The world is all aquiver about the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. As I type this, the host country and tournament favorite is tied at one goal with Croatia in the opening match. Soccer fans in South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, parts of North America — heck, probably even Antarctica — are glued to their TV sets wondering if the Croats can withstand the Brazilian onslaught.
Americans are wondering when they can go home, nuke some leftovers and maybe check in on the Heat-Spurs game.
Our response to the biggest sporting event in the world is a collective yawn. We just don’t care that much about the World Cup, and here’s why:
1. We already have a sport called football.
The world insists on calling soccer “football,” or some slight variation on that. The thing is, we already have a sport called football, and we like it a whole lot. It’s our national pastime. Maybe you’ve seen it… We don’t need another sport by the same name confusing things.
2. None of our friends care about soccer.
Watching sports and rooting for teams is a social event. We get together with friends, toss a few back and turn on the game. Our friends don’t want to watch soccer. And if we force them to watch it, especially if something else is on, we’ll probably end the evening with fewer friends.
3. We don’t have any huge soccer stars to root for.
America has produced some solid players who have competed on soccer’s highest levels. Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Tim Howard all come to mind; there are others. None of them register — at home or abroad — like Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo or, frankly, LeBron James or Peyton Manning.
4. We’re not that good at soccer.
Winning leads to popularity, at least until the point where the popularity can feed upon itself. Just look at America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys. They gained their reputation in the 1970s by winning a couple championships, then cemented it in the 1990s by winning a few more. But they haven’t done much of anything in 20 years.
The U.S. national team has a nice little streak going, qualifying for every World Cup since 1990. But they’ve never finished better than eighth in that time. And from 1950 to 1990, when a lot of impressionable sports fans were coming of age, they didn’t even qualify.
5. We didn’t invent soccer.
America likes to invent things — electricity, the telephone, the internet — and then make sure everyone knows that we invented them. But we didn’t think of soccer, the Europeans did. (My time machine is in the shop, otherwise I’d give you the specifics on who, when and where.) Why would we support something we can’t use to show the world how great we are?
6. We were forced to play soccer as a kid.
So many of us were forced to play soccer in elementary school when we really just wanted to play football… our football. Why use my feet when I could use my hands? So when mom finally gave the go-ahead to put away the shin guards and strap on the helmet, we never looked back.
7. We can’t deal with all the flopping in soccer.
I almost didn’t put this in because, you know, LeBron. But flopping, as a problem at least, is relatively new to the NBA. And players in all sports exaggerate the effects of contact to draw the referee’s attention (Exhibit B: NFL punters). But soccer players flop so often and so well, that the Academy should just go ahead and create a category for Best Acting in a Soccer Game. The performances escalate from the initial “contact” to the writhing aftermath, complete with team trainers and stretchers. The players, of course, are usually fine.
Norm Elrod likes sports and other sanctioned forms of craziness.