World Cup Feets and Hands
June 15, 2006

So, back in the day, late 70s, I lived in the most perfect city in the United States: Austin, Texas. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know many of you Americans will claim New York or Chicago or even the sprawl of the OC and LA. But nothing beats the beauty of the Texas hill country and the bustling combination of big city and country that surrounded Austin in the 70s and 80s.

Well, back in the day in Austin, the big kids and the little kids did NOT play together in the schoolyard. But David Tapia, despite having the same birthday as me, was a bit bigger than most of the little kids, so he often got away with hanging out and watching the big kids play.

He brought home the most fascinating game we'd ever heard of. Feets and Hands. We all admitted it was probably Feet and Hands ... but that didn't sound as cool to us.

David hurriedly organized the neighborhood kids in his backyard. Nancy and I were one team. David and John and Debbie and my little sister were the other team (I think ... we might have gotten one of the little kids). The object, he said was to score goals. Well duh. We picked out two planks on the fence on one side of the yard ... and two planks on the other fence on the other side of the yard. Okay, we had our goals duly marked.

"Now," David said, all important at teaching us lesser mortals a sport, "you try to kick the ball into the goal."
Easy we said.
"But," he added, "you can only use your feet. Except, you can yell out HANDS at any point in the game and then you can only use your hands to handle the ball. And if you use the wrong body part, then the other team gets the ball."
Cool, we said.

We must have played our version of "football" or "soccer" for weeks like that. The Tapias dad snickered at us on a regular basis when we'd scream out HANDS and begin flinging the ball around, only to have someone else holler FEETS. The playing field was generally utter chaos. Particularly once David observed an older kid perform a head shot and tried to tell us that we now could also yell HEADS. That particular call was pretty much only used once by each of us until we discovered that it hurt to do that with a fully inflated ball ... and it hurt differently to do it with a mostly inflated basketball.

When I moved to Arlington a couple of years later, the biggest game at recess was something I'd never heard of: soccer. I was so very confused to discover that "hands" was a penalty call, not a way to handle the ball. And after our convoluted rules, I just couldn't see the magic in the simple way my new school friends played this "soccer."

Watching the Germans play yesterday, I do see the interest now. It's certainly more interesting to me than baseball or American football ... though arena football is a far better sport than NFL football. It's complex, it's difficult and it's kinda fun to watch someone in total control of his skills, simply run a hair too fast and almost lose the ball, his balance and everything all at once. Seems to me it's more of a sport than a lot of the commercialized junk I see most of the time. After all, it's grass, some dudes and a ball. There's no high tech bat to make the ball go farther. There's no "Eh, he slam dunked the ball, so we'll ignore the travelling." There's no, I'm 8' tall and 500 lbs, so no one's going to knock me over. It's skills based. It's a HUGE field, so there's not generally a great rapidity in scoring.

In a lot of ways, it reminds me of skateboarding ... simple equipment ... people pushing each other to excel. In skateboarding, you get a bunch of skaters together and they try to outdo one another with their skills. Sure, there's no goals to score, but there's a very solid emphasis on fitness and skill. I just don't see that same emphasis on skills and love of fitness in many American sports anymore. I suppose that's why I find the NBA and even college basketball boring anymore.

Or maybe I've just become an old fogey who just doesn't get it. Wait, an old fogey whose favourite sports are skateboarding and snowboarding? Well, I guess it could happen.

Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to the Ecuador v. Costa Rica game today ... too bad I won't be able to watch it at all since it takes place during my work day. (And I can't bring myself to tape a sports event unless it's skateboarding/ snowboarding.)

Wonder if I can teach any of the neighborhood kids Feets and Hands?

Posted by Red Monkey at June 15, 2006 4:12 AM | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


blueyes said:

You could try teaching them that but I think they'd think you were off your rocker because soccers more prevalently shown on tv now lol Let me know how that goes :P

June 15, 2006 5:26 AM
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