This weekend, sports fans get to pick from a pair of world-class events. The World Cup, as you may have heard, is underway in South Africa. At the other end of the globe, and at the other end of the sports spectrum, we get golf's U.S. Open championship in Pebble Beach, CA. You couldn't ask for a more vividly contrasting pair. Soccer, the world's most popular team game, is the ultimate sport for the masses. Golf, the world's favorite individual game, is practically the official sport of capitalism—an athletic lingua franca of international business.
If you can't decide which to watch, perhaps the time has come at last to figure out how that picture-in-picture feature on your TV works. Barring anything that radical, let us help with a little head-to-head match-up of the two. Herewith, is the 110th United States Open versus the 2010 FIFA World Cup
THE WINNERS WILL GET...
U.S. Open: Money, glory, and a big silver loving cup.
World Cup: Money, glory, and a little gold statue that is categorically unlike a cup in any way.
Winner: Golf takes it, for sure. The World Cup needs a new trophy. Either that, or a new name. New trophy is the better option though, as "The World Abstract Gold Statuette" just doesn't sound right.
THE SPORT'S BEST NOISE IS...
U.S. Open: The fabulously oppressive silence of 30,000 people trying not to breathe too loudly.
World Cup: When Liverpool FC boosters singing what's affectionately known as "YNWA"
Winner: Soccer wins. By, like, a million-gillion points.
THE SPORT'S WORST NOISE IS...
World Cup: You know. The V-Word.
U.S. Open: Fans yelling "You da' man!" and "Get in the hole!" after every shot. "Get in the hole!" is far worse, of course, as it's frequently yelled for a player who just teed-off on a Par 5, and clearly had absolutely no intention of going for the hole.
Winner: Golf wins. Which, in this case, means losing.
AFTER SOMETHING EXCITING HAPPENS...
U.S. Open: People clap politely. Occasionally, they whistle, or make a high-pitched "Woooo!" noise, also signifying approval.
World Cup: People go utterly bonkers; dancing, singing, taking off their clothes. Sometimes all three at once.
Winner: Golf. There are worse things to be than nerdy and repressed. Naked, drunk, and sweaty in pubic is one of them.
WHEN THE FANS GET UPSET...
U.S. Open: Do golf fans even get upset? If so, how could anyone tell?
World Cup: They storm their favorite team's locker room, and confront the most famous player on earth about the squad's poor play.
Winner: Cup fans. Oh, yes. These people are committed. And they should be.
CROWDS KNOWN FOR WEARING...
World Cup: Crazy costumes and dumb stuff on their heads.
U.S. Open: Crazy costumes and dumb stuff on their heads.
Winner: Soccer. World Cup revelers are trying to look silly. Golf fans just come by it naturally.
HISTORICALLY, AT THEIR VERY WORST, THE FANS...
U.S. Open: Belong to clubs which exclude women and minorities.
World Cup: Belong to clubs which beat people up.
Winner: Tough call. Hitting people is worse than not letting them play on your golf course. Then again, most soccer violence is hooligan-on-hooligan. The institutionalized prejudice of country clubs is far more pervasive, and so more insidious. Then again, soccer crowds, in Europe especially, aren't exactly paragons of racial sensitivity either. Let's just call this a push and move on.
BIG STAR WHO WON'T WIN ANYTHING
World Cup: David Beckham. He's in Johannesburg (see above, re: crazed English fan), but only as a coach/figurehead/mascot/media whore.
U.S. Open: Tiger Woods, obviously.
Winner: It's Woods. We all know Beckham is past his prime. Tiger isn't, and has no serious (physical) issues. Yes, he has the sex scandal thing. Still, watching him flounder though two rounds before Saturday's charge was just plain unnerving.
IF THE ACTION SLOWS DOWN, THE FANS...
U.S. Open: Head for the corporate hospitality tents
World Cup: Riot
Winner: World Cuppers all the way. Those corporate bigwig tents are intimidating. The women all wear diamonds and designer shoes. The men all look like CEOs at companies that make scary things for the government.
And our last, deciding category:
OFFICIALS IN THE SPORT ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT TOLERATE...
U.S. Open: Noisy fans distracting the golfers.
World Cup: The United States winning a game, apparently.
Winner: No one. Because there are no winners when an official's bad call decides an otherwise thrilling match.
Now, we can officially declare an end to the battle between the U.S. Open and World Cup. And the winner of this epic clash is...
Neither. They tied.
Gee. That's kind of an unsatisfying ending, isn't it?