Our Yanks take on the Germans at high noon Thursday in Brazil in a soccer game. Will you put your life on hold to watch?
This is important. The U.S. men’s national team plays for survival in the World Cup and analysts are standing by to decipher the numbers. No, not the goals scored but how many of us are watching. How the U.S. and Germany match up on the field has been pushed aside by a peculiar fascination over the television ratings and the number of American fans in Brazil.
“Will World Cup boost U.S. soccer popularity?”
“Battle to make World Cup’s second round and prove the sport’s growing popularity.”
What matters is what Clint Dempsey and Kyle Beckerman and their teammates do on the field, not how popular the sport may or may not be in comparison to the NFL, NBA, NASCAR, NHL or MLB in no particular order. Has soccer or sports in general become some twisted version of the X Factor where winners are determined in part by the votes of the viewers?
I’m an admitted soccer agnostic who bows to the athleticism and talents of the men and women who play the sport that labels itself the beautiful game.
The World Cup is part sport, part spectacle and a whole lot of national chest-beating, giving Americans a reason to become visibly patriotic. Unless it’s the Olympics, we have few national teams that can play on the world’s stage and win.
With all the divisions in today’s America we can feel good about our soccer team. Hurray for that.
Will the enthusiasm last? It doesn’t matter. You can drive past any community athletic complex in the fall and see dozens or hundreds of youngsters playing the game. Soccer is part of our culture. A disconnect will come later when Americans turn their attention to everything associated with the NFL, and college and high school football. Or any of the other sports.
We have this obsession with being No. 1 and believing everything else is insignificant. Old school baseball fans get upset that their sport is no longer considered the national pastime, that football has supplanted it. Many of you scoffed at NASCAR’s assertion 10 years ago that it had become America’s No. 1 sport. It didn’t and it hasn’t but it remains a sport that is an integral part of our culture. Whether it’s No. 1 or No. 6 doesn’t matter.
I’ve read comments online from Americans who have turned away from pro football and baseball and basketball because of the perceived widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs. Or they’re tired of the attitudes of athletes. So the shoulder-biting and head-butting and allegations of involvement of organized crime in soccer are OK?
My 22-year-old son was on his feet in our home during the last 10 minutes or so of the U.S.-Portugal game Sunday. He was a captain of his high school soccer team. I sat in the back of the room reading. Occasionally I looked out a window where a couple of blue jays were bullying other birds at the feeder. Seemed to be more action there.
Then Portugal scored and suddenly I was on my feet and standing alongside my son, waiting for the replays.
Soccer is as unscripted and spontaneous as baseball, boxing, hockey or any other sport. That’s why we watch. If you want to drape yourself in the stars and stripes, that’s fine.
I won’t plan my life around the U.S.-Germany game. My son is a working man now but I think he’ll find a way. Funny but Germany used to be his team in World Cup. We have relatives in Stuttgart. He’s cheering for the U.S. It’s a win-win situation.
That can be the beauty of sport, too.