Sunday, June 04, 2006

The World Cup is Coming

And that means one thing: people writing articles implying that there's something wrong with the U.S. because we don't care about soccer. Or futbol, or whatever. Yes, it's true, soccer is the #1 team sport in the world, and it's a distant fifth, by my reckoning, in the U.S. So what? Are newspaper readers in Canada subjected to this crap because they like hockey? How about Cuba? Does Fidel Castro berate his nation and tell them they must give up beisbol if they want to be taken seriously on the national stage? And who is poor Afghanistan going to compete against in the World Cup of Buzkashi?

The ignorance of the writer of that article regarding the worldwide popularity of sports besides soccer is astounding, implying that America's "troika" of baseball, basketball, and football is only enjoyed in the U.S.A. while the rest of the world is soccer-mad. In reality, football is the only one of those major team sports born in America that has not become widely popular in the rest of the world. Basketball is very popular in Eastern Europe, with the Basketball World Championship being dominated in recent decades by the USSR and Yugoslavia. Argentina is the reigning Olympic basketball champion.

And how thick-headed are some people that they still insist that baseball "hardly reigns supreme anywhere else?" Baseball is the top draw in many Caribbean nations, as well as Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. It's the #1 or #2 sport in just about every Western Hemisphere country north of the Equator. And it's catching on in Australia, Europe, China, and South Africa. And hey, remember the World Baseball Classic earlier this year, where the final featured a competition between one team from across the ocean and the other one of our most outspoken enemies on the world political stage? So much for baseball only being an American game.

And by the way, we "console ourselves" by calling the Chicago White Sox "world champions" because the Major Leagues are acknowledged to be the highest level at which baseball is played. And by the way, those 2005 White Sox featured, on their roster, players born in Cuba, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Japan, and, yes, the United States.

One last irony that the article alludes to is that "Nothing would trigger more anti-American resentment worldwide than the U.S. winning the World Cup someday and hardly noticing that it had done so." Indeed, in the latest FIFA rankings, the USA stands at #5, higher than France, higher than England, higher than Italy, and fourteen slots higher than host nation Germany. It could happen, and after dutifully watching the final, American sports fans could then go back the next day to managing our fantasy baseball teams or worrying about the upcoming NFL preseason.


At Sunday, June 4, 2006 at 4:30:00 PM PDT, Blogger fifa2006 said...

Thank you for your blogger about football,I’d like to exchange message with you:

Motto of different country FIFA2006 world cup team
1.We are football >Germany< on the road to gold Netherlands
3.Liberte,Egalite,Jules Rimet >France<
4.Never-ending legend,united Korea
5.2006,It's Swiss o'clock
6.A passion to win and a thirst to succeed
7.angola lead the way,our team is our people
8.get up,argentina are on the move
9.australia's socceroos-bound for glory
10.vehicle monitored by 180 million brazilian heart
11.our army is the team,our weapon is the ball,let's get to germany and give it our all Costarica
12.ecuador my life,football my passion,the cup my goal
13.come on the elephants!win the cup in style nation,one trophy,eleven lions ENGLAND
15.go black stars,the stars of our world > Ghana<
16.stars of Persia pride,italy in our hearts
18.light up your samurai spirit Japan the finals with fire in our hearts "> Croatia<
20.aztec passion across the world
21.from the heart of america...this is the guarani spirit
22.white and red,dangerous and brave >Poland<
23.with a flag in the window and a nation on the pitch,forca Portugal
24.the green hawks cannot be stopped > Saudi Arabia<
25.fight!show spirit!come on!you have the support of everyone >Sweden<
26.for the love of the game
27.spain,one country,one goal
28 with our support,ukraine cannot fail to win come the soca warriors-the fighting spirit of the Caribbean
30.belief and a lion's strength,for victory and our fans > Czech<
31.the carthage eagles...higher and stronger than ever
32.united we play,united we win>UNITED STATE<

Dr Han (Super football fans) content

At Sunday, June 4, 2006 at 5:50:00 PM PDT, Blogger Adam Villani said...

OK, that was funny enough blog spam to leave in. UNITED STATE!

At Sunday, June 4, 2006 at 8:37:00 PM PDT, Blogger Arb said...

I have just been thinking this weekend about why soccer isn't more popular in the U.S.

First of all, it wasn't always so. In the 1920s, soccer was probably the third most popular sport and second most popular team sport in the U.S., after baseball and boxing. The American Soccer League of the 1920s was more prominent than the NFL.

Second, soccer has the same "event" atmosphere that American football has. There aren't that many games, and each one is naturally suited to tailgating, drinking beer in the parking lot, kicking a ball around, and so forth, just like football. (Or baseball if you're in Milwaukee, but they're weird up there.) We went to our first Houston Dynamo game this weekend (though I've been going to MLS games since the beginning), and they're definitely trying to build that aspect, which seems smart to me. (And so far they've been fairly successful, although they need some help with ushering -- there were people unable to find their seats in at least four languages last night.)

I suspect it comes down to historical accident, and marketing -- namely, in order, Namath, Johnson/Bird, and Gretzky. Somehow, Pele and Beckenbauer never had the same resonance -- maybe because they weren't native North Americans. When the American demand for professional sports boomed starting in the late 60s and through the 80s, there were "native" stars to draw the fans. Much though I've always liked soccer, I can't think of a comparable candidate for soccer in the period. (Heck, the only player I remember on the great Cleveland Force indoor teams of the '80s is Kai Haaskivi, who's obviously not native.)

But, again, why does it matter? The FIFA rankings are a pile of doo-doo anyway -- the US is about maybe tenth in the world right now. (I prefer for ratings, myself.) But that said, that's a huge gain from 10-20 years ago -- and the US is just big enough that if US Soccer puts its mind to it, it can regularly field a team of good enough athletes to at least contend at the quarterfinal or semifinal level in the World Cup without *any* significant national support for the team.

Maybe that's what everyone gets up in arms about -- the US can field a respectable-to-strong team without even "really trying." I suspect a lot of the world wants to keep it that way. ;)

At Sunday, June 4, 2006 at 9:22:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Goran said...

Serbia is favorite in World Cup :)

At Monday, June 5, 2006 at 12:54:00 AM PDT, Blogger Adam Villani said...

They kick a baseball around in Milwaukee?

Actually, tailgating was a big part of Padres games, too, actually, back when they were at the Murph. I don't know if any of that has survived the move to Petco, which isn't surrounded by parking lots.

Was there ever much of a college soccer scene in the U.S.? The popularity of the NBA and the NFL both grew out of the popularity of the college games, or at least that's my impression.

What about horse racing? It seems like a lot of the popularity of sports in the U.S. stems from gambling. Fantasy baseball teams, March Madness brackets, and NFL pools have enhanced the popularity of those games. Plus, of course, boxing.

So how did stock car racing become dominant in the U.S. over open-wheel racing in Europe?

Why is, Lance Armstrong excepted, cycling so much bigger in Europe than here? It seems the Atlantic Ocean caused the sporting scene in Europe and North America to evolve along parallel yet very separate branches.

At Monday, June 5, 2006 at 2:02:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Mike said...

Adam, I have to side with the soccer haters these days.

At Monday, June 5, 2006 at 2:03:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Mike said...

2006,It's Swiss o'clock

That's pretty good, though.

At Monday, June 5, 2006 at 6:21:00 PM PDT, Anonymous clynne said...

And how thick-headed are some people that they still insist that baseball "hardly reigns supreme anywhere else?" Baseball is the top draw in many Caribbean nations, as well as Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. It's the #1 or #2 sport in just about every Western Hemisphere country north of the Equator. And it's catching on in Australia, Europe, China, and South Africa.

I think its because, while soccer is most famous as a South American sort of sport here in USA, it's also very popular in the nations typically considered "the World" as in "World History." Tiny Caribbean countries and places with slanty-eyed yellow folks don't rate in that scheme of things. They're not "the World" in a way that is meaningful to people who want to USA-bash over sports.

I mean, these people don't see the problem with griping about the "World Champions" out of one side of their mouths while lauding the "World Cup" with the other.

There's also an aspect of "Waaah! My favorite sport is only shown in Spanish in the middle of the night where I live!" People get pissy and illogical when other folks dare interrupt their sport viewing. Look at things like Thanksgiving family gatherings where it's considered perfectly acceptable for 80% of the male members of the family to glue themselves to the TV all day.

At Monday, June 5, 2006 at 9:47:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Joshua said...

I wish more foreign commentators had noted that the main characters in "Bend It Like Beckham" want to move to the USA because they wouldn't have the opportunity to play college or pro soccer in England.

At Monday, June 5, 2006 at 11:19:00 PM PDT, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Good point, although it's worth noting that the WUSA last played in 2003.

At Tuesday, June 6, 2006 at 8:52:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Joshua said...

True, the WUSA was still active when "Bend It Like Beckham" was released in the USA, but the league suspended operations before the theatrical run ended.

At Monday, June 12, 2006 at 4:41:00 PM PDT, Blogger Victor said...

Chick soccer is like chick boxing ... i.e., not a sport.

At Monday, June 12, 2006 at 5:30:00 PM PDT, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Oh sure, it's a sport... just not one worth watching. It's like that old question about debating whether or not something is art. I don't have any problem calling Jeff Koons's work art. It's just crappy art.

Hell, I don't have any problem calling cup-stacking a sport, as long as I can call it the lamest sport in the history of the universe.

At Monday, June 12, 2006 at 7:24:00 PM PDT, Blogger Victor said...

George Carlin did this lengthy routine in which he explained why the only three sports are football, baseball and basketball, everything else was an activity or a game. Some of the reasons were pretty hilarious:

"Boxing is not a sport ... it's kicking the shit outta someone. Hockey is not a sport ... it's kicking the shit outta someone on ice."

"Swimming isn't a sport. Swimming is a way to keep from drowning. That's just common sense. Sailing isn't a sport. Sailing is a way to get somewhere. Riding the bus isn't a sport, why the fuck should sailing be a sport?"

"Ping pong is not a sport, it's a kid's activity. And technically, tennis is an advanced form of ping pong. In fact, tennis is ping pong played while standing on the table. Great concept, not a sport. Same with all the ping pong derivatives -- volleyball is racketless team ping pong while standing on the table with a raised net and an inflated ball."

"Gymnastics is not a sport because Romania is good at it. These are *my* rules, folks."

At Monday, June 12, 2006 at 7:27:00 PM PDT, Blogger Victor said...

Besides, I preferred it back in the day when women's boxing was Kandi and Randi in skimpy 44DD bikinis, 20-ounce gloves, and all the magazines were advertised only in the last 4 pages of legit magazines.

At Tuesday, June 13, 2006 at 2:05:00 PM PDT, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Fox Sports West has been showing highlights from the AVP beach volleyball tournament in Hermosa Beach this weekend... now THAT'S a sport!

At Tuesday, June 13, 2006 at 3:37:00 PM PDT, Blogger Victor said...

No ... beach volleyball is an excuse to for half-naked bronze bodies to strut in the sun -- a prompt for fantasy and more. When reading Playboy becomes a sport, beach volleyball can be a sport.


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