Upon further review, soccer isn’t a major sport
Last week’s column prompted several letters from angry readers demanding to know why I did not include soccer as one of our four major sports.
One reader, a Mrs. P from Reading, Pa., went so far as to write that the column angered her entire family, all of whom play soccer. Does this include her pets? I am filled with shame.
As any politician will tell you, it doesn’t pay to alienate the soccer moms. So I am officially considering the installation of soccer as our fifth major sport, and devoting this column to it. In the interest of full disclosure, let me say that I am not a big fan. But I’ll try to be fair. So first, let’s take a look at the history of soccer.
Charles, the Second Earl of White, invented the sport in 14th Century England. Because he stood only three feet tall by the age of 21, Charles had difficulty wielding a croquet mallet (croquet being the most popular sporting activity of the English gentry).
One day in a fit of pique, Charles threw down his mallet and began kicking the croquet balls — to the delight of servants and onlookers.
Eventually a game was developed in which a pair of croquet wickets were arranged as goals and sides were chosen. These early soccer games were furious and lengthy, with no tea break. Squirrels were tethered to the wickets to serve as goalies, with often-tragic results.
Eventually the ball was enlarged, as were the players, and squirrels were replaced with people, becoming the game of soccer as we know it today.
Soccer came to the American colonies in the early 1700s and was promptly sent back. Americans, you see, don’t like to use their feet for anything other than walking. To us, kicking an object should be an unusual, isolated event, accompanied by cursing and perhaps resulting in a large cat being propelled through a doorway. Now, combine kicking and running? No thanks.
Let us now look at the game itself. To kick an object back and forth, to distribute it to someone else and then get it right back again is, to us, quite a foreign concept. We don’t like any sport where players are doing things such as “distributing the ball,” and “spreading the field,” and “acting in concert toward the common good.” That smacks of communism. Soccer players are redistributionists. Our pathological fear of Marxist dogma is preventing us from embracing the sport.
We are capitalists, and that is reflected in our version of soccer — football. In football, you get the ball and you keep it — none of this free distribution of goods. Just try and take the ball away from me! The object of football is to invade the other team’s territory, taking over chunks of land, one piece at a time, marching on and on, pressing forward, until everything is conquered! Also there are the horrible, life-threatening injuries. That’s the American way.
Then there is fan behavior. In soccer you have hooliganism, wherein trainloads of skinheads arrive in town to start lengthy brawls before the scheduled game. That is so un-American. In the U.S., of course, the rioting breaks out after the game. In soccer, the fans riot if their team loses — in truly American sports such as football and baseball, fans riot if their team wins.
But what are we missing? Here are a couple of the big stories in soccer recently:
The U.S. national team lost to the Netherlands, 2-0, in the World Cup Tune-up Tour. It is our opinion that when your national team loses to the Netherlands in anything, it’s time to sit back and take stock. What’s next, a loss to Iceland? The Marshall Islands? It’s just plain embarrassing.
More significantly, though, is that the game, broadcast by ABC, got only a 1.3 rating and a 3 share (each ratings point represents 1.55 million households). Even the last XFL TV ratings were better than that.
ABC and ESPN will broadcast the World Cup, live from Japan and South Korea, with games at 2:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. (ET). You know, even Lawnmower Racing is broadcast at a decent hour. I’m not setting the alarm on my clock radio for 2:30 a.m., even if Anna Kournikova is in the next room.
Major League Soccer just has not taken off like people thought it would. Did you know that Miami’s Alex Pineda Chacon leads the MLS in scoring? I’m pretty sure this is not exactly common knowledge in my household (just a moment — I’ll go into the living room and ask Ms. Kournikova).
Soccer is, however, very popular at the youth level, where kids can get a lot of exercise and have fun naming their team things like “The Rad Electric Bumblebee Posse” (your team name may vary. I hope). But the sport is, I fear, nothing more than a very elaborate babysitter. Many youth games end up in scoreless ties, prompting the question, what was it all for? All that running around for nothing. They might just as well have be watching The X Files finale.
After further review, I have to say that we have enough pro sports — we’re stopping at four. We are no longer accepting new applications at this time. Sorry, soccer. We’ll keep you application on file.
— Rick Chandler’s interactive sports column, Capacity Crowd, can be found at NBC.com.
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