Saturday, July 3, 2010

World Cup Soccer

Every four years I enjoy watching the World Cup. I have been paying attention to this global event since the U.S.A. hosted it in 1994 and since I grew up playing soccer it wasn't hard for me to embrace the spectacle. But every four years I am reminded (repeatedly!) how much people in America hate soccer. I hear it everywhere, from talking heads on TV like Letterman, Leno, and even Glenn Beck, to radio, to my own family! Since I have observed the debate on soccer (or football as it's known everywhere but here) I thought now was a good time to put in my two and half cents.

First of all, I have never thought soccer was a better sport than our big 3 American sports, football, baseball, and basketball. I am first and foremost a football fan, that is American football. If anyone ever looks at this blog they probably know that Alabama Crimson Tide football is my first love, sports-wise. I love college football and the SEC specifically above all. I also really like the NFL. Nothing competes with these on television. TV was created to air football games....just my opinion. I also love baseball which has its haters as well. I like basketball, I don't necessarily love it, but if my favorite teams are winning, I can be just as passionate about it as any other sport. Soccer however is the sport of my youth. I played from the 3rd grade up into high school. I was in excellent shape and even made the 8th grade basketball team as a result. I could barely make a shot but I outhustled every one of my teammates in practice because it was a breeze compared to soccer practices.

Anyway, what I find comical is the way every four years when the World Cup comes around Americans everywhere act like they've never heard of this new thing called soccer! "What, you mean you can't touch it with your hands...what a dumb sport" "The clock counts up, not down?" "Why don't they stop the clock for injuries or take time outs?" "You mean they can end in a scoreless tie?!!!"

I hear how boring it is, how pointless it is, how wussy or wimpy it is or even that it's a communist sport! But most baffling to me of all is that every time I hear a bash soccer rant invariably this phrase is uttered "Soccer fans are so elitist. They say if you don't like soccer 'you don't get it'. Oh, I get it, I just think it sucks. They are always shoving soccer down our throats. Well, this is America and we don't like boring, sissy sports blah blah blah..." I also have heard how it "waters down" our beloved American sports because soccer Moms put their kids in soccer at the expense of football or baseball, etc. I call all of this "Exhibit A in the court of ironic opinions"

I'm not saying these professed "soccer elitists" don't exist it's just that I've never met one! I like soccer and the words "you just don't get it" have never crossed my lips. On the other hand the elitists I do encounter, by the frickin' boatload, are soccer bashing American fans who can't wait to jump on the "Soccer Sucks!" bandwagon every four years when the World Cup is on. I've been listening to it for weeks now. Is there no ability for introspection anymore? Isn't it a bit obvious that the arrogant attitude is not coming from FIFA or soccer enthusiasts but YOU? And maybe if I'd never played I wouldn't be interested, but even then I can't imagine being so narrow as to bash it because others like it so much. I personally couldn't care less what other people like or don't like...until I am repeatedly berated with their opinion obviously. It is also interesting that nobody ever complains about tennis or golf "watering down" American sports, after all those were created by the Brits just like soccer.

Funny how nobody ever complains about American football being shoved down our throats or even NASCAR, which I don't give half a rip about but I see it on TV constantly. Maybe because these self-deluded soccer haters are fans of those sports, and no one ever complains about things they like being forced upon them. Besides it's a free country you know, nobody is holding a gun to your head and making you watch something you hate. Yes, it is obvious that ESPN and other entities on TV want soccer to catch on more in this country and so they might have an agenda, but when they put on a WNBA game I just turn the channel, I don't call in radio shows to vent about how much I hate women's basketball! But the difference between the WNBA or NASCAR or even the NFL and the World Cup is obvious. It's only the biggest sporting event on the planet! Soccer, no matter how much Americans may loathe it, is played all over this country and is the only sport played on every single continent. You don't have to like it, but the crusade to make people hate it is much more annoying and futile than any attempt at shoving it down people's throats. And like the Olympics when it's an international competition and the USA is involved I tend to have a patriotic urge to pay attention. Call me crazy.

Anwyay, the match of the century is coming on so I gotta go....Argentina v. Germany. This should decide the whole enchilada. But don't worry, I won't judge anyone who doesn't feel compelled to watch.