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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The World Cup: An Exercise In Mass Denial

The World Cup - Meh.
It's time for me to come out... as being completely apathetic to the World Cup.

First off, as anyone who knows me can attest, the whole concept of sports perplexes me. From the highest echelons of the over-payed professional athletics, to the lowliest kiddie matches at your local elementary school where hundreds of adults try to convince children that "winning isn't everything" yet celebrate the winning team, is completely weird to me, and, ultimately, completely irrelevant.

But the World Cup manages to be a different kind of weird. It somehow manages to get millions of people who don't care about sports to watch. If it were any other sport I might understand, but, well... it's soccer. Soccer is a special kind of boring. It's like watching your clothes tumble around in the dryer, but it also demands the kind of unwavering attention a detective would give a crime scene because if you're not watching closely you'll miss the important stuff.

Furthermore, even though most Americans don't care about the World Cup, we're made to feel like we should, which, to me, makes soccer feel like communism. To me, the World Cup is an exercise in mass denial, a desperate attempt by the runner-up nations of the world to convince everyone that their dying pastime is something cool that we all should take part in.


Yes, I know, statistics will tell you that soccer has grown in popularity in America since 2006, but that means nothing when you consider that the 2014 match between the US and Ghana only drew in 12 million American viewers, which, when compared to the 108 million viewers of the NFL Championship, is quite sad. So saying Americans like soccer is like saying the fat kid in second grade who always gets picked last is everyone's favorite.

According to an article by CBS that listed the "7 Reasons Why Americans Don't Watch the World Cup," Americans look at soccer with a collective yawn, wondering when they can just go home and nuke some leftovers.

Here's my top ten reasons why the World Cup isn't that important to America.

Don't even think of going to Europe or South America while the World Cup is going on because all of the countries involved virtually come to a halt, and when a country's national team is playing few people even bother to go to work. I have trouble taking seriously any sporting event that holds such a Darth Vader-persuasion over the populace.

As an American, I've done an embarrassed face-palm just like everyone else when cities like Boston celebrate their team's victory with such enthusiasm that it turns into rioting and chaos. But the World Cup garners an even more intense kind of fan enthusiasm. World Cup fans are like invading armies coming to conquer all the other nations. It sparks riots that go from a nationwide embarrassment, to a global one that makes me sad to be a human.

I know they call it football, but soccer is not football. American football is football. Not that I care about the terms, but when I see grown men running around like sissies, trying not to get hurt, doing things that make the commentators say, "Nice footwork!", and with no padding, I think, "There aren't nearly enough concussions for this to be football."

We already have the Olympics, a weeks-long sporting event where nations come to compete in the things they are actually good at. Ok, that's cool. But the World Cup is ANOTHER weeks-long sporting event that demands you be good at one thing: soccer. And it goes on for weeks. And it's boring. And it goes on for weeks. And when something is boring and goes on for weeks it seems even more boring. I think this is why the World Cup generates so many riots, because, like inmates in prison, fans riot because there's nothing else to do.

In America anyway, the World Cup seems to be an excuse for people to try and sound sophisticated because the World Cup is so chic, so in, so European. To these soccer snobs I want to say, "If soccer were so great in the first place, people would care more than once every four years!"

Like the Olympics, people love to say that the World Cup is a sporting event that brings nations together. Uh-huh. Sure. Brings them together on the brink of war maybe. With its fans who take the event too seriously, the protesting throughout the city in which it is held, the hooligans in the stands, the bad refs, the lack of cheerleaders... it's a melting pot of animosity and trivial pride.

Americans like scoring. They like action. Maybe it's the fault of our instant gratification culture, but even then 90 minutes of kicking and running with one goal scored doesn't exactly move heaven and earth. Scoring is such a lightning-strike rarity in soccer that once a team gets up by two points the game is pretty much over. There's no chance of a comeback, which is one of the most exciting aspects about any other sport.

I'll give the World Cup credit for breaking down many racial barriers, but there are NO women involved in this sport. None. Not even cheerleaders—who could at least breathe a little life into what is otherwise an absolute borefest. The Olympics, on the other hand, manage to break racial barriers, have nations competing in lots of different events, AND give women their fair share in the limelight.

In peewee soccer little kids run around and kick at a ball for an hour until a ref finally goes, "Ok, 0-0 score. Game over. Great job everyone!" In professional soccer, with the exception of the players being much bigger and much faster, they're pretty much doing the same thing they were doing in little kid school—running around, kicking after a ball to a 0-0 finish. And if there is a score they all flip out and scream and jump around because, in soccer, when someone scores it's like finding a leprechaun.

During the winter my news feeds are filled with winter storm reports and Christmas stuff. In the summer I get to see my friends' vacation photos on Facebook, fireworks, news stories about shark attacks, and summer blockbusters at the theater, but during the World Cup all I see is:

Ok, seriously, it's not that I'm against soccer. I certainly don't fault anyone for enjoying it. Nor do I think Americans are necessarily against it for any reason. In America, we just look at the World Cup, shrug our shoulders, and say, "Meh. What else is on?"


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