World Cup Fever? Sorry, I’m Immune (OPINION)

World Cup Fans USA
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

It’s that time of year – or actually, every four years – when millions of Americans are seemingly forced to pretend they care about soccer. World Cup fever is sweeping the globe (and increasingly the U.S.), so everyone is expected to join in the excitement.

Except there are plenty of us, raised on basketball, football and baseball, who remain immune, and have trouble generating much passion for what ESPN’s Keith Olbermann – back in his MSNBC days – called the U.S.’ “fifth-best team sport,” adding that soccer was being shoved down our collective throats by the rest of the world “using only their feet.”

Any resistance to soccer, however, seems to have been largely eradicated by the realization the World Cup is such an event that U.S. media outlets diminish it at their own peril. And that’s fine, at least until you hear an NPR report trying to help explain the nuances of the game to its audience, as if listeners can become sudden experts in time for the championship game.

Nor does it help, frankly, to be told that any 6-year-old kid can go out and play soccer. That doesn’t scream to me that the game is thrilling. It only reminds me that parents have no qualms about ruining their Saturdays if it makes their children happy.

Four years ago, I wrote something very similar to this for (in journalism, we call this “an evergreen”) and was promptly inundated with emails and comments calling me a moron.

Or as I call that around here, “Wednesday.”

Honestly, though, my opinion hasn’t changed. Moreover, I freely confess this lack of interest in goal-oriented sports extends to hockey, which is totally fashionable in L.A. right now thanks to the Kings’ march through the Stanley Cup Finals.

As I noted in that earlier piece, while the World Cup is admirable – just like the Olympics – in its notion of nations meeting in harmony (albeit with the occasionally red flag) on the athletic field, “What I have a hard time buying, based strictly on experiencing the game via TV, is adults who profess to have suddenly fallen in love and developed new-found expertise about corner kicks, blown calls and headers. In short, the current U.S.-soccer TV romance still strikes me as a fling, not a full-fledged relationship.”

Sure, ESPN has a vested interest in transforming us all into soccer aficionados. But unlike a lot of people who profess to have fallen in love with the game, I refuse to fake it – not out of any desire to be contrarian, but rather a longstanding commitment, whenever possible, to avoid being bored.

As for those from Europe or Latin America who insist I’m being parochial and missing the beauty of the sport, when you share my enthusiasm for calling a quarterback draw on a two-point conversion play, we can talk.

So by all means, enjoy the World Cup. As for me, I’ll be steering clear of “SportsCenter” as soon as the NBA Playoffs are over.

Or at least, that’s my goooooooal.

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  1. AirborneJohn says:

    Soccer, which should be renamed “Scoreless Kick Ball”, is a nice little sport for kids because there is a lot less chance of injuries. The game is beautiful – reminds me of ballet or figure skating. All that running around is very healthy for children too. Also, with all the games ending in a tie, there are a lot less hurt feelings for the kids. When the children grow up then the tougher kids can play a real sport like Football. The rest can go on to play a musical instrument in the marching band.

  2. Isabelle says:

    I completely agree.. Why do Americans care about this soccer game? Because we were winning. And because there are so many Latin/Hispanic people in America.. I am all for people loving the World cup, but why so much advertisement??

  3. moogly woogly says:

    I feel this way about every single sport in existence. To me, it is sickening that our country (U.S.A.) is being torn apart by our government, yet nobody seems to care because their favorite team scored. There’s bigger things going on people, and football isn’t one of them. Also, A real man doesn’t fantasize about husky overweight men that wear tights and touch each other. To you football loving ‘manly men’, just take a second to think about it lol.

    Ok, I’ll admit it, I am into one sport only, and that is whitetail hunting. There’s a difference though. My sport supports my family with food. What does yours help your family with?

    My opinion, of course.

  4. CBR1100xx says:

    I respect soccer players’ talent and athleticism for sure. They are amazing athletes. But soccer is just a sport I can watch in the background usually. It’s the equivalent of watching guys try to crack a safe. I don’t care so much that goals are rare…….but it’s that shots on goal or getting close scoring is also rare. So much of what goes on is keep away, passing, and a lot of guys grabbing their legs in pain as they fall on the ground.
    As I type this Germany just scored on Algeria…….after 91 minutes.

  5. CHIP72 says:

    The issue with soccer as I see it is it is fundamentally similar to both basketball and hockey (and lacrosse) in terms of its layout, but it 1) features a lot fewer scores and more importantly 2) features a lot fewer scoring CHANCES than those sports. Additionally, there are A LOT of turnovers in soccer, so the flow of play is often disjointed. Hockey also has a lot of turnovers relatively-speaking, but compared to soccer it is extremely crisp and free-flowing. When you add in the fact that soccer features a huge field and the game moves slowly relative to the size of the field (slower than hockey and lacrosse and much slower than basketball), it becomes obviously why soccer doesn’t appeal to a lot of people.

    I personally am paying close attention right now to an internationally popular sport holding one of its biggest events, but that sport is tennis and the event is Wimbledon.

  6. Astrox says:

    In coming years USA will become the football/soccer powerhouse – it’s inevitable. I respect the author’s opinion, yet it’s somewhat ignorant, and even a bit hateful. The truth is simple: virtually every nation participates and adors this game. Just like we failed to fully embrace and support the Metric System, we’re now hesitant about soccer, and such digression makes us look like dinosaurs.

  7. Pat says:

    If you don’t like the game don’t watch it. Most of the comments against the sport are made by people who don’t understand the game. It occurs to me that the attention span of most American sports fans is limited, which is why most sports developed by the US require time outs and commercials.

    I don’t understand the arrogance needed to write an article about a sport you don’t care for. Who are you writing it for? Low scoring game? That’s what goalkeepers are for. From my perspective a score of 21 to 14 is the same as 3 to 2. Even then a goalless tie is probably more exciting that one where one side is beaten by 5 or 6 goals. By the way it is called “football” because it is played with the feet. A more accurate description for American Football would be “Chuckball”

  8. Notnice says:

    No worries, Mr. Lowry. No one is going to force you to watch the football…um, sorry, I mean “soccer” (a.k.a. Association Football). But, based on some of the comments of those sympathetic to your point of view, I feel obliged to make a couple of points:

    1. I’m baffled when I hear complaints that there’s “not enough action” in a football match. I think what is actually meant is that there aren’t enough commercial breaks, because, barring a whistle-happy referee, the action is more or less non-stop. When I see American football or basketball or what have you on the telly, it’s constantly disrupted for commercial breaks (rather conveniently tied in with time-outs). If you take out all the breaks, all the discussions and prancing around in spandex costumes and giant shoulder pads, you’ve probably got maybe 20 minutes of actual game play. I advise American football fans to watch some rubgy (a.k.a. Rugby Football) to see what their game would look like if there wasn’t so much time wasted on these trivialities.

    2. There’s a recurring idea among American football fans that soccer players aren’t real athletes, usually because they don’t weigh in excess of 300lbs. Well, you try running around non-stop for 90 minutes, especially if you do weigh that much – remember, football (sorry, soccer…) players can’t have a breather while the commercials are on. Anyway, it should be pretty obvious that football players are in fact incredibly fit, or at least they need to be if they want to compete at the highest levels.

    Plenty more to say, but that’s enough for now! Enjoy your summer, Mr. Lowry.

  9. Pointy View says:

    World cup soccer what next? World Cup Hacky Sack? Sure it looks athletic but not in the way American style football does. More like ballet dancers so why don’t ballet dancers have a world cup event? Show me a world event for American football and you’ll have something. Lets see if the rest of the world can stand up against a line of men the size of refrigerators, try to chase down receivers faster than olympic sprinters, or come even remotely close to the bullet accuracy and distance football toss of an NFL quarterback. Package that all together with strategy campaigns to defeat the opponent that would raise a cheer from the best military strategists in the world who otherwise fall asleep over World Cup Hacky Sack… or Soccer.. what ever.

  10. dig dug says:

    methinks soccer fans protest too much…some of us find soccer boring, why should that upset you? I happen to like watching golf (including the European tour btw), but I don’t get up in arms if someone says it’s as boring as watching paint dry. I think part of soccer’s appeal for attendees, is it’s a game you can follow perfectly well after hammering about 15 shots of Jagermeister….I attended an MLS game in Philly, and had a great time…tailgaters there made NFL fans look like amateurs…but I just don’t find the game itself compelling.

    And yes, to me it will always be “SOCCER”

  11. peter says:

    Football(SOCCER) keeps growing in the USA. Football(soccer) is number one among latinos and is number two sport among kids ages 12-24…. Only american football is more popular than world football in the USA. This old folks that keep writing negative articles about the world cup will soon be replace for writing garbage.

  12. Frank Reality says:

    How militantly defensive all the soccer apologists have become. So now if you find the pace of soccer intolerable to watch, you’re automatically labeled archaic, xenophobic, and unsophisticated. If many people find soccer boring, it’s called an OPINION. Try to live with it

  13. Just A Bloke says:

    Do footballphobes like you really still exsist?
    Sounds like you’ve got a long term commitment to being boring.
    You obviously don’t know gridiron when you say you don’t like goal oriented sports – not heard of a field goal?
    Many Americans like football & gridiron, shame some folk like you still think that if you love one, you’ve gotta hate the other. Funny that you wrote an article about a sport you don’t like.
    You’re article gets the red card for your brazen use of the ‘s’ word. It’s called FOOTBALL. You wouldn’t like it if people kept calling gridiron ‘handegg’ would you?

  14. It’s unfortunate that Brian does not understand the ‘Beautiful Game’. Let him remain so in this minuscule minority of non-football lovers.

  15. George says:

    The far right have nothing else to do but to keep Americans in the dark.They said people who play Soccer are commies,how long they think that they can tell young Americans not to play this exciting sport.

  16. Truth says:

    The “anti-soccer” crowd has a very large American media presence and can be traced back to anti immigrant xenophobic attitudes from over a century ago.

    Anything deemed “foreign” has always been and still seemingly is ridiculed and derided by many of those who have nativist American tendencies. With the rise of corporate influence in our media culture, many of these individuals who fear and/or deride anything “foreign” have been given a platform to preach against soccer. Why soccer and not some or frankly any other sport? Simply because soccer is the “world’s game” – one where Americans actually have to compete against other nations. Not some insular sport like the NFL or baseball where even Americans are losing in their own pastime when baseball World Cups and Baseball Olympic tournaments are held.

    It’s also funny how Lowry cites hockey – another sport where Americans are not dominant and the US actually has to compete against other nations like Canada, Russia, Finland, etc.

    Many sports media personalities have been screaming against the sport for decades. This “anti-soccer” opinion is largely unsupported, but at times was relevant given the US’ superpower status. However, as America declines in importance and continues to lose its superpower status, this anti-soccer opinion becomes largely irrelevant. America’s decreasing importance on a global scale combined with the rise and influx of Latin Americans has many of these white, anti-immigrant, anti-foreign media personalities shaking in their undies – they now realize that 4th of July, apple pie, and baseball are slowly being replaced with Cinco de Mayo, tacos, and soccer. And that’s what’s really got many of these anti-soccer crowds concerned.

  17. George says:

    Don’t be afraid to say it: soccer is boring.

    The pattern is repeated over and over: a rush to one end of the field, a failed attempt at a goal, a rush back to the other end of the field, a failed attempt at a goal, a rush back to the other end of the field… rinse and repeat. Endlessly.

    It’s incredible but supposedly professional players can fail to score so often.

    A lack of scoring renders the game incredibly tedious to any neutral observer not determined to love the game despite its obvious faults.

  18. Soccer America says:

    It’s unbelievable how dumb soccer haters are. I don’t think they are even aware of the status of soccer in the States. Major League Soccer already has a higher attendance than NBA and that will only grow thanks to the new TV deal that starts in 2015. What a shock will 2015 be with so much Major League Soccer coverage from ESPN and FOX and 21 teams. In 2017 there will be 24 teams and the demand for a soccer franchise is so high that it will expand to 32 teams.
    Be also prepared for 2016, when the US will host Copa America. You will get the same atmosphere as with this World Cup now.

  19. therealeverton says:

    This rubbish again eh?

    sorry to disappoint you but, unlike your “world series” the World Cup is aptly named so your Europe and Latin America quip is asinine and out of touch. Pretty much everywhere except the USA loves football. Oh and I guess if we’re making trite comments, how about you can write more whiny nonsense like this when “American Football” is a major sport, played and watched, in nearly every country on the planet, not just a handful.

    See it’s just daft isn’t it. Don’t like football fine, you think EVERY African, or EVERY Japanese, or EVERY English person loves football? Of course not, but it is the biggest, most popular sport on the planet, by a distance, so don’t stress because millions / billions of people will be enjoying something you don’t like,

  20. IVD says:

    My only hope is that you don’t get paid for the unnecessary article about the most loved sport in the World. And I am convinced that you will Not be missed!!!

    GO USA !!!

  21. anv says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how every time a World Cup year comes around “clever” individuals like the one who wrote this article start pouting the same old lame crap as to why soccer is never going to catch on in America, it is boring, blah, blah, blah. Everything in this article has been talked about, picked apart, and beaten to death in the endlessly annoying soccer in America argument for years and years. Nothing new here. News flash: soccer is no longer a niche sport in this country. It has not been for many, many years. There are millions of American soccer fans in this country who watch soccer all year long and have as much of an appreciation and understanding of the sport as other “American” sports. And yes, when the World Cup comes around, American soccer fans join in the global fanfare. Nothing is getting shoved down your throat, you are just being unnecessarily sensitive about the global media coverage.

    You don’t like soccer you say? Guess what: NOBODY CARES!!! Hundreds of millions of people will be enjoying the World Cup both inside and outside of this country. Nobody is going to miss you.

    If you don’t like the sport, then don’t like it. That does not mean that we all have to hear your pissing and moaning about it whenever it is a World Cup year.

  22. fernando says:

    I dont see how someone can think football (soccer) is boring and bring up a comment about american football which looks like monkeys crushing into each other for the sake of whatever they may make up. Interesting.

  23. L.E. says:

    It’s that time of year – or actually, every four years – when American columnists and sportswriters write whiny pieces about a sport that the U.S. can’t dominate – disguised as “soccer is boring.”

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