I was walking down the street, with my headphones on, listening to Sir John Gielgud’s performance of the “To Be, Or Not To Be” soliloquy from Hamlet. Suddenly a long black car pulled up to the curb beside me, and two large men with black suits got out and pulled me into the car. They blindfolded me, I imagine so that I could not see their faces, or perhaps they wanted to surprise me with a gift, the way parents would do after we lit the Hanukkah candles.
Then someone spoke to me.
“We heard that you said football was boring.”
I protested and said that I never said such a thing, that I love football and cherish every tackle as if it was happening to me or someone I loved. There was some whispering, and then the man who spoke cleared his throat and spoke again.
“I mean, we heard that you said that soccer was boring.”
I tried to remember if I ever said that soccer was boring.
“Well, I certainly remember thinking it,” I admitted. “But saying it? I’m afraid I don’t remember. I mean, I’m not saying I didn’t say it. I’m saying I just don’t remember if I said it or not.”
The car stopped moving and the door opened and someone led me out of the car. We walked for a while and I wondered if I was going to be killed for thinking or perhaps even saying that soccer was boring. Then I remembered that many great people had died for a deeply held belief, and I was comforted.
Then someone stopped me, and removed my blindfold. I was standing in the middle of a field. It was a sunny day, and I felt around for my prescription sunglasses, and realized that I had left them at home. Then someone called to me from my left.
I turned and a large man in a black suit, perhaps one of the pair who had kidnapped me, was standing by a soccer ball.
“We are going to show you how much fun soccer is!” And he kicked the ball over to me.
“Now kick it back,” he said cheerfully. I kicked it back. I admit it was a little fun, kicking a ball. I’ve never been able to hit a baseball or throw a perfect spiral. But kicking a soccer ball? It’s just like kicking a TV that doesn’t work, except it rolls.
The man kicked the soccer ball in different direction, and I saw that the person he had kicked it to looked as confused and out of place as I did. Without a word, he kicked the ball back to the kidnapper, who then gracefully kicked the ball in yet another direction to yet another person looking confused and out of place. I turned my body around a full 360 degrees, and saw many other people standing around, looking confused and out of place, all with a look that said, “I can’t believe I’m standing here playing soccer.” I was apparently part of a soccer game designed to expose soccer to people who were rumored to have said that soccer was boring.
I don’t know how long I was out there. Time seemed to stand still as we kicked the ball to this person, then to that person, then to that person. It was too hot to run around, so we all just stood there kicking the ball. But after a while it was kind of fun. Just kick the ball. At some point someone asked the kidnapper how much time was left in the game. The kidnapper signaled to the sideline, and two other large men with black suits came onto the field, hit the person over the head with something, and dragged him off the field, his heels leaving tracks in the grass. He did not return to the game.
At some point the soccer ball disappeared, and we were blindfolded one at a time. I was led to the car, told to get in, and driven a distance. Then the car stopped, the door opened, the blindfold removed, and I’m let out of the car. The kidnapper who played with us was standing next to me.
“You see? Now you know how much fun foot – I mean, how much fun soccer is. Tell all your friends!”
The car drove off and I wandered down the street. I passed a bar where people were watching World Cup soccer, and I walked inside. The players on the screen were kicking the ball from one to another, just as I had been doing a short while before. I thought about how much fun I had been having. I remember the satisfying feeling of kicking the ball, and projected my feelings onto the players on the TV. No one in that bar was more focused on the game than I was, and soon I started to feel like I was actually in the game. I was living soccer! This is what they were talking about!
I lasted almost five minutes. Then I felt around for my headphones, put them on, walked out of the bar, and continued listening to Sir John Gielgud as the melancholy Prince of Denmark.