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 Foxsports.com (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.