“World Cup, blah blah, soccer — or should I say, “football!” — blah blah, American apathy, blah blah, we’re bad at this sport.” That’s pretty much all I’ve heard on the radio and TV for the last three weeks. This has ranged from the US Soccer Federation’s grand vision for soccer in America played out on the Freakonomics podcast to Ann Coulter’s recent absolutely hilarious anti-soccer rant, which shows she clearly has no clue what soccer is or what the rules are (I can’t resist picking it apart point-by-point, so here I go:
- Average NFL game: > 3 hours. Average MLB Game: 2 hours, 58 minutes. Average NBA game: 2 hours, 18 minutes. Average World Cup Group Stage game? Surprisingly hard to find, since the halves are 45 minutes and halftime can’t exceed 15 (compared to > 30 minutes for a Super Bowl halftime show), so let’s say 6 min stoppage time + 45 + 45 + 15 = 1 hour, 51 minutes.
- Ronaldo. Ronaldinho. Beckham. Pele. These are soccer legends. They are national and international heroes on a scale that Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will never achieve. Bradley, on the other hand, after coughing up a ball at mid-field with :30 to go against Portugal, is a national pariah. Yes, it was his fault, let’s never forget that.
- Every other sport is co-ed at the kindergarten level; sex-specific traits (like increased muscle mass and height for boys and top-heaviness for girls) that account for co-ed sports becoming less competitive do not typically present themselves until puberty. Anyone who’s played little league or watched The Little Giants can tell you this.
- It is obviously not a lot harder to score with a bunch of 300-pound idiots trying to hump you into submission, as judged by her previous statement.
- You are describing youth soccer at the Y. Your statement about juice boxes and ribbons also applies to Little League and pee wee football.
- You’re not allowed to use a bat in football. What actually separates man apart from lesser beasts is that we use tools.
- I have literally never seen an article indicating that women’s basketball even exists. Your own article, in the meantime, does indicate that soccer is catching on.
- We use our local system of measurement, but for scientific calculations the metric system is easier to work with. I visualize 147.2 centimeters as roughly a belt and a half. How do you visualize 79.8 lb?
- “Record ratings for world cup” in the US would indicate that soccer is actually catching on. People watched the women’s game because it was the finals, and it was against arch-rival nation China.
- Ted Kennedy’s 1965 immigration law probably didn’t affect a whole lot of people’s great-grandfathers. However, I like soccer as much as the next guy, and it’s catching on with me. Maybe that’s just the commy-Euro-legacy of my great-grandfather, who came to the US from Ireland. You can trace the anti-American tendencies in my family through his son, who had the gall* to invade Normandy and Korea with that bastion of anti-Americanism, the United States Army. Admittedly, after he won World War II, he did marry an English girl… who worked for NASA while they put a man on the freaking moon.
I don’t necessarily disagree with her stance that soccer isn’t catching on, or event that it shouldn’t catch on, but the argument she makes to get there is childish, bigoted, and ill-informed. Like I said, I like soccer as much as the next guy — I watch it every four years and root for the Stars and Stripes (I’m wearing red, white, and blue gym clothes right now). I bought a Jozy Altidore jersey. I might even go to an MLS game after the cup. I think soccer could catch on in the US, and I’d be happy if it did. But there is something distinctly off-putting about soccer for the American audience…
Because soccer is the Vietnam War of sports. In last Sunday’s game against Portugal, we played 94 and a half minutes of winning soccer, and we still couldn’t win the war. This is a truly appealing aspect of soccer for many fans; the fact that at any minute, a small mistake could lead to a scoring opportunity (combined with generally low scoring in the game) means that neither team is rarely ever that far out of the game. In sports like baseball and basketball, teams play each other repeatedly (especially in playoff situations), so small differences in talent eventually make themselves known and the objectively better team has a better chance of winning the series than of winning any one game. In soccer, as in American football, the games are so grueling that series just aren’t possible, but unlike in AmFoot (as I will never call it again), in soccer the worse team can basically sit on its heels and play a sort of guerrilla defense to just prevent the better team from scoring (see USA-Germany). This leads to closer games, which leads to more exciting games, but also higher chances that the worse team can come out of nowhere and tie (USA-Portugal) or win (USA-Ghana).
And don’t even get me started on ties. As (apparently?) Navy coach Eddie Erdelatz said after tying Duke (GO DUKE), “Ties are like kissing your sister.” Now think about the fact that the entire country was rooting for a tie against Germany, because a tie would guarantee that we advance to the knockout round. If a tie is like kissing your sister, rooting for a tie is like, what, masturbating to her? And we were also rooting for a tie between Portugal and Ghana (which would have also advanced us — see #6), and I think that’s like jerking it while watching the Lannister twins bone next to the corpse of their dead son (Spoiler alert!). Americans are predisposed to hate ties, and soccer is, at its nature, a draw-producing sport. The NHL eliminated the tie from the game and introduce shootouts in order to boost viewership. I don’t suspect soccer will follow suit.
That said, in honor of today’s game, here’s a reason why the U.S. should love soccer. We love an underdog story, and the U.S. Men’s National Team are definitely underdogs. When else in the last 100 years of American history has the US been an underdog? Think about it — the third-most populous nation on Earth, more advanced than any other nation, with a military budget accounting for over a third of total worldwide military expenditures, a land that invented electricity, is facing a country barely 50 years old, with a population well under 10% the size of ours, who has to turn off its only major industrial center so that everyone can get power to watch the game against us, and that country is favored? That doesn’t happen anywhere else.
But we made it out of the group stage! And we almost beat those pesky Portuguese, including that beautiful Ronaldo. Today, we face a tiny European country that’s best known for being sandwiched in between other European countries, and that country is heavily favored. Even though we’re underdogs, I believe that we will win.
* Or should I say, “Gaul?”