Friday, June 27, 2014

Soccer: It's boring ... for boring people

U.S. fans are fired up in Brazil, and at home (photo from
      So big-time soccer enthusiasm finally has reached the United States.
      Short memories, people.
      I'm going to address the "boring" argument about soccer shortly, and the usual criticism the sport -- and the World Cup -- receive, but first a reminder: Soccer enthusiasm has been here for at least 20 years.
      I remember full stadiums all over the country when the U.S. was host for the 1994 World Cup, and I remember some people being excited when the U.S. national team -- after upsetting Colombia 2-1 on Andres Escobar's infamous "own" goal (that eventually led to his being shot to death back home) reached the round of 16.
      In 2002, the U.S. team even reached the quarterfinals, and lost 1-0 to Germany (sound familiar?). And people here were watching then, too.
      OK, maybe not as much enthusiasm then as now. But I sense it's not so much a love of soccer -- yes, the world's most popular sport -- as a love of this country. We love to watch our athletes beat the rest of the world.
      Think about it, think about the attention the U.S. women's national team received when it won its World Cup in 1999 -- the penalty-kick shootout win against China at the packed Rose Bowl Stadium, the Brandi Chastain-tears-off-her-jersey finish.
      Think about how we love to watch U.S. athletes win in the Olympics ... any sport, winter or summer. And otherwise -- maybe basketball aside -- we care little about those sports.
      I believe this month we are rooting for the Americans, not for the soccer team per se. You can just see the nationalism all over TV. When the major network news programs make the U.S. team and its support the lead item on their nightly programs, that's a clue.
      Look, we all know how everyone kept saying that because our kids were playing the game, soccer was the "sport of the future" here. I never bought into that. That's never going to happen.
      Our football and baseball and basketball have so much tradition, and millions more fans, and those fans are not switching sports. Our son played soccer for 11 years, through high school; he loved it, and he still does now that he's 40, but he's a bigger LSU football fan than a soccer fan.
      Soccer might take the headlines a few days here in June, but it's not ever going to overshadow college football, the NFL, NBA and MLB.
      I keep hearing that we'll see how the U.S. team's success helps grow the game after this World Cup. I don't see that.
      Major League Soccer, which has been here since 1996 and has had some world-class stars, seems to be solid and it will remain that way. It has its fans, and they're loyal, but it is not -- and won't be -- one of the world's best leagues.
      And this is coming from -- as you might know -- a lifetime soccer fan. As I wrote early last week, The Netherlands' national team was my first love, at age 5 maybe, and remains the team I pull for most. I am nervous watching the Dutch play as I am for LSU football, the Yankees, Cowboys, Mavericks and my other loves.
      (A Netherlands-United States semifinal, which would happen if both teams win twice more in the next week, would be wonderful. Very, very unlikely, though.)
      No question, soccer has its strange rules and no clock to watch (the referee is the decider), players who flop and fake injuries, players who bite other players (what is wrong what that guy?), and it's hard as hell to score (which is what makes it so difficult). But boring? I don't agree at all, if you have passion for a team.
      So as usual, as expected, there are people on Facebook and Twitter and in the media taking their shots at the sport, leveling their criticism and their "boring" argument. Some of these are my friends, people (writers) I respect, sports fans. Some I don't respect in the first place (Skip Bayless, Ann Coulter). Don't give a damn about anything they say.
      One I respect, the editor of the local newspaper where I worked, should stick to newspaper subjects. Three more fine journalists left the building for good this week.
      These people's "boring" snipes, frankly, bore me.
      I've always said that if people think soccer is boring, I think they're boring people. (It's a joke, see).
      I have problems with American football these days -- the violence of it, the concussions, the memory loss, the brain damage, the eventual artificial knees and hips. I have problems with the outrageous salaries paid to our coaches and athletes (and entertainers) in a country with so much economic inequality.
      Honestly -- and I've written this before -- a lot of baseball, NFL, NBA and NHL games bore me these days. Maybe if the Cowboys were still an elite team, I'd be more interested in the NFL. But you know that story.
      Almost any tennis match bores me now (and I used to watch the majors). So does a lot of golf; I like watching the sport, but it does take time. Auto racing? No thank you. 
      Maybe it's because I'm older, and I don't care as much, and I have to share the TV with someone who doesn't care (except for the NBA). I still read about all these sports, and about politics and the world, but I limit my sports watching on TV. I overdid college football and the NCAA men's basketball tournament, but that's about it.
      I've even limited my World Cup watching. Unlike my Dad, who could watch every game every day, I've picked my spots. And I have been pleasantly surprised by both the Dutch team and the American team.
      It's been an interesting World Cup through the first two weeks, even more exciting than I thought it could be. Hope the next two weeks are the same -- and that none of these games end in penalty-kick shootouts (which, in my opinion, is the worst thing about the sport.)
     So, if people want to criticize soccer (football in the rest of the world) and the American fans' enthusiasm, they can be asses about it. Live in your world.
     You don't have to "get it." It won't stop those of us who enjoy it. 




  1. From Gary Pennington: Figured you have been pulling for your Orange team. I lived in Rio for 2 years and I went to a fair number of games down there with 200k wild Brazilians. I've gone to a few (Houston) Dynamo games. They have a nice new stadium and a loyal following.

  2. From Gil LeBreton: As I said on Twitter, I don't like the idea of "evangelizing" on behalf of soccer. I like it. I don't care if Ann Coulter, Skip Bayless and Mac Engel do. I would just like people to remember, though, how good it was to watch, how much fun it was, when they saw it this time played at such a high level.