Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How the 2010 World Cup ruined soccer in the United States

For years people have predicted that soccer would catch on in the United States and become one of our country’s major professional sports.

With a respectable performance by Team USA in the 2010 World Cup those predictions ALMOST came to fruition.

Unfortunately for soccer, it was the attention that the sport drew to itself during the World Cup that permanently relegated it to minor sport status.

Over the past two weeks I was initially taken aback to see many sports fans who had never followed soccer take a genuine interest in the World Cup.

In the initial round the United States team even played well enough for the passive fan to overlook some blatantly erroneous calls that nearly cost them a chance to advance to the second or “knockout” round.

While vacationing with friends we went to a bar to watch the United States play against Ghana in the second round. Despite strong anticipation for the match, a crowd that started out with anticipation quickly turned hostile.

Reminded by the many terrible calls that changed the outcome of matches in round one, the fans I was watching the game with began to bemoan every call that went in favor of a Ghanaian player who fell to the ground despite not having been touched.

The jeers only grew louder when those players would lie on the ground and wait for a stretcher that seemed like it was straight out of a cartoon to come and carry them off the field, only to immediately hop back to their feet and re-enter the game.

The crazy thing is that the crowd at the bar wasn't cheering against Ghana and their antics, they were cheering against the sport of soccer itself for allowing them.

When a soccer fan at the bar with a European accent suggested that we “should run up and down the field a few times and see how it feels” after we implicitly questioned the masculinity of the game, it was clear that he was missing the point.

Hell, most of the out of shape guys in the bar played sports in their prime, so we all know what that feels like to "run up and down the field a few times." The truth is that fans in the United States just can't respect a game like soccer that allows overblown theatrics and sketchy officiating.

In football players take a hit, head back to the huddle, and get ready to do it 20 more times a game as if nothing happened. Soccer players act as if they severed a nut in order to draw a penalty when they simply got nudged.

In most U.S. sports officials explain or signal the calls they make to the fans in attendance. Soccer referees don’t even have to signal who they called a penalty on, let alone explain what the call was.

In basketball and football close games are decided by buzzer beaters as the crowd counts down the clock. In soccer the end of the game is surrounded by the cloud of secrecy known as injury time, which is approximated but not announced to the crowd with any real specificity.

Let's face it, there is a borderline scandal about the quality of the officiating at the 2010 World Cup, yet we as fans are supposed to simply take them at their honor as to when the game is going to end?

Holy WTF's!

And I didn't even mention how the French team quit during this year's World Cup because they didn't like the attitude and disrespect that was exhibited by their coach, which is odd since they've prepared for that by living in France their entire lives.

The 2010 World Cup was the first time I ever witnessed a large segment of sports fans in the United States actually attempt to take an active interest in watching soccer.

Unfortunately, in what turned out to be soccer’s biggest audition to capture the attention of millions of sports fans in the United States, the game itself simply proved to be unwatchable in spite of a strong showing by the U.S. team over the course of four very close games.

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