The World Cup ended Sunday with Spain salvaging a 1-0 victory over the Netherlands in the 116th minute. I’d love to be able to tell you I was the diehard blogger who watched the entire match, but I got up early Sunday morning, played multiple 2 on 2 games of basketball in the Texas heat, got home and slept through most of the match’s first half. When I woke up I quickly realized I hadn’t missed a thing (still 0-0) so I showered at halftime and settled in for what I thought would be a more wide open second half.
Instead I watched Spain waste multiple breakaway attempts and the Netherlands abandon their game plan in favor of fouls. The second half ran out with very little intrigue and the first extra period did the same. By the time Spain’s Andres Iniesta found the back f the net, I (and just about anyone who was not a Spaniard or Dutch supporter) was more relieved that the game was going to end than excited to see what was a good goal.
The game was too long, too sloppy and TOO LONG, to be enjoyable. There were too many (as there often are) phantom fouls to have sympathy for how exhausted the players must have been after over 2 hours of soccer. Alexi Lalas justified the ill feelings toward the match when he openly said multiple times that the game was “ugly” and “boring”. Not exactly what you want from the “world’s most important championship”.
Which brings me to my view on why soccer isn’t as popular in the USA as it is around the world.
There are several schools of thought as to why soccer has not caught on more here in the United States, one of which is that it is boring. I don’t totally agree with this, but it’s an argument with merit. In America we like our sports to be high scoring, or at least have the threat of a high score. In baseball, even if the game ends 1-0, we have the threat of the guy at the plate getting a big hit or hitting a homerun and that suspense keeps us interested. In football we have the constant threat of the “deep ball” if the defense makes just one small error in their read. With basketball we know we are going to see scoring, and it is predominantly scoring or the threat of it that keeps the American sports fan watching. Even if we miss the game, we can check the score and get a sense of how it went; this is not the case with soccer. I can sum it up easiest by saying:
Americans prefer their sports resemble checkers, and soccer is more like chess.
Soccer can go long stretches and sometimes entire games with no scoring, only a chess match of sorts played out on a gigantic field with stars we don’t recognize. America generally does not follow the nuance of the game; we don’t sit around the water cooler talking about that point that was ALMOST scored.
Another part of soccer American fans don’t take to is the flopping. When a guy slides past your ankle without touching it and you launch yourself into the air then come down like you were shot by a sniper, you tend to lose some credibility, if not all your cool points. In America we are big on cool points in our sports. Especially today in the age of replay, we can see that you not only didn’t get hit, but we see your lack of integrity frame by frame…and it’s ugly. Yes there is flopping in the NBA, but it was actually introduced by European players who came from a soccer inspired background (Vlade Divac may be the godfather of flop). Because flopping wasn’t part of the NBA’s foundation, fans can overlook it to a certain extent while still enjoying the game. When we watch soccer, because it isn’t one of our “home” sports, we are easily disgusted by what is an accepted part of the game across the globe.
The last aspect is that soccer is indeed not one of America’s home sports. We either created or adapted the most popular form of baseball, football and basketball and they are part of our culture because of that. The rest of the world embraces soccer first, then possibly cricket before they get to basketball or baseball (football is not globally adopted at all, no matter how many games you play in London Mr. Goodell). We like what we know, as does the rest of the world.
So, until America decides soccer is a game worth embracing enough that we create a worthwhile league (MLS just doesn’t count. It’s like the farm league of the developmental league soccer), we will never love soccer enough to legitimately compete with the Germanys, Argentinas and Brazils of the world.
When that day comes (maybe my son will be playing) I will
give up 2 on 2 basketball to watch. I actually enjoy watching a good soccer match;
it’s just too bad the World Cup final didn’t provide us one.
I never said it was unwatchable, you never heard me say that....
Tags: world cup spain soccer america