Yahoo has decided to promote the World Cup by prominently featuring scores to games on its home page. Last night, I saw a World Cup game playing on some of the TVs at a local sports bar. Thus does an event that used to receive as much coverage in America as spelling bees in Uzbekistan creep slowly into the American consciousness.
This is not a good thing. As I noted four years ago, soccer is the metric system in short pants. It's akin to the invasive foreign species that disrupt our landscape and waterways, like the ugly but prolific Asian carp moving ever closer to the Great Lakes, much to the horror of local anglers.
That soccer has made great progress in America as a sport children play, and even some progress as a spectator sport, cannot be denied. I remember the brilliant SCTV parody of The Godfather, in which one Mafia family was trying to force its cable channel, "Ugazzo Home Vision," on the other families, who were understandably unpersuaded of the merits of a channel featuring Bollywood movies and "hours and hours of soccer." Now, of course, many cable systems do indeed offer "hours and hours of soccer."
What has stalled the progress of soccer in this country--apart from the fact that it is so boring as to be sleep-inducing--is the same thing that prevented the metric system from supplanting our customary system of weights and measures in the 1970s: it is seen as an unnecessary foreign intrusion. After all, we Americans invented three great spectator sports, football, baseball, and basketball. We don't need to import an inferior spectator sport from abroad, even if the rest of the world likes it. Or maybe because the rest of the world likes it. Indeed, the American rejection of both soccer and the metric system represent a healthy spirit of patriotic defiance. Of course, such defiance is directly contrary to the steady drumbeat for globalization that has been sounding from the elite media for decades.
I don't want to see America globalized, and that includes American sports. I want soccer to remain of interest only to those who play it. Which is why I was a little disappointed when Yahoo told me that the American soccer team had come from behind and tied Slovenia today. I have nothing against the athletes representing our country in the World Cup, but there is nothing like defeat to cause the TVs in sports bars now showing the World Cup to be turned to different channels.
Thomas Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He writes from Cleveland, Ohio.