Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Real Reasons Why Soccer Hasn't Caught On in the U.S.

Have you been watching the World Cup?  I have and I love it.  I only watch soccer every four years when the World Cup comes around.  Each time I get completely sucked into the tournament.  Unfortunately, soccer doesn’t hold my interest once the World Cup is over.  I always wonder why.  I think I finally know why and I think it’s the same for most Americans.

Two weeks from now you won't remember his name.
1) The Pansy Effect.
Americans like their athletes to be tough.  We love seeing Willis Reed limp back onto the floor in the NBA Finals.  We expect our football players to continue to smash into one another with broken bones.  In fact, we encourage this.  I’m not saying it’s good, but it’s what we expect.  If you feign injury or flop, you get no respect.  You’ll find thousands of blogs (and announcers) more than willing to rip into you.  It’s just not how we do things.

In soccer flopping is accepted and rewarded.  Guys barely get touched and they drop to the ground and writhe around like they are in pain.  Once the penalty is called, they pop right back up like nothing happened.  The real problem is that the penalty is always called.  It always works.  Players are rewarded for taking a dive.  I haven’t watched every game of this World Cup but I’ve yet to see anyone penalized or carded for flopping.  In fact, the announcers never mention it unless Italy is playing and that’s only because the Italian players take it to the extreme.  They fall down during the national anthems because the music is too loud.

Until someone does something about the flopping, Americans will continue to think of soccer as a sport for pussies.

2) The acceptance of poor, unexplained calls by the refs.
The U.S. Team has been a victim of two disallowed goals because of bad calls.  The first disallowed goal against Slovenia wasn’t even explained.  No one knew why it was disallowed at the time and no one knows why now.  I understand that bad calls are going to happen and that you have to deal with them, but we should be told the penalty.

What’s worse is that everyone just accepts that no one will tell them what happened.  Everyone is all, “Oh, we’re playing an ancient game on a gigantic field with only three refs and that’s just how they do things.”  What?  You’re willing to live with no explanation?  This is how corruption happens.  Because American players rarely flop (and when they do they look embarrassed) and we’ve had two goals taken away from us, it’s reasonable to think that someone is out to keep the Americans from advancing.  Our government spent eight of the last ten years making more enemies than friends.  Not too hard to find a reason.

3) The stakes.
Americans get interested in the World Cup because there are stakes in every game.  What are the stakes when the World Cup is gone?  We know that the MLS Cup (or whatever it’s called) doesn’t mean anything because the best teams are in Europe but even then we’re not sure which they are or if they even play in the same league.  It’s a convoluted and confusing situation and we don’t give a damn because it’s not happening here.

Which brings me to my next point…

4) The players.
The best players in the world are not Americans.  They never have been and they probably never will be.  Americans want to be the best at everything and when we’re not we lose patience and interest.  It’s not that we can’t appreciate a great athlete from another country, it’s just that it’s a lot harder to get into a sport that happens on another continent with players from other countries.  It’s not worth the effort when we’ve already got three or four major sports right here in our homeland.

I’m sure most of you will think that I forgot to mention the low scores, but I don’t buy that.  Americans love baseball and it’s a relatively low scoring game.  Same with hockey.  We don’t need points to be entertained.

Sorry, soccer.  I’m afraid you’re going to be a second class sport in the U.S. unless some (or all) of these things change.

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