The World Cup is right around the corner and no one cares. No one in America, that is, despite the fact that Team USA is actually sort of a contender this year.
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The New York Times claims soccer’s popularity in America is growing “in New York creative circles.” In other words, “with Hipsters.”(The Times fails to note that the number of Hispanic immigrants, known for their love of fútbol, is also growing in America.) But when was the last time you watched a game? Can you name more than one player on the American team?
Sports account for an estimated $470 billion of GDP in the United States, yet we Americans are remarkably indifferent to the game that enthralls and unites the rest of the planet and causes grown men to riot with the intensity of a Viking raid.
Our country substitutes sports for both religion and politics (have you ever listened to sports talk radio?!) and makes a competition out of nearly everything, yet soccer is lucky if it even makes it onto Sportscenter’s “Not Top Ten” feature.
Why are we so unenthused about soccer? Here are some theories:
We do our own thing
America from the very beginning has embraced the principle of revolution: We drive on the right side of the road. Along with their tyrant, we got rid of Britain’s superfluous u’s and their totalitarian tea.
We’re a nation of individuals, and while we tend to adopt a lot of outside traditions into this great melting pot of ours, we’re sure to mark them with American-made pride when we do. We’re the trend setters. We took cricket and made it so intense that multiple baseball players resort to using steroids to keep up. We also created a better version of rugby and soccer and even kept the name football just for spite.
The rivalries are irrelevant to us
One of the likely reasons New Englanders are more unpleasant than, say, Texans, is due to the fact that their states are crammed all together like sardines. Such annoyingly close proximity makes people resentful, and serves to build great rivalries like those between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, England and Scotland, France and Italy, El Salvador and Honduras.
We’re separated from the soccer-mad countries by lots of land, an ocean, and/or a history that does not involve the constant dithering of borders and scary nationalism. We also didn’t spend a considerable portion of the 20th century bombing our neighbors. We’re a young country and don’t have a lot of baggage, comparatively.
Americans are well-equipped. Obnoxiously so, if you’re not one of us. We’re always prepared. (Is a hydration pack really needed for your 5K jog?) Companies like Under Armour and Nike are champions of producing the most cutting-edge, scientifically advanced sporting equipment possible, and Americans eat it up. Why would we play a sport that requires only a single ball when we could have so much neat, high-tech gear?
Soccer is frustrating. As soon as you run up to the ball, it gets kicked to the other end of the field, and you run after it again, that is, if you’re even allowed past midfield. It’s boring to play and even more so to watch. There are very few goals, and the players use only the extremities of their bodies. Complete waste of the middle man. Every little kid in America is put on a soccer team growing up to burn off energy. The normal among us quickly realize there are more violent games out there to be played and move on.
I’m not out to dismiss soccer altogether. It can be a fun and entertaining sport, it’s just not appealing to most Americans. The Times article says soccer is “the go-to sport of the thinking class.” Maybe we Americans just aren’t sophisticated enough to appreciate the artistic finesse and quiet, slow- building tension of the sport, as we require brutal hits, constant action and scoring.
May I only request that if America ever does insist on adopting this foreign sport, could we also embrace non-America’s leisurely three hour lunches, siestas, and taking all of August off?