Now is the high-water mark for being a soccer fan in the United States. The US national team escaped the Group of Death, the ratings for the World Cup are breaking records, bars are overflowing during national team games, and even non-soccer fans are admitting to watching every match in this tournament. This is probably the best time to be an American soccer fan ever.
However, I have already begun to see the blowback from anti-soccer people who are loathing the bandwagon jumping and the gloating of soccer fans. And, to be honest, we soccer fans have been preaching about the coming soccer wave so long and so forcefully that we at times get defensive and pushy to those people. Soccer fans earn their reputation as being pushy and condescending, but if we want soccer to move mainstream in this country we need to fight the urge to gloat. It is not here but if we play this right we may eventually convince anti-soccer fans to accept the growth of the sport in this country.
Here are four bad habits of rabid U.S. soccer fans that need to be resisted through Tuesday and hopefully beyond.
1. Soccer fans must accept that other sports are equal in entertainment value
Some but not all of us loathe other sports. Whether it is American football and its brutalism or baseball at its snail’s pace, we have to accept that other sports provide entertainment to different types of people, but soccer may not provide the same. If someone is a huge American football fan but hates soccer, there is no reason to argue why their favorite sport is inferior or on the losing side of history. Let them enjoy and know that America is a huge country with enough room for multiple sports.
2. Don’t make it political
So far most of the most inane attacks on soccer fans – or maybe just the ones that have gotten the most attention – are from writers known for their political beliefs. The stereotype is that soccer fans are raging liberals while anti-soccer people are conservatives. I know liberals who love soccer. I know conservatives who love soccer, and I love people who hate politics who love soccer. We all do. Let’s keep politics out of this.
3. Soccer fans have to stop saying the sport is here/arriving
Life will be easier for soccer fans once the sport is seen as equal to hockey and basketball, if not a competitor to baseball and football. The problem is that the time is not yet here. Yes ratings for World Cup matches are surpassing those of the NBA and MLB, but the World Cup has the rally-around-the-flag effect. MLS and even the Premier League have ratings that pale in comparison to those of the other leagues. When we continuously harp on soccer “being here” and it is not, it gives ammunition to anti-soccer fans.
4. We have to accept that some of our rules are nonsensical.
If we are honest with ourselves, we can admit that some soccer rules seem silly especially in light of American sports history. We do not do ties in the U.S. – even hockey changed the rules to prevent this. And, if we look hard into our soccer souls, we know that ties and “parking the bus” ar an ugly way to win something, especially a tournament. Dives can be absurd and something should probably be done about time wasting. Stoppage time makes sense but if you are used to a clock ending in sports you can understand why people do not like it. Soccer and its rules are an acquired taste; as long as the complaints aren’t mean spirited, explain and move on. Don’t antagonize.