For the past four days, practically the entire world has huddled around their TV sets in celebration of the world’s biggest sporting event.
Note the key word in that sentence: world’s.
Even though when February rolls around and American television stations like to hype up the Super Bowl as the biggest event each year in sports, the reality of it is that football’s national championship can’t compare to futbol’s world championship.
So why hasn’t World Cup fever swept through the United States like it has in the rest of the world?
Everyone has their own theories, but I think it’s just another example of American exceptionalism.
And no, that’s not a compliment.
Americans simply think they’re above others on pretty much every level, so why should they lower themselves to watch a sport that the “other” nations love.
Now before I get flooded with angry e-mails that call me a traitor or tell me to move my hippie ass to Mexico if I don’t like our country, let me plead my case.
I’m about as big an American sporting fan as you can find. I sit in front of my television and root for the red, white and blue in pretty much any sporting event.
I thrive for international competitions like the Davis Cup or the Ryder Cup.
I looked on in horror as our basketball team deteriorated from the Dream Team to an international laughing stock in the span of just a decade.
And I’m “that guy” who gets choked up when an American athlete sits atop a podium at the Olympics with the national anthem playing.
So don’t call me a traitor – I’m anything but. The simple truth is that the hubris of American sports fans is pretty sickening.
“Soccer’s just too boring… there’s no contact in soccer… there’s no scoring.” Trust me, I’ve heard it all.
But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why fans don’t embrace soccer.
Americans have never excelled at the world’s most popular sport, and cocky American fans can’t handle not being the best, so they wash their hands of it.
That might not be the case much longer, though. No, the Americans aren’t quite knocking on the doorstep of being the world’s best team yet. But they are one of the few nations that have continued to grow and show progress as a team over the past decade.
This year could be the year where the United States finally does break through. In the 2002 World Cup, it showed the world it was for real, making it to the Quarterfinals and beating perennial powerhouses Mexico and Portugal in the process.
Making a similar run this year could be even more impressive, as they’d be doing it without flying under the radar, and it would give proof that four years ago was not a fluke.
But before U.S. soccer gets worldwide credibility, it needs at least a respectable fanbase. I don’t expect for the typical suburban family to turn magically into Irish soccer hooligans for the next month overnight (though if you want to, you’re more than welcome to). Tuning in and cheering on your nation would be a good start, though.
I know my excitement for the World Cup has probably been annoying, but when I hear from one of my non-soccer-watching friends that he’s disappointed because today’s game against the Czech Republic is “a stupid soccer game that is going to preempt Cold Pizza on ESPN2,” it doesn’t exactly make me proud to be an American.
Hey, I’ve got nothing against Cold Pizza (besides the fact that Jay Crawford loves Ohio State), but come on: This is the World freaking Cup.
There are people in other nations that would fast for weeks just for an opportunity to watch such a festivity.
So let’s do this together: Everyone just take a deep breath, and we’ll meet in the middle. Soccer spazzes like myself will calm down, not start any riots and will calmly watch today’s game against the Czech Republic. But I better not be alone.
And who knows, if we get really good, it might turn into another thing that Americans can hold their noses in the air about.
– Bell thinks he could be a functional goalkeeper for Saudi Arabia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.