While watching the U.S. women’s soccer team demolish their opponent like someone starving might destroy a big dish of Pad Thai, I had an honest moment with myself. I’ve been a professional sports writer for 25 years — you can congratulate me on LinkedIn — and I still don’t know what offsides is.
I tweeted that out after Team USA had its first would-be goal taken away and was immediately corrected by multiple well-intentioned sports fans.
Turns out, it’s offside, not offsides.
Thankfully, and perhaps surprisingly, nobody lectured me about how it’s football, not soccer, how they play on a pitch, not a field, and/or how it’s a goalkeeper, not a goalie.
My Twitter friends' correction was more verification of my ignorance to the rules of a sport that is commonly referred to worldwide as "The Pretty Game."
Having publicly outed myself as a soccer dunce, I decided to give other sports fans a chance to divulge a sports skeleton of their own. By the time the first response arrived seconds later, the U.S. had scored seven more goals in the 13-0 rout of Thailand.
Here are some sports confessions (and snarky remarks from yours truly) I received from people whose anonymous identities will be kept secret:
— “As big of a Utes fan as I am, I have never been to a Runnin’ Utes Game. Not a fan of college basketball.” (Don’t worry. I've been to many games at the Huntsman Center. You’re not the only one in this position.)
— “Playing for my HS soccer team I once went to eat at a McDonald's at halftime. For the record, I made it back before the 2H kickoff.” (Some of us did this during chemistry class — minus the making it back part.)
— “I didn’t understand offsides in hockey until about 6-7 years ago.” (Proud of a fellow media member for admitting this.)
— “I know that my fandom prevents most of my favorite teams from winning at the highest level, but I continue to cheer for them anyway.” (I’d say they appreciate your support, but …)
— “I make fun of people who like a football team in Texas that has won 5 titles even though they've never set foot in Texas, while I like a basketball team that fits the same description, and I've never set foot in Texas.” (Forget sports for a second. Texas is a must-visit state for Whataburger and Blue Bell ice cream.)
— “I fell asleep before the Sundiata Gaines shot. If the topic comes up, I totally remember watching it live!” (Some media members — one of whom might be writing this story — also missed seeing it in person after retreating to the pressroom to watch the end of the game and pound out a quick article on a tight deadline.)
— “Threw the javelin four years in college and am a college coach now and just recently learned that the ‘penult’ at the end of an approach stands for penultimate.” (It's OK, coach. Those of us who read this just found out that the end of a javelin approach is called the penult.)
— “I like the Winter Olympics better than the Summer.” (Congrats! You passed the True Utahn test.)
— “As a kid I felt that if I watched the Jazz or Broncos play on a Sunday and they lost, it was totally my fault.” (Now we know who to blame — or to thank, when it comes to those Denver defeats.)
— “When someone says there’s icing in hockey, I look for free cake. I’m disappointed every time.” (Dad joke approved!)
— “I don't believe the Jazz organization will ever do what it takes to win a title.” (They could start by asking a couple of fans to stop watching and/or rooting for them.)
— “I still have no idea what a balk is in baseball. Also never have and never will understand the rules of rugby.” (Easy peasy. A balk is when the massive flanker in the scrum moves the wrong direction while throwing the ball into the in-goal area.)
— “No idea how to score tennis.” (It’s easier when you learn that 15, 30, 40, deuce and love are Old English for 1, 2, 3, tied and zero. First to four, winning by two, wins. And then do that six more times to win a set, as long as you win by two. And then do that once or twice more, depending on whether it’s best of three or five. Get it!?)
— “I don't know what TRULY constitutes a sport? Ex: NASCAR, Golf, curling. Weekday determines is a sport or not?” (The answer: If it causes fans to throw things in anger at the television set, it’s a sport.)
— “I’ve come to terms with never understanding what icing is in hockey.” (Some say this rule is a piece of cake.)
— “The difference in breaks between a slider & curveball.” (Sliders are different because they are just small hamburgers.)
— “I was never a fan of Stockton and Malone. Respected their games, but simply never liked them. Stockton was basically the complete opposite of (Donovan) Mitchell (personal experience as a kid) and Karl Malone always talked like he was God’s gift to us all.” (Sorry. You just failed the True Utahn test.)
— “I don't care for college basketball. People ask me who I want the Jazz to draft and that reveals my shame.” (Tip: Make up a European name. They’ll never know and think you’re a hoops savant.)
— “Cricket. I don’t understand any of it.” (It’s like baseball but for people who lost their mitts, forgot their bats and were forced to use paddles after canoeing to the park.)
— “Love to watch hockey but still don't know all the rules.” (Rule 1: Every hockey player is required to catch a puck with his mouth once in his life.)
— “Just hockey.” (Rule 2: Players must hit the frozen hamburger patty into the net to score.)
— “My first ever hockey game, I didn't know why my Salt Lake Golden Eagles players were so happy after the third period, when we still had a quarter to go to seal the victory.” (Rule 3: Hockey has two halftimes but only three quarters.)
By the way, one of these days I’ll get around to reading the actual explanations of what offside — no S — is in soccer.
I did like these responses, though.
“When I reffed soccer, this was easily the call that got me yelled at the most because a lot of parents don’t understand when it is and isn’t called.”
For the record, I haven’t yelled at a ref — at least not a soccer ref. (My kids play lacrosse and volleyball.)
“It’s OK. Neither do the refs.”
And we’ll end on this note about the offside infraction.
“It's easy,” Don Eisenbarth wrote. “If something exciting has happened, it’s likely that someone was offside.”
Unfortunately for Thailand, the U.S. women weren't offside another dozen or so times. Have to admit, though, that onslaught of goals was pretty dang exciting for a soccer novice to watch.