soccer


Friends, we are in the majority.

I know it does not feel that way in bars and on certain swaths of the Internet. Even the Google Doodle has gotten in on the action.

But we Americans who Do Not Care About The World Cup are in the majority, and we must cling tightly to that fact.

It’s World Cup season. World Cup season is when one guy in your office suddenly goes nuts and pulls out all these strange flags from his desk drawer, and you realize that for the past several years, when it seemed that he was Oddly Disappointed For No Reason, it was actually that he was Following the Soccer. Now is his vengeance. Now everyone else has to start caring.

Don’t listen.

The World Cup is a grueling, multi-week ordeal. And for what? To figure out which country is the best at playing football COMPLETELY WRONG.

I object to the World Cup on several grounds. First: It is soccer.

I know they call it football. But this is not football. American Football is Football. You can tell this is not football because there are not nearly enough concussions. The only tight end involved in this game belongs to David Beckham.

No, this is soccer.

Soccer, to most American children, is something you are forced to play until you are 8. It is the thing that prompted people to give you all those unearned trophies that did something irreparable to your self-esteem and made baby boomers and the authors of trend pieces so very upset. If your experience was like mine, you mostly stood there hoping that no one would pass you the ball. If anyone did, you tripped over it. Sometimes you just fell over spontaneously. Despairing, your team tried to put you in at goalie, but instead of throwing yourself in the path of the ball, you tried to maneuver away from it because you were worried that if the ball hit you, you might get hurt.

Most of the popularity of soccer for the young seems to stem from the fact that soccer, like ballet, is something you can teach a 3-year-old to do badly without having to put in too much effort. This should tell us something. “Oh, look, Katie is standing there! What a great midfield player!” As you get older, other sports become options. True-blue American sports! Sports that require lots of expensive padding and equipment. Sports that, on the professional level, demand massive player salaries, overpriced concessions and offensive team names! That is what Sports means. (Also, it is “sports,” not “sport.” Who do these foreigners think they are, the Great Gatsby?)

Soccer used to be something you did not have to care about once you were an adult. Not having any feelings about soccer was a sign that you were no longer 8 and had finally gotten off the “Whomping Willows,” your miserable traveling team. We should keep it that way.

Furthermore, the World Cup is un-American. Explicitly so. It says “World” in the name.

If I wanted to spend 90 minutes watching foreigners beat us embarrassingly, I would just leaf very slowly through our students’ international math and science test results. I don’t want to have to cheer for France against Germany, or Italy against Turkey. What is this, 1917?

If these objections are too broad and theoretical, there is always this problem: Watching soccer is a miserable experience. It is not that it is boring. I watch baseball. It is that it is both boring and impossible to look away from. It demands the kind of constant nervous vigilance with mainly zero payoff that I thought I could save for child-rearing.

I know, in theory, that there are supposed to be fun things about soccer. The elaborate histrionics of a player taking a flop. The — elegance of it. The rivalries. People shouting “GOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL!”

I have tried watching soccer in the hopes that I am missing something. Inevitably, the game goes something like this:
Minute 1: People run around the field with a ball.
Minute 10: People run around the field with a ball.
Minute 18: Nothing has happened so far. I’m going to get a snack!
Minute 18.5: GOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL
Minute 19: People run around the field with a ball.
Minute 90: People run around the field with a ball.

As a child of the Internet, I have the attention span of a gnat that has misplaced its Adderall, and this is not for me.

It is all the fun of watching grass grow while over-excited people run around on that grass. I would compare it to watching a pot about to boil, except that a watched pot sometimes boils and a watched soccer match is still a soccer match.

Hockey is like soccer, but in hockey people still get into fights on the sidelines and carry big sticks, like Teddy Roosevelt would have wanted. Other sports are better, too. In basketball, people keep making baskets all the way through. At least in baseball you can look away because nothing exciting ever actually happens.

I guess it’s better than cricket.

And everyone says, well, if you get involved in a betting pool, the World Cup can be exciting. This is not enough. If you bet on literally anything, it gets more exciting. You could bet on which person at a retirement home will fall asleep first while listening to a lecture on ball bearings, but that doesn’t make it fun to watch.

The Olympics are fine. The Olympics go on for days and we only have to watch Americans do things Americans are good at. Sometimes, in order to make sure it stays that way, we make up entire sports, like Skiing Down A Railing or Racing In A Soul Patch.

The World Cup goes on for weeks, and by the time it is over we have been forced to cheer for Germany. This is just wrong. We are America, and, the last several foreign conflicts aside, we are only supposed to get involved in things that we can win.

If this is what Globalization has in store for us — weeks and weeks of watching more talented foreigners run around boring us to death? — then isolationism is sounding better and better every day.

Don’t give in. We don’t have to watch the World Cup. It may be the World’s most popular sport. But we aren’t the World. We are America.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.