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Submitted by Kevin Wuzzardo on Sun, 06/27/2010 - 8:43am.
That collective yawn you heard this morning was the vast majority of the United States waking up on a Sunday and not caring about the World Cup any more. Sorry, soccer fans. I know you love your "beautiful game," and that's fine, but it's time to face facts that despite what the non-American announcer would have had us believe during yesterday's loss to Ghana, Americans will never in this lifetime be overwhelmingly in love with soccer. Yes, a lot of people followed the games the last couple of weeks. I even kept an eye on it. But with the USA out, most of those same people will now return to their normally scheduled entertainment and recreation.
Frankly, I get tired of soccer supporters trying to base claims of waxing American interest on early-morning crowds in bars for a few days every four years. It's like the delusional hockey executives who thought a love for NASCAR and college football would justify moving the NHL south. What those hockey execs have found, and what soccer fans need to realize, is that while the sport does have a loyal base, it lacks broad appeal.
If you like soccer, please do not take offense to the fact that most of us in this country don't. It's just that I'm sick of hearing that the sport is on the cusp of being as big here as it is in other parts of the world. It's just not. And that's OK. Look, I love baseball and football as much as anybody, but those are very American games with relatively little international appeal. That's not to say that people in other countries don't like the sports. They do. Baseball is huge in Latin America and Asia. Not soccer huge, perhaps, but huge. Football, as we know it here in the USA, is a uniquely American thing. Yes, the NFL has a global following, but the sport is played almost exclusively in the US and Canada, and even the Canadians play a different version. And that's OK.
The American soccer faithful likes to point to all the kids that play soccer as an example of its appeal. But they fail to realize, or perhaps to admit, that those numbers are fueled by why they claim the game is so beautiful: anyone can play it. Yes, soccer is beautiful in that all you need is a ball and some space to play. And that's why little kids are herded on to soccer fields around the country every weekend. Other than some shin guards, there is no special equipment. It's a cheap and easy game to pick up. But the fact that relatively few of those millions of kids inevitably continue to follow the sport shows its lack of appeal in this country. And that's OK.
I think the fact that everyone can play soccer is also a reason why Americans find it so uninteresting. Obviously it takes incredible talent to play the sport well, let alone well enough to make it to the World Cup, and few of us could ever do with a soccer ball what the world class players do. But watching a game, you can see that at its base level, it's not that hard: One ball, one big field, two big goals, kick. That's it. Apparently the only other rules are not getting behind the last defender without the ball and writhing on the ground for at least 30 seconds if an opposing player touches you at all. Most of us look at soccer and don't see the incredible complexity we see in other sports. That may make it "beautiful," but to many of us, it makes it uninteresting. Like soccer, basketball requires moving through and over a defense to get the ball in the goal. The difference is that a basketball goal is ten feet high and just 18 inches in diameter. The game is also played on a much smaller surface meaning less space to maneuver. Football requires far more physical force and specialized ability. Hockey, which like lacrosse is essentially the same thing as soccer, also requires more force and the added skill of skating on ice. Even soccer players, though fit and skilled beyond belief, look like regular people. They are not the towering giants of basketball. They are not the behemoths of the gridiron. They are not the brutes of hockey who spit out broken teeth in the middle of a game like baseball players spit out... well, spit.
Speaking of baseball, soccer fans often like to defend their sport by disparaging America's national pastime. And that's OK. They refute claims that soccer is slow and low-scoring by arguing the sport has more action than the pastoral pace of baseball. I disagree. In baseball there is the possibility of action, perhaps even scoring, on every single play. That's not the case in soccer. A free kick in your defensive end will not result in a goal. Plus, baseball has that aspect of unattainable skill. Can you throw a curveball or hit a 99 mph fastball? Can you even comprehend how someone can? Me neither.
Again, if you like soccer, I have no beef with you. I like hockey, while many people do not. I could tell you for hours why the Stanley Cup Playoffs are one of the more incredible spectacles of sport that everyone should enjoy (my mother-in-law even found that out this year), but I won't bore you with my argument, because I don't think many of you will buy it. I just ask you also refrain from getting up on your soapbox. You will never convince the vast majority of Americans that soccer is the greatest sport and the World Cup the greatest sporting event. Yes, I understand that 204 teams started their quest for the ugliest trophy in sports (another knock against soccer) two years ago and the US was one of the last 16 standing. That's great. It really is. It is a testament to incredible training, talent and play. But for all your arguments for soccer and the World Cup as an American staple, I'll offer one last argument for why your argument will never be convincing in this country: All those kids in youth leagues? They play soccer games, which may end in a tie, on soccer fields. The rest of the world plays football matches, which may end in draws, on football pitches. We don't even care enough to learn the lingo.
By: Kevin Wuzzardo