America’s Mentality Slows Soccer’s Popularity

    But in terms of per capita viewers and participants, the U.S. lags behind other countries.

    It’s not that soccer is boring — far from it. Just the other day, Didier Drogba of Chelsea FC hit a goal against Everton that had more movement than Hoyt Willhelm’s wicked knuckleball (Willhelm, of course, being the Hall of Fame pitcher widely known as the best knuckleballer ever to play baseball). Even those that find the sport dull can get into a game if they see a goal or two, a slick pass here or there and a “Did you see that?!” moment during a few minutes of play. It’s not because of the lack of excitement that the game hasn’t caught on. Rather, as Americans, we were not raised on it, and we do not breathe it as a national consciousness.

    From a young age, our society has taught us that baseball is the “American” game and football is where the toughest, coolest guys go to prove their manliness. Basketball is like football without pads. You bang around and can show your skill and strength on the court against your friends.

    But it’s hard to prove your manliness in America on the soccer pitch. There’s just something about flitting around, kicking a ball that doesn’t seem manly or tough. It’s just something that has been engrained in our young, brutish American heads.

    For other countries, however, baseball is not their pastime — soccer is. Soccer is the test of skill and strength rather than football or baseball.

    In short, this is because Americans have a superiority complex. The most-watched games here are football and basketball. We don’t want to know if other countries could beat us, as we honestly don’t think that they could, and the possibility that they might is threatening.

    The NBA Finals are totally within the U.S. (excluding the Toronto Raptors, but when have they ever been good?). The Super Bowl is also exclusively American. At the risk of sounding redundant, the World Series is really the North American Series, as only U.S. and Canadian teams can play. Nevertheless, the winners of all these games claim to be “world champions.” Americans do not care to see other international competition as legitimate due to this very superiority complex, which, I think, is just a product of social ignorance.

    The U.S. hasn’t been seriously challenged politically since the War of 1812. Since then, no enemy army has set foot in our territory, and we came out on top in each of the World Wars. Thus, historically, the U.S. has always found the best competition within its own borders.

    In Europe, however, soccer unites and divides; it’s where your entire country comes to compete, and every little nuance in the game is ingrained in its citizens from a young age, because that’s how it’s always been. It has “always” been that way because the best competition for European and South American countries has always been amongst themselves and against other countries in the world.

    Young players grow up hoping to represent their nation in the World Cup. They do not simply hope to make it to the big leagues, or to the NFL or NBA. They want to be part of a team that goes into every match with national pride on the line. They want to prove they are from the best country in the world, and they are willing to take on anyone to prove it. Thus, the countries find self-worth on the soccer pitch, not on the baseball field or basketball court.

    In America, this aspect of international competition might not be feasible, as fans cannot just go to Europe, the Middle East or Asia to watch a game.  But the MLS is becoming more and more popular and it is possible that it may one day rival the other major American sports.

    However, with the near-dismal performance of the U.S. team in the World Cup, the U.S. still has a long way to go before soccer becomes a mainstream sport. Such a shift would be a cultural and societal shift away from baseball and basketball, meaning that it’s a slow time frame for success for the sport. (Unless, of course, the sports gods want to really shake things up, and we manage to win the World Cup.)

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