Friday, July 09, 2010

The Berenstain Bears Get Their Kicks


I've been paying close attention the World Cup for the first time this year, and I'm definitely hooked. I love the rhythm, the low-scoring, and the cosmopolitanism. For the record, I'm rooting for Germany tomorrow and the Netherlands on Sunday. The former seems pretty safe; the latter, less so. I don't have any SUPER-strong feelings at this point, though. I'm just glad that a new team will be the winners. I was pretty heavily rooting for Ghana to be the first African team to go all the way (or even make it to the semifinals); Suarez's handball was certainly the right choice from a totally cynical risk-benefit perspective, and probably any team would have done it, but it was STILL cynical and sour, and the fact is, "any" team didn't do it--Uruguay did. So fuck 'em.

People are known to say things like "crud--the US needs to win the World Cup so that soccer will gain a cultural foothold hereabouts." I don't think that's a particularly sensical attitude to take, however. It's like voting for third-party candidates on the basis that that's how real change will come. Two problems: first, the candidate won't win, because she has built no kind of substantial base (if she WERE elected, it would mean that the US electorate had changed to such an extent that it wouldn't BE the "instant win" that so many hope for); and second, even if she somehow DID get in (clerical error?), given the political climate and makeup of Congress, she would be able to accomplish exactly NONE of her radical agenda--she'd be forced to make infuriating "compromises" just like everyone else.

Same thing for soccer--you can't just expect a non-soccer-oriented country like the US to just snag the top trophy in the sport (the top trophy in ANY sport, actually, and it doesn't MATTER if some Americans want to insist that the Super Bowl holds that title--they're objectively wrong). You've gotta build up interest. You've got to get to the point where kids play the sport obsessively with stars in their eyes, the way they do basketball and baseball. Fucked if I know where you start, but just leapfrogging to the top of the international ranks is a non-starter. And even if the US DID somehow win it all, you're fooling yourself if you think this would make Americans into super-massive soccer fans. Sure, it would increase interest to some extent, but again, without the infrastructure in place, what it would actually accomplish in the long term would be very limited.

I played youth soccer for one season because I had a bunch of friends who did it. This...did not go so well. I was an introverted kid, and I never developed any rapport with, or even tolerance for, my teammates (well, there was one kid who was sort of okay, if I recall aright--drop in the bucket, though). Also, I lacked the necessary aggression (among other things). The season was eleven games. We lost ten straight. I skipped out on the last one. That one, we (or "we") won. So it goes.

PS. Obviously you don't have to LIKE soccer, but you people who go on about "who cares about soccer? When do the REAL sports start?" are exactly what is wrong with this country, and you make me embarrassed to share a nationality with you.


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