When it comes to soccer, we’re not so worldly
Contrary to popular belief, the world does stop turning. It happens once every four years.
Responsible for applying the brakes is the World Cup. During the month-long soccer tournament, jobs, elections and wars are viewed as trivial inconveniences, items better left on the shelf for another day.
In the Ivory Coast, which is playing in its first World Cup, rebel groups are suspending their civil war until after the championship on July 9. In Mexico, elections are on hold because leaders there realized nobody would pay attention anyway.
Outside the United States and Canada, employees who call in sick soon discover their bosses also have a crippling disease that won’t be cured for a month. Not to worry. On July 10, everybody will feel better and the world will rotate again.
Except, of course, in America where nothing changed.
“As all we snobby Americans know, the only thing worse than soccer is warm beer,” Jim Armstrong wrote in the Denver Post. “So it’s official, then. There’s no reason for anyone from the United States to go to Germany to watch the World Cup. … Just because Europe and a half-dozen llama herders in the Andes care about kickball doesn’t mean I have to.”
Armstrong’s statement is grossly inaccurate on a global scale, though it effectively summarizes the United States’ interest in soccer. His also is the typical American response to anything we don’t understand.
Whether it’s politics or sports, we prove our arrogance by dismissing others who don’t agree with us. Instead of understanding why the rest of the world enjoys soccer, we choose to massage the importance of our own sports.
It’s too bad, though, since about 1.3 billion people watched Brazil beat Germany in the 2002 World Cup “kickball” final – almost one-third of Earth’s population. With 400 million people living in Europe, Armstrong must think the other 630 million viewers were llama herders in South America bunched together in mud huts. He couldn’t be more wrong.
By comparison, the 2002 Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and St. Louis Rams was seen by 131.7 million people worldwide. But 170 million people in Indonesia alone watched the World Cup, and the island nation didn’t even qualify for the tournament. Of the 18 most-tuned in countries for the World Cup four years ago, 15 of them were located outside of Europe and South America.
According to Nielsen Media Research, Asian nations Thailand, South Korea, China, Indonesia and Malaysia accounted for the largest TV audiences for the 2002 World Cup. For South Korea’s first-round game against Poland in 2002, 56 percent of the country’s potential audience watched the Red Devils triumph 1-0.
Meanwhile, the United States made it to the quarterfinals in 2002 – its best showing since 1930 – and about 2 percent of our nation’s potential audience watched us lose to Germany 1-0. And there’s the rub with Americans.
In addition to Europe and South America, other parts of the world are increasing their interest in soccer while we remain confused. So do something different this World Cup. View the games through a different lens. Figure out why the world is captivated by “kickball.”
Because while Americans believe they hold the global walking stick, the world has made it clear they love our Coca-Cola and they can do without our sports. The rest of the world could be wrong, but I doubt it.
Jeremy Evans is a sports writer for the Tahoe Daily Tribune. He can be reached at 530-542-8010 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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