There's No Sport in the World More American Than Soccer
Dear football fans,
I’ve had it with the soccer jokes. Football fans making fun of soccer for being un-American is like the Marines making fun of the Navy for being seamen. For those of you who aren’t American enough to get that reference: the Marines are actually a department of the Navy, so at the end of the day, whether they want to admit it or not, Marine foxholes are full of seamen. Anyway, where was I?
Oh, right, there’s no sport in the world more American than soccer. Let me break this down for you guys:
It’s the sport of opportunity
Some sports require serious startup capital to play. No Obama-loving, welfare-fed youth is going to see polo as his way out of the inner city what with the lack of free access to horses and stuff. Same with hockey—turns out that ice time ain’t cheap. Neither is the bajillion dollars-worth of gear you need to buy in order to play it without dying. X-games? Come on, brah. Golf? Yeah, if I had a nickel for every poor black kid I ran into at my local clubhouse, I’d have twos of nickels. But soccer? Like America, aspiring stars from all socioeconomic backgrounds are welcome. All you need to play it is a ball of something, and 2 feet. (Note: second foot optional)
To succeed, you gotta work
You’re not fooling anybody, golfers. We all know your “athlete” status doesn’t come from hours spent in the gym. When this guy has 10 pro wins, you know that physical fitness isn’t exactly tops on the list of “things you need to be a pro-golfer.” Baseball, you’re in the same skill-sport boat. You can call your guys “athletes”—I have no problem with that, but ‘Merica isn’t just about the privileged brains of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. It was built on the backs of the laborers who laid railroad tracks from sea to shining sea, and it still runs on oil harvested by sweaty dudes in Levis. Any sport that wants me to really give a crap about it needs to share my American affection for the blue-collar. Basically, it can’t have fat professionals playing it.
It’s a melting pot
The NBA is slowly gaining some international flavor. Baseball too. But quick: name more than 5 non-North American-born NFL players (Janikowski doesn’t count—kickers might as well be soccer players anyway, and Janikowski played for the Polish national youth soccer team.) The Super Bowl calling itself a “world championship” is like a contest for the best YouTube video calling itself a “film festival.” Of the big 4 leagues, the NHL is the most “international,” but nobody plays hockey within Tomahawk missile range of the equator. Like America, soccer welcomes anyone from all ethnicities, every hemisphere, and every socio-economic status. You know—the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses.
It’s got the fluid, sweeping plays of hockey, the nuts and bolts strategy of baseball, the pure athleticism of basketball, the explosive strength of American football, and requires the skill of a 40-yard chip shot over water out of the rough. It’s got a little bit of everything. Imagine an America that only had purple mountain majesties, but not waves of grain. America isn’t a one-trick pony, and neither is soccer.
This summer, all of the entire world’s best soccer players will get together (with billions of people watching from every country in the world) to see who’s the best at it. No judges to eff up the scores. There will be players and teams from the richest and poorest places on earth. There will be moments of violence and jaw-dropping beauty. The best at it—those whose skill is matched by their ceaseless work ethic—will rise to the top. There’s nothing more American than all of that. And that’s why I pledged my sports allegiance to soccer long ago. God bless the U.S. of Olé.