The Beautiful Game
It's the world's game, but a lot of us sound as though we'd rather be on another planet when soccer is on television.
The World Cup is underway, and so is the caterwauling about what's wrong with the game.
It's boring, most say, and devoid of scoring. How many 1-1 ties can a person stand?
Personally, I don't mind the game. I'm not passionate about it, either. I don't like the fact that ESPN has made the World Cup the World's Most Important Sports Story, but as Wayne Larrivee pointed out the other day on "Wisconsin's Morning News", the event is ESPN's audition for future Olympic coverage. They aren't wall-to-wall soccer because they think you can't get enough of Portugal vs. Ivory Coast. It's a dry run for a bigger moment, and a larger payday.
I can take the World Cup, and I can leave it. For those who want to spend the next two weeks of their lives at the Nomad watching futbal 24/7, I say go for it. And, if you don't give a rip, grab the remote. The rest of the sporting world goes on, unabated. There's plenty of baseball, and there's always a sports-talk radio station somewhere droning on about the Packers. You can even read breathless tweets about which third string offensive lineman was caught offsides during the just completed OTA's.
Will soccer ever join baseball and football in terms of national sports interest? Probably not, although it's popularity will rise as we become more and more of a majority/minority nation. As people come to the US from elsewhere, they'll bring their passions with them. And, with the explosion of media, there's always a spot where a fan of a niche sport can get a constant fix. There are already a couple of cable channels devoted solely to soccer (as there are for baseball, football, hockey, tennis, golf, etc.) Gorge to your heart's content.
What I don't get about soccer is the vein-bulging, eye-popping rage it triggers in some otherwise calm and collected North American sports fans. They speak of it as if it were an invasion, an assault on our culture and a threat to our way of life. They bemoan it's perceived inadequacies, the alleged lack of action, and the paucity of scoring. I love baseball and football, but I've sat through more than my share of mind-numbingly boring contests. Check out the crowd at a sold-out Brewers game and count how many fans are actually paying attention to what's happening on the field. The rap on the NBA has long been that you only need to see the last two minutes of a game to catch the gist of what went on the previous 46. NASCAR fans are a passionate, defensive lot but even they have to admit that not every race is an instant classic. Every sport has it's pluses and it's minuses. And, every fan has only so much space on the mental hard drive. There's room for some, but not all.
There are things about soccer (those obnoxious horns, the offside rule, why anyone would let their kid be called Kaka) that I'll never get. I do understand, though, that it's the world's game and that the world is more than just the US, the NFL, the NBA and MLB. If futbal is curling your toes, good for you. Fans certainly can't beef about soccer not getting its due this June. For those who are bored with the short-pants crowd, your usual diversions are there for you, as regularly scheduled. You can bitch about the Brewers to your heart's content. You can dream about a Packers Super Bowl return with virtually anyone sitting down the bar from you. You can mock draft the NBA until you blog your fingers bloody.
But please, stop complaining about the World Cup. It means no harm to your planet. It won't make you gain weight or lose the war for the Allies. It'll be done before you know it, and ESPN will again be safe for the usual summer fill-in stuff like the Little League World Series and invented crap like "Who's Now?"