Here Comes Soccer Guy
Has Soccer Guy caught up to you yet?
Has he nudged you with an elbow at the office water cooler, or stopped you while you’re walking your dog in the neighborhood? Maybe he’s just tapped you on the shoulder at the local supermarket.
If he hasn’t got you yet, he will. Because this is Soccer Guy’s big moment. The World Cup is on, and Soccer Guy wants us to be like him. He wants us to bleed strikers and goalkeepers. He wants us to watch every tense moment of Italy vs. Paraguay, or Denmark against the Netherlands or Cameroon vs. whomever.
It isn’t enough for Soccer Guy to enjoy the “Beautiful Game,” as he loves to call it. He needs us to embrace it the way he does. He wants us to admit it’s every bit as compelling as baseball, football and basketball for sports fans in this country.
Well, somebody needs to loosen Soccer Guy’s headband. It doesn’t work that way in America. We’re never going to fall head over expensive Sports Authority heels with soccer.
Sure, we’ve all directed our little shin-padded heroes in and out of our minivans and brought them orange slices for treats and screamed like maniacs on the sideline when someone on our side scores a goal. It’s great family fun, and soccer is a terrific sport for kids 10 and under.
Soccer Guy always has maintained when those little tykes grow up, his favorite sport will take off. OK. But somebody now needs to tell him that several generations of the little guys and gals have grown up, and soccer still requires a snooze button to wake most of us up.
What Soccer Guy doesn’t understand is that his sport is not part of our culture the way baseball, football and basketball is. We don’t really know or understand the nuances the way they do in, oh, England or Italy or Brazil. Of course, fans in those countries are still trying to figure out the hit-and-run play and zone blitzes, too.
Soccer Guy doesn’t care. He admonishes us for not studying up on it, for not loving every sleep-inducing second of a 0-0 tie. He doesn’t get that the basic rhythm of the game doesn’t grip us. It comes off too slow and tedious, to full of red cards and players flopping like Derek Fisher.
Don’t get me wrong, the World Cup is good stuff. I’ve covered it before and I loved the atmosphere, the flavor, the passion. It’s a fun event to observe from afar. You know, like on SportsCenter every night, where you can watch all the day’s goals without waiting for 88 dreary minutes to go by.
We all want to see how far the American team can go this time, even if, deep down, we realize it isn’t even in the same class as some of the world’s elite groups. Still, a little jolt of nationalism is good for all of us in between Olympics.
So we’ll watch and root and hope for the best. But it certainly won’t be with the same fervor with which we follow the Lakers and Celtics or Dodgers and Angels.
The World Cup can come and go, and one thing always will stay the same. The sport itself won’t ever skyrocket into this country’s consciousness. It is simply not happening. Not now and not any time in the near or even distant future.
I’d advise you to break the news to Soccer Guy as soon as possible, except for one small problem.
Trust me, he’ll never believe it.
— Steve Bisheff