America’s Favorite National Pastime: Loving Soccer
The debate about whether soccer has “made it” in America is one that has been going on for decades. Since hosting the World Cup in 1994, the popularity of the sport in this country has steadily risen year after year. Personally I don’t believe it will ever become the most popular sport in this country. I’d be happy with it giving the NFL a run for its money, but the tidal wave of support that soccer has gotten in this country during the 2014 World Cup has been a joy to see. The thing that strikes me as being a big difference from this World Cup compared to others though has been the interest from casual fans outside of Team USA.
Typically, like the Olympics, you’ll get the people that will tune in to just our country’s matches and then be done with it. But things are different this year. People are watching and following these games every single day. It’s obviously helped that this has been hands down one of the most entertaining group stages in years, but it’s still worth mentioning that, for the most part, people have been generally excited by nearly every game of this World Cup.
But it’s not just the viewing numbers, the social media interactions or the packed bars that are leading me to proclaim that soccer is really making an impact in this country this year. If you’ve scrolled through Twitter or various news sites during the World Cup, you’ve probably been unfortunate enough to see something that truly confirms that soccer is making people sit up and take notice. I’m talking about the American political blogospheres all-out assault on soccer that has taken place throughout this World Cup. Now, as a soccer fan, I’m used to the crotchety old sports columnist talking about how soccer is bad because it’s boring, there isn’t enough scoring, you can’t even use your hands, etc. We’re at a point where pretty much everybody knows that those are just cheap column inches used to pander to a now ever dwindling section of the sports world that is vehemently against soccer.
When will the people who sit behind their cushy desks vomit words about how awful our political system is and how our country is going to hell in a hand basket on a regular basis sit up and take notice? Now you’ve made it. After forcing myself to read through several of these pieces, I’ve loosened the noose I had thrown around my ceiling fan for a second and decided that it’s time to hit back. There are a few recurring themes that I’ve noticed through a lot of these articles and I will get to them below, but it should be noted that these people know absolutely nothing about sports. They’re casual fans at best and really only pop up when their target audience has something to say about whatever sport is going on at the moment. When a sport that nobody cares about gets political bloggers to sit up and take notice, that’s when that sport has truly made it to the big time. So let’s go ahead and see how soccer is going to put America on the fast track to becoming big in the USA!
“Soccer is a team sport, there is no individualism [in soccer] and this is bad”
I remember when I was but a wee lad, just starting to play baseball and basketball, and the one thing that I was told is that those sports are “team” sports. That is a narrative that is still played out today throughout every single major sport in the United States. I was told that everything we did was for the good of the team and we were to work as a collective unit to achieve greatness. Apparently I’ve been misled my entire life. DAMN YOU FATHER, YOU LIED TO ME!
In all seriousness though, that is the perfect statement made by someone who has never actually played a sport. In baseball, for example, yes when you step to the plate it is essentially a one on one battle. It is the pitcher vs. the hitter. And whoever wins is determined on whether the batter has been gotten out or not. But if you’ve ever watched a baseball game, you see that batters often make sacrifices for the good of the team. That’s why there are terms like “sac fly” or “sac bunt.” Are we to believe that sacrificing ones individual glory for the good of the team is no longer a good thing? Conversely, if baseball is such an individual sport, then why are their 9 men on the field behind the pitcher? Surely such a bastion of Americana would reflect our true nature and have it just be a pitcher vs. a hitter, having the pitcher do all of the fielding. Why does the pitcher need 8 other guys behind him? Is he so LAZY that he needs the help of others to help achieve his goals? He’s probably a democrat. Why hasn’t this ever been addressed before?
The analysis of soccer not having individualism is spot on though. When a player runs up to take a penalty, he has 11 other men running up with him and they all kick the ball at the same time. The same goes for free kicks. I say we strike all of Andrea Pirlo’s free kick goals from the record as the entire team kicked the ball at the exact same time as he did. Death to team sports.
“Soccer is foreign and is therefore bad for America”
As a person who comes from a foreign lineage, I agree with this statement completely. All foreign things are bad. A list of other foreign things that are bad:
• Mexican Food
• Honda Cars
• Samsung Products
• Thongs (modern thongs were introduced by an Austrian. THE MORE YOU KNOW)
• Ichiro Suzuki
• Adriana Lima
• Ted Cruz (ok, this one really is bad)
“…Liked soccer and you’re no better than him if you like soccer”
Bad people don’t like American sports. It’s our nation’s best way of telling whether or not they truly are a bad person. From dictators to drug lords, all bad people in this world love soccer. It’s not like Timothy McVeigh was a raised as a Buffalo Bills fan or Fidel Castro is a massive baseball fan or Kim Jong-Un is a basketball lover or anything. Those are two wholesome all American sports that only good god fearing people are fans of. True Americans would never have anything to do with anything associated with Pablo Escobar.
“There is no individual humiliation in soccer and that is something that is required of a true sport”
If I continue doing this, my head is going to explode. Liking soccer isn’t going to turn the United States into some communist utopia. The Taliban won’t win and Russia won’t invade (hopefully!). It’s a god damn sport. It’s not a reflection on the ills of our society, it’s people in this country giving soccer an honest to goodness chance and liking it, which is all soccer fans have been asking for all along. Is it for everyone? Absolutely not. The same people who are “force feeding” or “guilting” you into liking soccer are akin to the people who force feed other people who don’t like the NFL, but that’s American so we’re just gonna go ahead and skim over that. We’re at the stage where people who know nothing about this sport are writing derogatory articles about it. We’ve finally made it soccer fans.