Soccer: Antithetical To American Beliefs?
The World Cup soccer tournament is upon us, and the more culturally sophisticated bloggers out there are singing the event's praises. While I'll admit that sometimes soccer can be somewhat amusing, I'm well aware that soccer will never become really "big" in the U.S. -- here's why:
First, let's get rid of one common misperception -- soccer isn't a great terrorist plot to destroy the United States. It is, however, in direct opposition to everything America stands for -- individual excellence, rewarding those who use all their God-given gifts, and fair competition. I'll cover each point individually.
Individual Excellence: Fans of American sports love to see a spectacular game-changing moment, as one athlete breaks from the pack and scores. Frequently, this takes the form of a long pass in football when a receiver gets behind the defense, or a fast break in basketball where an defensive rebound leads to a lob to a player running ahead of the defense. What each of these plays has in common is the sight of an athlete getting past the defenders and getting a pass from his teammate. In soccer, such a move is penalized rather than rewarded -- it's called "offside" (hockey has the same lame rule). Being penalized for trying to get closer to one's individual goal is something we see in socialism, not enlightened capitalism.
Using All Your Talents: American sports emphasize those attributes that make humans better than the animals -- our large brains and our opposable thumbs. Sure, soccer uses the brains part, but only one player on each team is allowed to use their hands -- that's downright un-American! In America, we use our hands to build a better world and catch a football, throw a baseball, or shoot a basketball. In soccer, using your hands if you're not a goalie is (you guessed it) a penalty. This seems like a metaphor for Old World societies, where the feudal lords kept the peasants down by outlawing the use of many of their talents. Carrying the analogy further, I could imagine soccer being invented to provide a form of recreation for all the peasants whose arms had been hacked off by a passing feudal lord, thusly:
Soccer tries to make up for the lack of using the player's hands by overemphasizing the use of our other advantage, the large brain, but they use it incorrectly. The concept of the "header", wherein you intentionally cause your head to strike a hard object, rightly seems to most Americans to be a really dumb idea -- brain damage and whatnot. Americans use a helmet.
Fair Competition: This is the main reason Americans will never embrace soccer. Look at the scores so far this weekend in the World Cup: 1-0, 0-0, 2-1, 1-0. Four games, 8 teams, probably 100 players, and 5 goals scored. Americans like game where anyone can score -- and demand games where at least someone scores occasionally.
I'll probably follow the tournament pretty closely, and watch as many of the games as I can, but don't expect me, or other Americans, to start demanding more televised soccer other than every four years -- unless they change the rules. If they get rid of the "offside" and "handball" rules, and allow real tackling, and have you carry the ball over a goal line rather than kick it into a net, and get some hot cheerleaders, then Americans will embrace the game -- not before.
Update 0222 13 June: Geez, we suck...