World cup television ratings in the USA are the highest they have been since 1994 when the United States hosted the World Cup. Despite the fact that none of the games have been shown in prime time, 99.2 million Americans (34% of the population of the country) have watched at least 6 minutes of a World Cup game so far this year. Ratings analysis show the average World Cup viewer is younger and more affluent than the average TV viewer. The United States is lobbying to bring the 2018 or 2022 World Cup to the United States. It seems like a good bet the USA will host the 2022 cup since the 2018 cup will likely be held in Europe.
Despite all this, many right wing pundits are virulently anti-soccer. As the World Cup began on June 10, there was what seemed to be a coordinated attack on the World Cup by right wing talk radio. On his June 10 program, G. Gordon Liddy asked, “Whatever happened to American exceptionalism?” Liddy noted that “this game … originated with the South American Indians and instead of a ball, they used to use the head, the decapitated head, of an enemy warrior.” The game actually originated in England in the 1860’s. The right wing Media Research Center’s Dan Gainor said “…soccer is designed as a poor man or poor woman’s sport” and that “the left is pushing it in schools across the country.” He added that the sport of soccer “is being sold” as necessary due to the “browning of America.”
Glenn Beck says soccer is the “worst sport in history.” He says “Barack Obama’s policies are the World Cup” and “we don’t like the World Cup, we don’t like soccer, we want nothing to do with it.” Beck stated that likewise, “the rest of the world likes Barack Obama’s policies, we do not.” Beck added “those who like the World Cup … they’re the most likely to riot,” commenting that by contrast, “I haven’t seen the baseball riots.” He later said of soccer, “I hate it so much, probably because the rest of the world likes it so much, and they riot over it, and they continually try to jam it down our throat.”
As a father of 3, I really like soccer because it is an easy game for children to learn. It promotes physical fitness and teamwork. It does not require a lot of expensive equipment. In soccer, everybody gets to touch the ball and the best player emerges based on merit. By contrast, in American Football, the coaches determine who gets to touch the ball and that is sometimes based on favoritism. Those are the reasons soccer is being played more and more in the schools, not some sort of leftist conspiracy.
NFL football is still my favorite sport. I was not a soccer fan growing up, but since my kids play I have developed an appreciation for the game. My kids and I actually learned the names of soccer teams and players by playing video games. I have come to appreciate the soccer club teams, national teams, and the spirit of the fans.
Soccer has been the most popular youth recreational sport in America for 30 years, but it is not one of the “big four” major league spectator sports. Maybe it has not made it in America because there are no time outs and therefore few opportunities for TV advertisements. Some of the other challenges soccer faces here are the low scoring matches, the difficulty to score a goal (especially in the clutch), and games that end in a tie. Soccer is not a sport invented in America like the big three sports of baseball, basketball, and football. On the positive side, younger generations have grown up playing soccer and soccer is loved by the growing Latino population.
I can see soccer passing Hockey in popularity in America in my lifetime. All it will take is a breakout performance by the US team in the World Cup. It seems absurd to me that the right wing radio talkers are so anti-soccer. Their criticism seems to be based on ignorance and irrational fears. The comments about the “browning of America” are clearly racist and say a lot about what is really behind the conservative agenda. It seems that the beautiful game has many ugly critics.
by Greg Martinez