Here’s The Real Soccer Problem
World Cup fever, did you catch it?
Well, if you didn’t, guess what? It is already gone. Whooosh, just like that, it disappeared into the howling noise of the cruel 2-1 loss to that noted world power, Ghana.
It is a crushing blow to the small circle of America’s soccer fanatics, who keep insisting their favorite sport is about to bust out in this country and join football, baseball and basketball on the U.S.’s top shelf of popularity.
That’s not going to happen, of course, and this is a perfect example why. It’s not so much that we lost that pivotal match. It’s that none of us know the real reason.
The overwhelming majority of us are not steeped in knowledge of soccer the way we are the Big Three. After a Super Bowl or a World Series or an NBA Finals, we can all show up at our favorite sports bar or even the office water cooler and somewhat intelligently dissect what we think happened.
We all have our opinions. But when it comes to soccer, we really don’t. Why did we really lose that game to Ghana?
I’ve seen some so-called experts write that we lack a great striker. Some claim we just didn’t make enough bigtime plays. Still others blame the officiating.
But most of us? We just shrug our shoulders. Heck if we know.
All we know is that the game dragged on for more than 90 minutes, and the other guys scored one more goal than we did.
Did they have some kind of special defensive strategy? Did we bungle some set plays? Did some of our best players fold under pressure?
Again, most of us don’t have a clue. And that’s the primary problem with the sport in America. We don’t know now, and in four years, at the next World Cup, we won’t know then, either.
The game is simply not part of our culture the way it is in Spain and Brazil and Argentina. We won’t be completely deflated over this defeat the way they will be in England, after their 4-1 loss to Germany.
You know why? Because we just don’t care enough. Admit it, we don’t.
In Los Angeles on Monday morning, thousands will be more upset by the Dodgers’ collapse in the ninth inning, allowing the Yankees to tie the game and eventually win the rubber match in their series Sunday night.
I guarantee you, on local talk shows, there will be 10 times as many calls wondering what Joe Torre was doing overworking Jonathan Broxton than there will be calls complaining about the U.S.’s loss in South Africa.
By Tuesday, soccer talk will be all but a faint memory.
You know, I feel bad for Landon Donovan, who is clearly an elite athlete. He was a legitimate superstar there for a few fleeting hours. I hope he enjoyed it. Because that status will fade quicker than the Dodgers bats against Mariano Rivera.
The truth is, the World Cup is basically for the rest of the world. Let Spain and Brazil and Argentina and all the futbol-mad countries enjoy it.
It’s time for those of us in the U.S. to be honest. And admit it’s just not our cup of sangria.
— Steve Bisheff