Why Don't Americans Like Soccer?

Why Don't Americans Like Soccer?

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

Now that the World Cup soccer championship is underway, I'm starting to realize which of my friends like soccer, and which of them are change-hating xenophobes who automatically mistrust anything invented outside the United States.

Not that I'm bitter or anything.

The World Cup is a magical time for us soccer players, both current and former. I played soccer for 14 years, but I haven't played for nearly 17, but I still love watching "The Beautiful Game."

No other team sport has athletes who play with the speed and the grace of soccer players. When you see a top-notch player launch himself into the air, without regard for his own safety, connect with a ball traveling through the air at 50 miles an hour, and rocket it into the back of the net, you know you've just seen one of the most impressive athletic feats in all of sports. And there are only a few people in all the world who can do it with any regularity.

Anybody can throw an orange ball through a hoop. Anybody can tackle someone carrying an odd-shaped ball. But not everyone can do what professional soccer players do.

I'll admit it takes amazing skills to be a professional basketball or football player; I'm not discounting what they do. But I'm tired of the grumbling by soccer haters who watch a game with their arms folded, muttering that nothing's happening, and rolling their eyes any time there's a shot on goal that doesn't hit the mark. But when a team does score a goal, the soccer hater will throw his hands in the air, and half-shout "finally," as if the 22 players finally figured out the point of the game.

"Why do they call it 'football?'" the haters grumble, forgetting that the game is played with one's feet.

We call it soccer here in the United States, as does Canada, Australia, and South Africa. The rest of the world calls it "football."

When the game was first organized in the late 1890s, it was called "association football" both here and in Europe. However, around the turn of the century, America had a new game they called football. So they took the "soc" out of association, and called the old game by the nickname "soccer."

"But they don't DO anything?" whine the soccer-haters. "A game can end up with a 1-0 score, or even a 0-0 tie! That's not exciting!" Then they turn on professional wrasslin', hoping to see some feller get a can of whup-ass opened up on him, lemme tell you whut.

We've been spoiled in this country. We're the microwave society — we want things fast and hot. Our games are fast, and the scores are dramatically, almost artificially high. We watch sports like we've got a cheat code, and we're using it to create meteoric scores.

In football, a single touchdown is worth six points, a field goal is worth three.

In basketball, a basket can get you two, or even three points.

And in tennis, your first two points are worth 15 each, and your last one is worth 10. Talk about crazy scoring. Why can't you just get 4 points to win a round? Or 10 points for each scored point? Why 15, 15, and 10?

This seems to be lost on the soccer haters. Instead, they think that since a bunch of foreigners like the game, it must be stupid.

During the first day of the World Cup, I was sitting in a restaurant watching the game, and some muscle head and his girlfriend came in for lunch, and to play video golf.

"I don't see why it's even on. Nobody likes soccer," the guy whined to his girlfriend.

"Actually, I like it," I said to the guy. "So does the rest of the world."

"Just because 10 percent of this country watches soccer doesn't mean everyone likes it."

"I know. That's what 10 percent means," I said. "But the World Cup has more viewers than any other sport in the world. In 2006, there were 1 billion viewers of the World Cup final, but there were 106 million people around the world who watched this year's Super Bowl."

The guy stared uncertainly for a second. Never argue soccer with a guy who's got his laptop and a wifi connection.

"Yeah, well, that still doesn't mean it's popular."

"Actually, that's exactly what it means," I said.

The doofus turned back to his girlfriend, who was looking at him like he was some kind of idiot. "What? I just don't like soccer." Then he returned to his video golf game, not realizing he was playing a video game of a sport played by 16 million — that's 6.7% — people in this country, compared to 18 million soccer players.

Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Photo credit: CatMurray (Flickr)
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