Skip to comments.Lichtenstein: Soccer Is Boring TV, Which Is Why Most Americans Don’t Care About World Cup
Posted on 06/10/2014 4:24:39 PM PDT by nickcarraway
Barring Unlikely Run By U.S., Planet's Biggest Sporting Event Lost On This Country
Soccer fever will grip the planet this week as the 2014 World Cup kicks off in Brazil. I already have a headache.
Before you pounce on me with derivations of ugly American, hear me out.
I know full well why this 32-team tournament has such a large global following, including a very healthycontingent of soccer nuts in this melting pot called the United States. For many countries, this is the most major team sport with which they grew up. Baseball may hail its World Series, but no one on either side of the Atlantic or Pacific oceans other than Japan plays it to such a serious degree. Football is even more a purely American phenomenon.
Only basketball has been able to make some inroads into the world sports culture, thanks to the powerful NBA marketing machine. But its still got a long way to go before it can even consider challenging soccer for sports supremacy in foreign countries.
Here in the U.S., however, soccer has never been able to make the leap in terms of making the impact that was projected following its hosting of the 1994 World Cup.
Sure, zillions of kids play it at various youth levels. Many play it all year around. Then they go home and watch the NFL on TV.
Theres no question that a strong run by the U.S. National Team would be a ratings bonanza, but that seems as unlikely as the Jets winning a Super Bowl in my lifetime. The U.S. isnt even favored to advance beyond its three-game round robin in a difficult group. Our advantages in population and wealth havent helped in the past against Ghana, the thorn in the Americans side in the prior two tournaments and their opponent in Mondays opener.
Theres a simple explanation for this: Our best athletes dont play soccer. Like every sport played at the highest echelons, it takes years of dedicated practice to master the skills and other technical aspects of soccer. But can you imagine how imposing Calvin Megatron Johnson would be on crosses into the penalty area if he chose a soccer path over football? Or having someone like Russell Westbrook, who is so quick it looks like he can teleport himself on NBA courts, running loose in the midfield?
Then theres LeBron James, the Heat star who already owns a piece of Liverpool in the English Premier League and has been reported to have been involved with investing in a potential MLS franchise in Miami. His athletic ability would seem well-suited for goalkeeping, with his 6-foot 8 frame, soft hands and outrageous sky-walking basically forcing opponents to be perfect with their shots.
In fact, the relative soccer talent deficit is so dire here that about a quarter of U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmanns roster is comprised of players who were born and grew up outside this country. I expect Ted Cruz to weigh in on this any day now on the Senate floor (though in seriousness those players were the product of at least one American parent there isnt any Andray Blatche situations).
It seems counter intuitive that a country that invests all the resources it does to develop soccer players from the youth levels through the national team hasnt yet found its version of James. The sports participation rates have grown for the last 20 years and a healthy professional league has been formed, yet the U.S. lost to freaking Honduras and Costa Rica, which have a combined population equivalent to that of Pennsylvania, in the World Cup qualifying round.
So what is it then? Ive heard excuses such as the excessive cost of training, which in turn excludes a large segment of athletes who cant afford it.
But the truth is that many world-class soccer players hone and expand their skills the same way as those who play basketball through pickup games in parks. You dont need a rink or lots of equipment. Like basketball, if you have a ball and a goal, you can play soccer.
The soccer program in our suburban New Jersey town dwarfs every other youth sport, yet the kids are much more likely to congregate on the basketball courts (or, for that matter, the skate park) in our community park than on an open pitch to play soccer.
No, whats holding us back is the realities of American television.
Theres a lot of bad TV programming out there, but watching soccer can be painful. Its not just the lack of scoring (even the highest-caliber teams in the World Cup have combined for an average of about 2.3 goals per game in each of the last two tournaments), its the dearth of scoring chances.
What should we expect when the most common attack is four guys trying to infiltrate an array of eight packed tightly in the penalty area? Its as if every team is coached by John Tortorella.
I mean, why should I get excited about watching Spain the defending champions play keep-away for 90 minutes?
Unfortunately, thats the way the game is played and theres nothing this country can or should do about it.
But its also why more American kids dream of being like Mike (Jordan) than Landon (Donovan who didnt survive Klinsmanns final cut for this Cup despite his status as the best American player ever).
They can relate to the success of watching an athlete score a basket or touchdown. That gives them the impetus to go out and imitate those moves.
They rarely get that chance when soccer is on. With Donovan now a memory, the current goal-scoring leader for active U.S National Team players is Clint Dempsey with 37 in 105 appearances. At that proportional pace, hell be good for one goal in this Group stage. Sure, Im hoping Dempsey and the rest of the gang pull off a few upsets and advance to the Round of 16. Ill probably even watch when the U.S. plays. Intermittently, of course, as theres only so much inactivity I can take on my screen before I start to feel woozy.
This is one American who dose not care!
Good to know that the people of Lichtenstein stand with us on this.
One reason not mentioned is that many people in the US don’t like Europeans telling them what they should like.
He is actually wrong about baseball. It is played widely throughout Central and South America especially Venezuela, as well as Canada. It is also played at a fairly high level in Taiwan and South Korea. It is not just a Japanese/American thing. There is also growing interest in Baseball in China as the ethos of the game sort of fits well in a Confucian culture or at least that is my observation.
I think soccer and lacross are ridiculously stupid sports.
Who really gives a rat's ass?
I'm supposed to care that the rest of the world cares that the US does not like soccer?
But, I will say, if they got rid of those damned annoying vuvezuelas or whatever the hell they are, that they constantly blow during the games, I might, maybe, watch a few minutes of it.
Nah, not really.
I'll never watch it.
Soccer is landscaping with cleats.......and a ball.
Football has to go. And you can see that the left is busy working on it. You are supposed to like soccer because the NWO has decided that is the world sport. Football is too American. They tried to take it overseas and it didn’t catch.
Y’all know we and the world are supposed to think alike.
Bye bye football.
Golf on TV. With either 70 or 140 players playing at once, they can always find something to show. It may be something great, it may be a disaster. Can we see that shot from the fairway bunker into the middle of the lake again?
Boring on TV, but that’s only because it sucks.
I enjoy both soccer and lacrosse; however, I have seen so many soccer matches that I confess to being a bit sick of it. I coached youth soccer for many, many years so I know just a few of the more interesting elements.
The thing to remember in soccer is that it is a grand game of keep away, and that the defense is vastly favored. Goal scoring typically requires a few miracles. Some of the fun things to watch are ways that a team with the ball can try to lure the defense out.
What I do not like is the c.s. stuff, such as players faking injuries and players taking ball carriers down from behind in order to prevent a likely goal-scoring shot.
Also, the game is under-refereed, meaning that there is too little scrutiny of what all goes on. I also do not like teams "bunkering-up" defensively, in order to sit on a small lead.
I'll definitely catch a few WC games, and one hopes that the US team will distinguish itself (in the good way).
Lack of scoring isn’t a problem. After all we happily watched Super Bowl III (16-7 final). Sacks, touchdowns, interceptions, fumbles, long run backs, long completions, batted down passes, are all interesting even if a score doesn’t result. I don’t know what the soccer equivalents are. When I signed up for soccer in prep school, the coaches never even bothered to explain the rules, and they catered to guys with names like Kiki and Jose who already knew the rules. So you just run around until you don’t. Fine.
Soccer, the worlds most beautiful game, has to be understood to be appreciated. The nuances of play, the positioning of players and their ability to endure over 90 minutes in the heat, cold or rain are things American sport fans have yet to learn. As for scoring, is a 2 goal to 1 win in hockey overtime more exciting than a 2 to 1 win after 90 minutes on a field half again as large as a football field with no time outs, only 3 subs and minimal padding? The close minded will never love the game, but who cares since the rest of the world population is hooked on “The Beautiful Game”.
When I was in School, the girls played soccer and the boys played football.
Well, I’ve had some good times watching the world cup.
Once, being in a stronghold of Italian Americans in Williamsburg, Brooklyn when Italy won. Ohmigoodness, the whole neighborhood went NUTS!!!!
And another time when our friend’s wife ADORABLE French brother came for a visit. Didn’t speak a word of English and my French speaking girl friend did not join us. It was ALL GOOD.
Also watching some coverage on the Spanish language station, their graphics were so advanced at that time. They had little animated coca-cola truck running around the bottom of the screen, and of course that wonderful announcer who said “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAL!!!!!!!!!!” like nobody else ever could or will.
“There is also growing interest in Baseball in China as the ethos of the game sort of fits well in a Confucian culture or at least that is my observation.”
Baseball is the perfect game, an infinite game I’ve always thought. Not sure if that fits with what you are thinking, but I figured I’d put it out there.
World Cup Soccer = World Cup Grass Growing..same ratings on TV.
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