The World Cup is in full swing, and I must confess that I have passed from merely disinterested into out and out annoyance. Soccer, as a sport, is quite fine. A touch boring, but extremely physical and requiring some amount of skill. I have no grievance with the game of soccer. I can appreciate it, it’s just not often that I do.
My annoyance stems from what I perceive to be the contrived nature of World Cup promotion in the United States. Daily Cup updates on the Today Show, for instance, ring extremely false to me. The history of soccer (no, I will NOT call it fútbol, voetbal, fodbold, football or anything like it) in the US has been somewhat underwhelming. American football is in no danger of being supplanted, nor is basketball. Baseball, on the other hand, might be in some trouble.
America, you may already know, has just not taken to soccer as the rest of the world has. Now some wags might say this is because we are not very good at it, and they’d have a point. World Cup fever seems to strike America only insomuch as we have a chance of winning. Jim Geraghty appears to think the same thing. This is from his Morning Jolt newsletter:
No one at the bar cared about the sport; we care about watching Americans beat other countries with everything on the line.
This is the cycle that seems to occur every four years with soccer and the World Cup. If Team America is good, like in 2002, Americans will tune in and watch. (Tying England seems like a good start.) If they’re bad or “meh,” like in 2006, the interest will die down quickly.
Another camp would say that America is alone in its disinterestedness precisely because soccer is so beloved by the nations of the world. As a “foreign” game, many Americans – when they consider it at all – view soccer askance and somewhat deficient in quality. It’s much the way I would view a bootleg DVD from a street merchant with poor English.
No, soccer has failed to register on the larger American sporting scene despite the ubiquity of youth leagues and the “soccer-mom” of yore. So why is it that the World Cup is being reported so very much?
It could be that this is a good way to stick it to the Europeans after all: Apparently Americans have bought the lion’s share of tickets as the euro weakens and approaches parity with the dollar.
It could be that some trendsetters have decided that the World Cup is the fashionable thing to do this month. A few key individuals decide to raise the profile of the game, and a horde of slavish graspers decide they’ll wander down to the pitch. For every real fan of soccer, I would wager there is another person who is only following the game in order to “be there.”
I won’t even discuss the soccer hooligans at length, though I will say that I view them as Europe’s last gasp of testosterone before the inevitable loss of their homeland to a vigorous and insurgent Islam. So fitting that they would expend their energy defending the honor of Manchester United instead of the United Kingdom. Hopefully nothing like that will happen at this event, but you never know.
And it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t express my glee at the reports of vuvuzelas distracting the players. These are annoying horns that sound just awful when played alone, but when a thousand or so are playing at once it is like a swarm of bees on stage with Ted Nugent. I am happy to hear about this primarily because they have been mentioned endlessly on television as if they were somehow interesting (which they are not). Another instance of contrived popularity for a suspect product.
So no, I don’t think I’ll be following the World Cup this year. However, if you are so inclined, my interest can be artificially inflated. Meet me at a sports bar and pay for the beer, and we can talk soccer as much as you want.