football is the world’s game. I don’t think it will ever be America’s game because it doesn’t fit our personality. As I grow older, I’m beginning to appreciate the game more and more. It is called the beautiful game. In America, though it’s just called a game. One most could do without. Or, one that people will look at every four years because the rest of the world is so crazed about it. A game that divides people in this country but unites them every where else. I’m convinced most Americans don’t like the game simply because we don’t dominate it like we do every other sport. If America ever rose up and became a soccer giant, more people would like it, but only because it would be another thing to hang our hat on and say, “Look at us, we’re the best.”
When we started losing at basketball what did we do, we took the best basketball players and put them on a team together for two years so that when the olympics came we could slaughter everyone by 30 points. Make no mistake, this country celebrates winners. Our sports are our greatest past time. America invents sports. Not for the love of the game, but for the competition. We want to see who is the best. I have no doubt that if we were to solely focus on one sport, there is no country in the world that could compete with us. I don’t say that arrogantly, I say it as a fact. Soccer is the fourth most popular sport in this country. That means that our best athletes play 3 other sports. If those athletes were trained to play a single game like soccer at a young age like every other country, with the resources this country has I just don’t think another country could compete.
It’s also kind of why I hope soccer never catches on in this country. We like sports with scoring. We like basketball because two teams will combine for 200 points. We like offensive football games. We like high scoring baseball games. We like offense. Soccer isn’t like that. It’s beautiful in that the only true way to watch a game is to be there. There are no timeouts, there is no stoppage. There aren’t a ton of goals scored. If you blink, you will miss it. It’s the build up. It’s watching a goal develop and then being let down by a near miss. When you score a goal in soccer, you have accomplished a great thing. You can score 20 points a game in basketball and have an off night. You can throw 3 touchdowns in an American football game and have it be considered mediocre. You can get two hits in baseball, but if you don’t get them at the right time it’s not enough. A goal in soccer is good for the whole game. A goal in soccer is not a single event like a hit or touchdown or basket. A goal in soccer represents the culmination of several different skills, the ball being in the right place with a pass, a person being in the right place running without the ball, a defender being in the wrong place by not being in position and a little bit of luck that it all comes together at the same moment. It may only happen a few times a game.
Soccer in other countries is the closest thing I can compare to southern college football. The passion. The singular nature of the sport. Living in the south for so many years, I can tell you that people care about the other professional sports, but there is only one allegiance that matters, and that’s to your college football team. It’s not about the names, it’s not about the particular plays of the game. It’s about the rivalries. In a rivalry game, you don’t care if it’s the ugliest win ever…you just want to win. Success is measured by how you do in those games. In both sports, the people in the stands are part of the team. After every touchdown in a college football game the band plays and the entire stands sing in unison. In soccer, the crowd sings in unison at every game. After every game, the players interact with the fans. In soccer, they make their entrance with a child, it’s symbolic of the next generation of players that will come after them. They are all one team. The players are just extensions of the people, doing what they can’t with their God-given natural ability and hard work. Soccer and American college football would have thousands of people if their teams never won a game. South Carolina a few years ago sold out every game, 80,000 people, to see their team lose every game. The sport is part of it, but the bond you have with other fans is why you love it with these two sports.
Soccer isn’t made for TV. It’s another reason I think it will never catch on in our country. It’s a pure 90 minutes of non-stop poetry. It’s not built to have commercials put in to appease advertisers. A great soccer player is great even if his team’s not. He is one that people admire simply for his brilliance. It’s like watching someone’s mind work except you are seeing them do it with their feet. An American sports player is only hailed as great if he is a champion. In American football, Dan Marino was an unbelievable quarterback, but wasn’t considered the best because the team around him was sub-par. He could throw 5 touchdowns a game, but it didn’t matter if his defense gave up 6. He had no control over it. If he had a great defense and would have won a few superbowls, he’d probably be considered the best ever. He held all the records at the time he retired. He did everything he could possibly do at his position to help win the game, but at the end, he’s just considered, “one of the top quarterbacks.” He held every record. That meant that he played the position better than any other player. No one in soccer would ever say that the best goaltender who allowed the least amount of goals and made the best stops wasn’t the best simply because his team couldn’t score.
At the end, soccer is a beautiful game. It’s much like life, it takes teamwork. There is acting involved, to try and build ones reputation. Trying to pretend like someone hurt you worse than they did to get sympathy. Most of the game is spent in toil. Most is spent seemingly running endlessly. Most of the shots are misses. It’s a defensive game. People protect their prized possession, their own goal, with everything they have. In life, we all find more failure than success. Success can sometimes be a great individual effort, sometimes be being in the right place at the right time, and sometimes be a mistake by an opponent, like helping us score without doing a thing. The goal builds slowly, but happens suddenly. When it happens. It takes time to process. It’s never an immediate reaction. There is shock involved. There is surprise that it actually worked out. There is jubilation and at the end you celebrate with the people that made it happen.