I Got Kicked In the Face Once and It Was Not Pleasant

In eight and a half hours, the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team will take on Algeria for the right to advance to the second round of the World Cup.  I will be watching that game, simultaneously getting ready for work while trying not to piss myself.  It is my ardent hope that the U.S. team that showed up in the second half of the Slovenia game decides to show up in the first half of the Algeria game, thus allowing me to relax given our relatively comfortable lead at halftime.

I doubt that will happen, though, as the U.S. National Team hates me the way that all professional sports teams from Cleveland hate me.

The Cup of Life

The World Cup is perhaps my favorite sporting event.  Let's face facts, nothing matches its scope, that's for sure.  I think the fact that it only happens every four years adds to the drama.  It's bad enough when the Indians blow a 3 games to 1 lead and lose a chance to go the World Series and, in turn, have to go an entire year before even theoretically being in that spot again.  But every four years?  Are you kidding me?  People talk about basketball players going pro right after they graduate high school -- that's nothing.  National teams get those kids on the pitch fast, because they need to squeeze as many World Cup appearances out of them as they can.

Lunatic that I am, I also enjoy the spectacle of the World Cup as it unfolds in America.  I once made the comment that, during the World Cup, most sports writers and sports fans in this country turn into insecure straight men in a gay bar.  Sure, soccer's okay, but why do they have to throw it in our faces like this?  I don't care if they do it in the privacy of their own country, but why are they so over the top?  It's only appropriate that the first few rounds should take place during Pride Month here in the States.  I would imagine someone like Jim Rome probably goes home every day during the World Cup and masturbates to old NFL Presents episodes just to prove that he's a real man.

More Crazy People

Then there's Colin Cowherd, a host on ESPN Radio who I generally find intolerable, but I suppose that's how you have to act to get ratings in today's media.  ESPN Radio has been running a promo for Cowherd's show lately that consists of him talking about soccer.  He claims he's a soccer supporter, but that he gets tired of 5'7" guys named Ethan telling him how sophisticated the game is.  Colin doesn't think it's sophisticated at all.

Aside from the fact that Cowherd himself can't be much more than 5'7", or how this theoretical person's size applies to the point at hand (or his name, for that matter), I honestly have to wonder: are these imaginary people that Colin is having these conversations with?

I have followed soccer for decades and I don't think I've ever had anyone tell me it's sophisticated.  Heck, most people who know anything about the sport will tell you that the major leagues around the world are controlled by criminals and operated by thugs.  The fact that soccer is unsophisticated is why it has thrived; anyone -- absolutely anyone -- can play it.

Is calling it "The Beautiful Game" self-aggrandizing?  Of course, but let's not forget that we are a country that dubs are football, baseball, and basketball winners "world champions," without actually giving the rest of the world a vote on that.

Spies Are Everywhere!

Also, can we please dispense with this non-sense about soccer never catching on in America?  Of course it won't catch on at the professional level.  It's insane to think that it will ever be anything but a niche market.  Is the sport itself to blame?  Sure, but only partially.  The NBA, MLB, and NFL in particular are run by business men who are very good at there jobs.  There's no room for another major professional sport in this country.  Those three leagues have done their damnedest to make sure that at least one (if not more) of them is on TV every single day throughout the year.  The NFL has turned extending its season (even when there are no games) into an art form.  The only places for soccer teams to have any chance for success are in second tier cities, and more often than not, they are embraced -- but Columbus, Ohio is never going to sell as many tickets as Chicago.

But that's just on a professional level.  Don't look now, but the majority of your children are learning how to socialize by playing soccer.  That's right: an essential building block in your child's development involves playing a sport that makes "real" sports fans uneasy.  That's got to be a difficult thing to accept...

...almost like being torn between national pride and the fact that soccer's not a "real" sport.