First of all I would like to apologize for bumping the Golden Corral off the top of the page.
If you know me, or even if you only online-know me, you'll probably know that I really, really hate internationals. I like the World Cup just fine, it's a lot of fun to watch, but I really don't care about the European Championships at all. A World Cup? For just Europe? WHEEEEEEzzzzzzzzzz. Not only that, but the endless, interminable qualifiers for each of those tournaments just drive me insane. But why, you ask? A couple reasons.
The first reason I don't like them is the way it can drive players to exhaustion. Top players on top teams play in multiple cup competitions, a league competition, and then they're also expected to play in international competitions on top of that. For a player that is a regular in the starting lineup of a national team, they are faced with the task of playing soccer for almost two straight years, with only about six weeks total off - the 2011/12 season goes from July through May, then a couple weeks off, then that player joins the national team, plays a tournament that goes from mid-June to mid-July, takes three weeks off, then plays again from July 2012 to May 2013.
If you are a person who follows modern sports, this is where you no doubt say "BUT THEY MAKE SO MUCH MONEY THEY NEED TO MAN UP AND PLAY ALL THE DAMN TIME IT'S A KID'S GAME" etc. But for me, it's much more nuanced than that. I have done no studies about this - stupid day job distracting me! - but it would seem that exerting yourself at close to maximum effort almost every single day for two years, with only a few weeks off, would start to be detrimental to a player's performance during the last half or so of such a long stretch of time.
In addition to that, there's the injury factor. Tiredness like that can lead to injuries, as players don't focus as well when they're tired. There is also the obvious fact that every game carries with it the risk of getting injured, whether you're tired or not, and the more games you play the more that risk increases. Internationals are additional games, thus, additional risk.
The second reason I don't like internationals is much vaguer. It just seems oddly anachronistic to me, in the 21st century, when we're all connected by airplanes, phone lines, and the internet, that there needs to be a sporting contest to decide who is the best in the world at whatever (and yes, I feel this way about the Olympics as well). Every country knows so much about every other country now that it's not like France would roll into the USA for a friendly and people would ogle all them funny furriners with their stripey shirts and berets and baguettes; the world is a much, much smaller place now, and we're all much more familiar with each other, so it seems somewhat pointless to use sports as a proxy for national pride.
And yes, I get the whole "but how will we know who is the best?" argument. I just don't really care about the answer to that question in a nation v. nation context. I can watch the best players in the world play on the best teams in the world in the best leagues in the world on a weekly basis; if I can have that, I see no need to watch a team that represents a country play against another team that represents a country. Seems oddly pointless to me.
But, as with all things, that is just my opinion. What do you think? Do you pay attention to international games - qualifiers and friendlies as well as tournaments? What do you like about them as opposed to watching club soccer?
Internet, meet poll. Poll, do your thing.