I’ve always been curious why American sports fans have been so slow to love soccer with the same passion as the rest of the world. The most common explanations for our soccer apathy – Americans grow up playing other sports, have a saturated sports market, and until fairly recently didn’t have a competitive national team-are all true but don’t feel like a complete explanation for why so many Americans still look at this World Cup as just a pleasant way to pass the time before the start of “real” football season in the fall.
The answer seemed so elusive until I spent a few weeks talking soccer with American friends and fans ahead of my trip to Rio de Janeiro and then it suddenly became obvious as Cristiano Ronaldo’s contempt for his teammates:
Hardcore American soccer fans are incredibly irritating and the last type of people new fans of the game would ever want to sit next to at a bar.
Now hold on, before all you soccer people start throwing Robben-style temper tantrums as if you’ve been bitten by Luis Suarez (awesome name drops by me), pay to attention to what I am NOT saying:
- I am NOT implying that American fans don’t know the game. In fact, the opposite is true,which is kind of part of the problem.
- I am NOT arguing that American fans lack passion. The level of passion is again also part of the problem
- I am NOT saying that soccer isn’t a great game beloved by billions. It is. I acknowledge that so save all your World Cup vs Super Bowl stats
- I am NOT speaking as a person who doesn’t like soccer. True, I’ll probably always prefer hoops and football but I appreciate all the things that make soccer a great game.
So calm down, spare me your “soccer is so much better than [insert any human activity]” messages, and see if you are among the:
FIVE TYPES OF US FANS RUINING SOCCER FOR EVERYONE ELSE
1. The Defeatist.
These are the world futbol sycophants who think the quality of even the worst team in Europe is better than every single team the US has ever had. The Defeatist attaches a conversational asterisk to every American success with “wait till we play The Netherlands or Germany then you’ll see real futbol (they also pronounce football as “futbol” as if they weren’t from Connecticut).
The truth is there was not a single team in the World Cup that the US could have defeated that would have be a bigger surprise than a collection of college and minor league hockey players defeating one of the most powerful teams ever as the US did when it beat the Soviets at Lake Placid. I watched every second of Germany v USA at Copacabana in Rio among tons of German fans sweating bullets that we were going to win.
We are not far off so stop measuring progress by the quality of our losses and taking moral victories from noble defeats.
2. Superiority Complex Fans: Soccer players run more than any other athletes. Soccer is the most sophisticated sport. The Super Bowl is only big in the USA but the rest of the world doesn’t care. Soccer is so beautiful to watch because its just like life. I could go on though I imagine that if you’re like me then you’re probably ready to hurl your computer out the window.
If soccer is so free from blemish then why do Superiority Complex Fans feel the need to be such obnoxious pests in reminding us all the time? I think soccer is great but imagine if Zoe Saldana spent your entire conversation explaining why she is so beautiful? You’d barely be able to tolerate your next ten dates with her. These people are the bastard siblings of…
3. Inferiority Complex Fans: Here is the thing that confuses me the most about American soccer fans: why do they care so much about who else likes soccer? What is it about rooting for soccer in America that makes its fans so damn insecure? Talk to any of these fans for more than thirty seconds and you get hit over the head about how soccer is the biggest sport in the world, and more kids play soccer than football and three times more people watch the World Cup than the Super Bowl etc. etc. etc.
If you like soccer, then just like soccer and stop lecturing the rest of us. When you meet an American football fan, even a stupid one like an SEC fan, and tell them you don’t like football, you don’t get a speech about why you should. Tell an American soccer fan you don’t like soccer though then pull up a chair and get ready for conversation more painful than talking to someone who loves kale.
4. Bob Dylan Soccer Fans: I once told a friend that I never really got into Dylan’s music because his singing too often sounded like unintelligible warbling. After recoiling in horror that I would ever voice a criticism of “Bob” my friend actually said, “if you don’t like Bob Dylan its because you don’t understand the complexity and nuance and artistry.” This person was so emotionally invested in the sanctity of Dylan that they interpreted any criticism at all as a problem of ignorance without considering the validity of the argument.
Bob Dylan soccer fans operate the same way: Think the game is too slow? Its because you’re too impatient. Too much flopping and diving? You don’t get the gamesmanship. Think the sport should be doing more to fight racism? It’s better than it was, you’re just new to the game. Match fixing is so endemic that it threatens the legitimacy of the sport? Crickets.
Just because soccer is adored doesn’t mean its beyond reproach and just because a guy in a KC Chiefs hat is saying that the concept of stoppage time is idiotic doesn’t make it any less true.
5. Indie Band Soccer Fans:You know that person who takes special pride in saying that their favorite band (or worse yet favorite DJ) is some group that only they and the band’s family members know exist? The human earwig lecturing about how you shouldn’t listen to the radio and “corporate music” because its not real art like what’s’ being played by some guy on a Macbook in Prague? Then when that guy finally gets mainstream popularity their original fans resent the new fans for being too late in recognizing his greatness?
Congratulations, you’ve just met the Indie Band Soccer Fan. These are the guys who have been yammering incessantly about the greatness of soccer but are now angry at the supposed ignorance of all the people who decided to finally heed their advice and watch the game albeit with a few thousand friends in a local park while expressing bewilderment at why offsides is a penalty instead of strategy.
Look, I get it. Soccer was your secret little underground indie band that instantly made you cool when everyone else was into football/U2 and basketball/Jay-Z. I understand, I was into Mos Def and MF Doom back in ’98 so I see where you’re coming from. But think of it this way: right now in some hipster bar in Brooklyn is a guy annoying the hell out of everyone about the time he saw My Morning Jacket play in front of 12 people. Don’t be that guy.