In defense of the World Cup

Published 10:25 am Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I played soccer until I was about 15 years old. I quit not because I didn’t like the sport but because I was rather clumsy with the ball between my feet.

When I did quit, eight years ago, I couldn’t name one American soccer player. I couldn’t named one international soccer player and if it weren’t for video games I wouldn’t have known what color Brazil’s iconic uniforms were. I was quite naive about soccer’s importance to the world, but I was also unaware of the hostility many Americans have towards the sport.

In America, attitudes towards soccer are as divided as red and blue party lines. Like two senators debating gun rights and taxes, if you love football, it seems, you probably hate soccer, and vice-versa. Arguments always seem to stick to the script.

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But why is that?

Let’s narrow the scope to Albert Lea. I used to kid an Albert Lea man that David Beckham’s arrival with the Los Angeles Galaxy would propel soccer to the popularity of American football. He responded by telling me that if soccer ever did become as popular as football, hopefully he’ll be dead first. He wasn’t kidding.

In Albert Lea, both teams share Hammer Field. They use the same dimensions, even the same goal posts and because they’re both fall sports each athlete made a conscious decision to buck one sport and play the other, and their parents probably did, too.

Football is inherently American. An east coast sport, think Princeton and Rutgers and cheerleading sweaters.

Soccer, as we know it today, was born out of England and is the most popular sport in nearly every country except the United States. It’s one sport we’ve never been the best at and to a lot of Americans, that’s hard to swallow.

To be honest, I like football more than soccer, too. In fact, I like baseball more than soccer… and basketball. But right now something important is going on in the world and I hope we all take the time to appreciate it.

The World Cup is one of the most important sporting events in the world, right up there with the Olympics, and to a lot of countries it’s the most important event.

We wouldn’t watch curling if it weren’t during the Olympic Games so if you’re not a soccer fan, now’s the time to give it a try.