Feature

World Cup: Is soccer un-American?

The pros and cons of embracing soccer as a national sport.

For perhaps the first time in history, the World Cup really matters to Americans, said Bill Saporito in Time. One reason is that the U.S. team has become truly competitive, and after it fought to a 1-1 tie with mighty Britain in its first game, “winning is quite possible.” But the major reason is that after decades of slow, steady growth, soccer—or football, as the rest of the world calls it—is finally taking hold here. With schools and leagues for kids embracing it, more Americans play soccer than any sport other than basketball. Attendance at the country’s pro league, Major League Soccer, is growing rapidly; almost 55,000 people bought tickets to a recent exhibition game between the U.S. national team and Turkey. And apple-pie brands such as Visa, McDonald’s, and Coca-Cola are snapping up ads on televised World Cup games. Recently, Vanity Fair even put two sinewy foreign soccer stars on its cover—“a sign that soccer has arrived among the cool people.”

Perhaps so, said Matthew Philbin in Newsbusters.org, but among real Americans this sort of soccer proselytizing falls on deaf ears. Every four years, the liberal media tries to convince “America’s ignorant masses” that they need to love a boring sport just because the rest of the world does. To these lefties, rejecting soccer is xenophobic, provincial, and just as disreputable as America’s “rejection of socialism.” But media scolds are never going to “force  soccer’s square peg in the round hole of American culture.” For the postmodern nihilists of Europe, life is nicely represented by a sport in which games end 1-0 or 0-0; Americans, though, don’t like to watch players running around for hours without scoring, since “we like to think that hard work accomplishes something.”  Actually, soccer has changed, said David Rothkopf in The Washington Post, and Americans really ought to give it a chance. Like pro athletes in the U.S., soccer stars now make millions; consort with groupies, prostitutes, and drug dealers; and are caught up in frequent sex scandals. One British star was even caught in an extramarital affair with a teammate’s girlfriend. The games themselves are enlivened by seething international tensions: Watch North Korea take on South Korea! See Argentina try to avenge the Falklands in its game against Britain! Today, soccer provides “an endless story line packed with villains, dirty deeds, sex, drugs, and violence.” What could be more American than that?

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