew a beard and not missing anything).
• Eliminate offside, but implement a no cherry-picking rule: Genius, I must say. No more offside would increase scoring. But any player caught intentionally camping out 30 yards away waiting for his or her teammates to get possession of the ball gets a yellow card. Or two minutes for delay of game. Or 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. Whatever.
• Bigger goals: or shorter goalies. Again, to increase scoring.
• A shot clock: One minute to shoot on net once you gain possession or you lose the ball. It would encourage offense. But players who would be forced to sprint down the field wouldn't be as tired because of TV timeouts.
• Eliminate the word "sir" from the lexicon: The part of soccer I can't stand the most. The official is called "sir." Nobody calls officials "sir." It creates awkward moments. Like the aforementioned day at the Harp when a perturbed U.S. fan yelled, "are you bleeping kidding me sir?"
I propose "Mister." As in, "may I have a word, Mister?" "Nice call, Mister." "Where did they find you, Mister?" Good double entendre.
• Eliminate other words: Such as "unlucky" and "diagonal." Put it this way: When Eli throws an interception, no self respecting Giants fan thinks it's "unlucky." And no sport should use the word "diagonal." I mean, "lovely diagonal feed" is "nice pass." "Sent off for dissent in the 89th minute" would be better as "thrown out with a minute left." That way we'd all understand better.
I'd also get rid of "nil." Odd word. Just say "nothing." Could you imagine if we substituted "nil" for "nothing" during other daily conversation?
"You're nil but a lazy good-for-nil."
"Nil ventured, nil gained."
"Oh, please, honey … whisper a sweet nil in my ear."
• Two minute warnings: Play automatically stops. TV commercial. Time to regroup, different strategy. Makes for a more entertaining game.
I have other suggestions. But that would be too much too soon. A little at a time, just in case I'm ever elected Czar of FIFA. And you thought I didn't know FIFA stood for Fédération Internationale de Football Association. Motto: "For the game, for the world." Told you. This is my new game.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.