The Beautiful Game

I recently read a friend’s thought’s on soccer, who was down on the sport. Noting the recent riot in Argentina and how television ratings suck for US's Major League Soccer, he held that soccer would never get a foothold here in the states. As a soccer apologist, I’m called once again into action.

First, about the riot and similar violence: all these actions are indefensible, but is it much different than Raiders fans throwing urine or cities rioting when their team wins a championship? You ever wonder why we hear so many of these stories concerning soccer from around the world? It's because the game is played all over throughout year; there are hundreds of professional leagues [not counting semi-pro leagues] on six continents. I'm sure if you were to take into account the number of embarrassing incidents in proportion to how many games are played, this kind of stuff would look miniscule. In fact, I'd bet that if you pulled the averages of these incidents happening among American sports, you'd find comparable results.

About the television ratings, he is right. The MLS is being watched less than the WNBA. But here's the deal: it's second rate athletics. America's professional league lacks the talent of the world's best. And bringing in Beckham and Posh ain't going to help much. But if you pay attention to World Cup ratings, you'll see that there is a US audience, but it's a selective audience; they're not going to watch crap because it's their sport. We live less than two hours from a MLS franchise and only attended one game, almost ten years ago.

But here's the thing about soccer that makes the world love it: the game is fluid. I'll give basketball the same credit; the game has a consistent flow to it. Why do you think basketball has blown up in foreign markets while baseball and football struggle? Because in those sports, the game action is choppy.  An average NFL game only contains like 15 minutes of playing time. Subtract all the 1-3 yard running plays and it gets worse. And as for baseball, it now seems it was invented to be boring.

Now I say all this as a huge sports fan who loves college and pro sports, despite all their shortcomings. We have to be honest about the entertainment we're watching [especially when the Spelling Bee gets better ratings than most sports championships]: a lot of the stuff we like is boring. But soccer is easy to hate on, especially when soccer fans do a bad job of defending their passion for the sport.

Look, I wish that people could get into soccer here but I'm also a realist: the American public [along with their ADD] are incapable of embracing soccer. It's as if it's anti-American. And that's fine. But that doesn't mean the sport lacks merit.