Monday, June 19, 2006

The Beautiful Game and the Ugly American

The world's greatest sports spectacle is going on but you'd hardly notice from most American sports coverage. The local news does not give a run down of the days results, show highlights or even mention that the quaterly tourney is taking place except when the U.S. team is playing.

While I'm a huge soccer fan and am TiVoing each and every game to watch later I realize I'm of a distinct minority of Americans. Soccer has never been a very popular sport in America whether that exceptionalism is because of the full sports space in America or fears of globalization. While there was a well documented lack of organization of soccer clubs in the early stages of American sports space and some may fear the communist menace of football I think the success of the women's team and the constant prodding to enjoy the world's sport makes it a non-starter.

There is a certain level of misogyny and homophobia surrounding soccer in the U.S. it is seen as being safe,and unmanly. The fact that the U.S. women have been so successful compared to the lackluster performance of the men confirms the stereotypes for many. The fact that so many people have been pushing soccer for so many decades inadvertently turns off many who feel the foreign media is being condescending.

The lackluster performance of the American team this year is not helping to spread interest in the sport. The fifth place world ranking was a joke and this team tried hard to confirm it when they stepped on the pitch in their first match against the Czech Republic. They didn't play like a team at aall, they played like a team of prima donnas. It is the same problem that I saw in England's first match, they couldn't get organized or motivated but England has enough talent to sleepwalk into the round of sixteen. The U.S. isn't Brazil they can't wait for the game to come to them like Ronaldo is doing this World Cup. The team played a decent game 9 against 10 in the Italian game but complaining about a bad referee is pointless. If you are a good enough team calls go your way, if you're not they won't it is the same in every sport everywhere. To be honest the two teams that seem to be lkeaving their hearts out on the field are Ghana and Trinidad and Tobago. When the U.S. goes up against Ghana I'll be pulling for the miracle of America making it to the next round but won't be too sad if Ghana wins.

Soccer probably will never overtake even hockey in popularity in America but I'll keep watching the beautiful game. I try to avoid ABC's and ESPN's coverage, the least they could have done is get announcers who know the games terminology calling play by play.I have the TiVo set for Univision, the announcers know what they are talking about and it helps with my Spanish. I'll need to speak to the most likely football fans in America.

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