America is a sports-crazed nation. If you ask almost anyone, they will have a favorite team, player, or sport that he or she endlessly cheers for. I am a Chicagoan, through and through, and grew up watching and loving the Chicago Bears, Michael Jordan, and baseball like many others.
I am also a student at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism who, since May, has been studying abroad in London and interning at Snack Media.
Since arriving here, I have learned that Europeans are not that different from us. They, too, all have a favorite team, player and sport.
Almost unanimously, that sport happens to be soccer, for which my admiration has grown immensely since arriving just as the English Premier League season had finished.
It’s not every day that people from America all have a common protagonist in the world of sports. Thursday, and the last two weeks for that matter, was one of those days, as America advanced to the Round of 16 of the World Cup, marking the first time they secured a berth in the knockout stage in consecutive World Cups.
But many of you already knew that. As was the case in 1980, when the American men’s ice hockey team went on to shock the Soviet Union and ultimately win the gold medal in Lake Placid, many Americans have rallied around this team like almost never before.
One person who apparently has not, however, is Ann Coulter. Her article for the Clarion-Ledger can be found here, posted moments after the US advanced when many Americans were in a state of euphoria.
She argues, or at least attempts to, that Americans interest in soccer is a sign of “moral decay”, which has no standing definition to begin with, because morality, or what is right or wrong in the world, varies depending on whom you ask.
It’s fairly apparent that you’ve never even watched soccer, Ann, as individual achievement is not what wins and loses games in a sport that has 11 people on the field at one time. It requires the highest level of conditioning, precision, strategy, and teamwork to achieve greatness. If all 11 cogs aren’t working together and on the same page, breakdowns will happen.
That sounds an awful lot like this years Super Bowl, when the Seattle Seahawks were just a bit more in-sync with each other than the Denver Broncos. The result? A 43-8 drubbing that lost my interest after the second-half kickoff.
Because soccer games are generally so low-scoring (although this World Cup has thus far been the highest scoring since 1970), wouldn’t that mean more excitement and drama than a blowout Super Bowl that lost my interest by the opening kickoff of the second half?
Whether it’s a scoreless draw or a 1-0 finish, like the US’ last-second victory over Algeria in 2010, that’s what keeps sports fans watching time and time again.
You don’t think individual achievement or blame happens in soccer? Look no further than Luis Suarez, Uruguay’s star striker who had surgery on his knee and battled back a mere four weeks later to lead his country to a stunning 2-1 victory over England, scoring both goals in the process.
Four days after, Suarez has the soccer world against him after his now infamous biting incident saw him earn a four-month ban from all competition. Honestly, is there anything than merits more personal disgrace in the western, more “civilized” nation than biting someone?
You want tough, “warfare” moments? The US’ Clint Dempsey broke his nose against Ghana and kept playing a game where a ball can fly 65 miles per hour (104 kilometers/hour, since you’re such a fan of the metric system) into your face. Uruguay’s Alvaro Pereira was knocked unconscious during their match against England, only to return to action a few minutes later.
But you’re right, catching a fly ball is just so “dangerous”.
I laugh that you say soccer is not “catching on” with African-Americans, as the likes of DeMarcus Beasley, Tim Howard, and Jermaine Jones, all of whom have at least one African-American parent, all start and have played every minute for the US.
You don’t think people in America care about soccer? You’re right in saying that 18.2 million viewers watched the US-Portugal match on ESPN, but that doesn’t scrape the surface. Another 6.5 million people in America watched it on Univision. That combined figure of 24.7 was the most ever watched soccer game in the US, so it’s not really true when you say it isn’t catching on.
In fact, the average NFL game actually has a viewership of 17.6 million people, so, again, you’re wrong, and that figure was crushed by US-Portugal.
You’re right in saying that people weren’t as interested in David Beckham’s arrival in America when it first happened in 2007, but seven years later? More people would care.
Still don’t think Americans whose great-grandfathers were born here are watching? My great-great-great uncle, Morgan Gardener Bulkeley, fought in the Civil War, is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame for founding the National League, and served as senator and governor of Connecticut. I’ve watched every minute of the US’ three World Cup matches, and have no plans of stopping anytime soon.
So my advice to you is just get over it. So many people have embraced the opportunity to root for a single, unifying team that Americans rarely get. Stop turning this into a political debate about education, immigration, and the changing nature of America. It’s supposed to be fun cheering on your country, so forgive us all for doing that for a little bit longer.
By the way, how’s my English?