Let me preface this article by telling you up front that I am not a sports fan. I hate football and don’t watch the Super Bowl (not even for the ads). Basketball is all right but doesn’t excite me enough to watch it, and while I have the utmost respect for baseball, I couldn’t name more than a handful of players if you demanded it at gunpoint. The less said about golf, a sport at which my cousin excels, the better, and tennis is only fun when women are playing, if you catch my drift. I won’t mention the hell of living in Metro Detroit and hating hockey. Yet in spite of all that, even I share the American indifference towards the World Cup and soccer in general.
Somehow, soccer has become the sport of choice in the suburbs for young kids and their “soccer mom” parents who cart them from game to game, heedless of traffic laws and the concerns of others. But how many of those kids grow up giving a toss about the sport? For that matter, how many of them even consider it a sport at all?
In the United States, soccer is merely a healthy activity that lots of kids can indulge in, a sort of primer for so-called “real sports” later on. Yet much of the rest of the world goes absolutely insane for soccer. Why don’t we?
For starters, it might have something to do with the fact that we call it soccer, as opposed to football, which is what everyone who takes it seriously calls it. What we call football looks nothing like soccer. In fact, it more closely resembles a combination of ancient warfare and gladiatorial games. We’re Americans. We’re aggressive and live for violence. A sport that concerns itself with grace and fluidity has its place, but not apparently in the national imagination. Americans have a hard time seeing guys wearing knee pads and long white socks as sports heroes.
Americans don’t find kicking a ball around exciting either. According to a poll conducted by Reuters back in April of this year, two out of three Americans polled had no interest in watching the World Cup. That could only come as a surprise to non-Americans who don’t understand yet another crucial fact about our psychological makeup:
We are a quick fix get it now culture with short memories. The World Cup is comprised of 64 tournament matches! You can’t even get Americans to count to sixty-four, let alone watch that many games featuring the aforementioned guys in kneepads kicking a ball!
There’s also the simple fact that Americans are notoriously nationalistic. Except for the Olympics, it isn’t really our style to care about competing with the rest of the world. And while that goes a long way towards explaining why we didn’t notice how well China and India were doing in the corporate world until it was too late, it also speaks to our lack of interest in beating other countries at a sport that resembles nothing about our culture.
Look at what we call a world championship: American teams playing other American teams without a foreigner in sight! Except for the World Series which allows Canadians to play in the sandbox but, tragically, not the Japanese, we pretty much view our sports as…well, OUR sports.
So, despite my lack of interest in sports in general, I can’t honestly find a single thing about soccer or “foreigner football” that makes me want to see who emerges victorious. The fact that we have a team means nothing.
Americans like their sports the way they like their news: All about us without a hint of self-criticism. God bless America!