Wednesday, June 30, 2010

World cup vs. cup o' noodles

As the world gazes spell bound on fields of grass, as determined athletes push forward without the use of their arms I think to myself "why is the sport of soccer such a fascination in so many countries, but not so much in America?" Now I understand that soccer has its American supporters and participants, but when I compare the enthusiasm other countries exude for soccer to us Americans, I think it is safe to say that soccer is not America's sport. But why? Well I would like to offer one possible reason for this international contrast of athletic appreciation...

First, what sports are big in America? Baseball, Basketball and Football are what I would consider the top 3. Almost every major city in America has a professional team in each one of these sports. Where are the professional soccer teams? Did you even know there is a professional American Soccer league?? What's funny is I typed "American professional soccer," into google and I did not even see the current professional soccer league show up on the first page! America does have a pro soccer league called the MLS, Major League Soccer! What? Have you never heard of the MLS? You haven't been out to cheer on your favorite pro soccer team the Real Salt Lake, or the Kansas City Wizards!? You haven't stood around the water cooler at your work discussing the latest contest between the C.D. Chivas USA and the Houston Dynamo?? Yeah, neither have I. In fact I had to go to Wikipedia just to find out who the MLS teams are! But if I were to say "LA Lakers," or "Chicago Bulls," or "Dallas Cowboys," or "New York Yankees," just about every American, whether a sports fan or not, would at least recognize those team names! However, were you to travel to Brazil, England, Argentina, or just about anywhere else in the world, I would bet the exact opposite would be true. I bet those countries would be very familiar with their professional soccer leagues and teams, that is just an assumption however, I could be wrong.

My explanation for why soccer seems to take a backset in America, is that Americans have become accustomed to instant gratification and soccer provides none. We want our rewards NOW and our consequences later. We are the country of credit cards, easy mac', TV dinners, fast food, get rich quick schemes, fat pills, liposuction, 8 minute abs, virtual reality, gambling etc. etc. We seem to have lost a tremendous amount of appreciation for a hard days work, a warm cooked meal, a steady exercise routine, a relationship built on sacrifice and service and wealth built over years of toil and living within means. Now, what does any of that have to do with sports?

When I watch a world cup soccer game I observe two main things. First, there is a tremendous amount of effort and athleticism displayed in a soccer game. Constant running, sprinting, jumping, sliding, kicking and falling. There are constant changes of possession and very little stopping of play. There is something else that there is very little of as well, and that is SCORING! With all that hard fought and constant effort by both teams, the entire match may have 1 or 2 goals in the entire 90 minutes!!! But the pay off of those goals is SO worth it! But not to Americans! Consider a professional basketball game. In the NBA there is a literal shot clock! In essence the NBA is saying, "If you want to participate in our athletic competition you have 24 SECONDS to score a point, or we are going to take the ball away from you, and give it to a team who will provide some instant gratification, in 24 seconds or less!" Basketball is the microwave dinner of sports! Soccer is the turkey feast. You can have instant points every 24 seconds and watch basketball, or you can have your 90 minute slow roasted turkey feast at the soccer game.

But that is just my opinion. I mean no offense to my fellow hard working Americans. But be honest, I bet someone got bored in the middle of this blog and thought, "This is taking too long to read, isn't there a version of this blog that will fit in a 160 character text message??"