Considering my vast international audience, I thought I should offer some comment on the World Cup, which I know is of immense interest in most of the world outside the USA. First, I would like to ask people who want to point out that the name of the game is "football", not "soccer," to get over it, please. We quite understand that "football" is a more descriptively apt name for what we call soccer. But we didn't start calling it soccer just to annoy the rest of the world. For one thing, "football" was already taken by another sport, however illogically (since kicking the ball is far from the main feature of American football). For another, we didn't just pull the word "soccer" out of the air and start using it to annoy everybody else—we got it from the English, who, after all, invented the game.
Now, about the relative American indifference to professional soccer, discussion of which always quickly comes round to that standard American complaint: "soccer is boring." The World Cup always brings out a certain sort of American crank who denounces the sport, which in turn produces a huge argument. That took place one day last week at Inside Catholic (and please note that the idea that "soccer is ruining America" is tongue-in-cheek). I'll quote here what I said in that discussion:
...as a former soccer dad I have a mild interest in the game. And the way it's played by high-schoolers and up, male and female, it's most definitely not for sissies. Still, I never was able to get into it the way I do football and to a lesser extent baseball and basketball. I decided that the problem is a lack of tension. In football, for instance, you have a series of well-defined dramatic moments that end in victory or failure (each play), within the longer story of each first down series, within the longer story of each possession and its attempted march toward the goal, within the longer story of the entire game. There's a lot of tension and release.
But soccer, for those who aren't expert in it, seems pretty aimless--run up and down the field, kick the ball all over the place, and keep doing that for ten, twenty, thirty minutes or more without any one significant event or milestone like a first down, to say nothing of a goal. The same might be said of basketball but the frequent shooting and scoring gives it some drama. In baseball you have the drama of every pitch, with a huge variety of possible significant outcomes. In soccer teams can go a while without even getting a shot on goal. 90-minute games end in a score of 3-2. I'm sure it can be exciting if you can see the subtleties, but most Americans can't.
I should amend that: 3-2 is actually a fairly high-scoring game. One of the first games in this World Cup, I think, ended 0-0, another 1-0.
And of course (heh): England 1, USA 1. I was interested enough to want to see this game, but I didn't think I was going to be able to, as my wife and I had other obligations. As it happened we ended up having a late-ish lunch in a coffee shop where the game was on TV. And I was lucky enough to see the one USA goal.
I must say, though, that as the father of a former goalkeeper I couldn't help feeling really bad for England's goalie. Even someone who doesn't know the game well could see that it was a massive error on what should have been an easy stop. There's an appropriately sportsmanlike comment from the American side here ("You never want to see that for an opposing player").
Still, we earned some respect, since there was a whole half left to play. My daughter tells me that The Daily Show (which I don't like) a few days ago featured some English comedian making fun of the whole idea of an American playing soccer. This is for him: