It’s actually an essay from the Nation, but if NPR’s willing to use tax dollars to circulate this crap, then let’s give credit where credit is due.
Everything else in American culture is politicized. Why not this?
Among adults, the sport is also growing because people from Latin America, Africa, and the West Indies have brought their love of the beautiful game to an increasingly multicultural United States. As sports journalist Simon Kuper wrote very adroitly in his book Soccer Against the Enemy, “When we say Americans don’t play soccer we are thinking of the big white people who live in the suburbs. Tens of millions of Hispanic Americans [and other nationalities] do play, and watch and read about soccer.” In other words, Beck rejects soccer because his idealized “real America” – in all its monochromatic glory – rejects it as well. To be clear, I know a lot of folks who can’t stand soccer. It’s simply a matter of taste. But for Beck it’s a lot more than, “Gee. It’s kind of boring.” Instead it’s, “Look out whitey! Felipe Melo’s gonna get your mama!”…
But maybe this isn’t just sports as avatar for their racism and imperial arrogance. Maybe their hysteria lies in something far more shallow. Maybe the real reason they lose their collective minds is simply because the USA tends to get their asses handed to them each and every World Cup.
Could be — we are all mindless nationalist jingos, you know — but a U.S. Cup win wouldn’t make a boring game any more exciting to watch, alas. In fact, the chief reaction from American soccer-haters would probably be to crow that we’re now the best in the world at a game we don’t even care about. The U.S. women’s team won the World Cup twice not long ago and yet soccer fee-vah remains in relatively short supply here. Why is that?
Ace offers four reasons, but I think number three gets closest to the answer: If you don’t know the intricacies of the game it’s almost impossible to tell great play from mediocre play, which isn’t really the case in any other major American sport. Even in hockey, the closest analog to soccer in the U.S., it’s relatively easy to piece together the elements of successful play — puck control, speed, pinpoint passing, keeping the game in the other team’s end of the ice, and of course a goalie with quick reflexes. In soccer, most of the game seems to be played around midfield or near the sidelines; there’s a constant fight over the ball; passes are often inaccurate or intercepted; and too often the scoring “strategy” is to dump the ball in towards the front of the goal and just … hope that something happens. In every game I’ve watched (except for Germany’s match with Australia, where it really did look like the Germans were trying to run set plays at times), victory seemed to depend more on waiting for one’s opponent to make a catastrophic mistake or for the ball to take a lucky bounce towards some player with a shot at the goal than to make something happen deliberately the way basketball players will. To the trained eye I’m sure it’s a “beautiful game” but to the untrained eye it’s a really, really ugly one. In fact, if not for that nationalist jingoism, the Cup would be no fun at all.
So that’s my theory. For your viewing pleasure, here’s the Onion’s theory.
Update: I saw this linked somewhere the other day. According to many people, this is the greatest soccer save ever. Don’t you feel like you’ve seen something more impressive than that in every hockey game you’ve ever watched?