Prior to this month, I think the only soccer game I've ever played is World Cup Soccer on NES. And that was because it was a Kunio-kun game. I've never been interested in soccer. I don't know anything about soccer. I don't understand the rules outside of "kick the ball into the net." And yet, these FIFA games get such critical praise. So I went and grabbed a super cheap copy of FIFA 18 and figured, what the heck?
Here's my ultimate history of soccer as a sport... I know that in Karate Kid, Daniel shows Elizabeth Shue how to bounce a ball on her knee. I know that Pele is a guy that was good at soccer. I know that Will Ferrell starred in Kicking & Screaming. I know that my friend Mike coaches his kid's soccer team and he said that the other dads take it super seriously.
None of that helps me here. But I have played a ton of Rocket League over the past few years, so I know that soccer is kind of like Rocket League but with people instead of cars. Maybe there's hope for me.
So I started playing FIFA 18 about a week ago. It's been a really tough week as it happens. Not to get into it all but we had to put our cat down - 13 years old - and it was really unexpected. So things have been super sad around our house. So it's kind of strange that my down time has been consumed by a video game about a sport that I know and care very little about.
But here's what's made it fun for me...
You can start a career as your favorite pro striker. But I don't know any. Or you can make a character, but I have no fantasies about being a great soccer player. But y'know who does like soccer? My brother-in-law, James.
Now this is super funny to me, but not anyone else reading this because you don't know James. But yeah, I'm playing FIFA 18 as my brother-in-law, which is hilarious to me. One time a couple of years ago, me, my wife, my sister, and James went up to New York and I was telling James about the movie Red Sparrow. On the bus ride home he decided to watch Red Sparrow on his cell phone, and I looked over, and he's switching between Red Sparrow and the World Cup and my mind was blown. I remember thinking, "what is wrong with this guy? Jennifer Lawrence is on his screen and he's looking at soccer scores?"
Oh, the other thing you need to know is that James loves bagels. One time, we helped my mom move and she got bagels for us all, and I watched James eat three bagels that morning. It was nuts. But the weird thing was, he wouldn't touch the Asiago bagels. Nope. This dude only likes plain bagels. It's like... how does that work? You're into something, but only the most basic form of it? James is hilarious.
And so here begins the tale of Jimmy Bagels. He graduated from college - oh, yeah, we went to college together in real life, and I think I did a lot of things to embarrass him in college. He could tell you stories that make me come off as a real jerk, but I'm the one writing. Anyway, in FIFA 18, Jimmy Bagels graduated from college and then instead of going to law school he was drafted by the New England Revolution.
So far things are going well. I played through the pre-season as Bagels and it was the easiest difficulty since I'm so new at this. It was way too easy, so I kicked up to Amateur for the start of the season. A few games in, I think it's probably still too easy. I'm winning by blow-outs and there's no real challenge. But again, I'm still learning the ropes.
The weird thing is I did something I'd never expect myself to do - I googled the rules of soccer so I'd know why I kept getting offsides violations. So now I know how that works.
And yeah, weirdly I'm having a really good time with this game. It's solid. And it's genuinely exciting when Bagels gets a goal. I'm weirded out by the fact that I'm enjoying soccer as it's maybe the only major sport I've never cared about.
I've learned that if you kick the ball towards the net, and an opponent knocks it into the net, it doesn't count as a goal for you. Lame. Jimmy Bagels needs to put up some numbers. Those would count in Rocket League!
No matter. It seems that Blackburn Rovers have signed a one year loan contract to have young Jimmy Bagels come play across the pond. And while they're a minor, they still expect way more out of him than the Revolution ever did. There's more pressure, but it's making things more exciting.
It's strange to me. I've never cared about soccer. And yet, this game has me fairly hooked. If nothing else, I can point to FIFA 18 as the game that made me finally understand the appeal of soccer, and dare I say - even enjoy it.