Until last year, The Tampa Bay Rays perennially owned the worst attendance in the American League. Then, during their miracle 97-win campaign, their attendance skyrocketed to third worst! Woohoo! But at least the Rays can hang their hat on being Florida’s baseball hotbed, topping the Marlins, who can only start a wave in the audience if they install hydraulic seats.
Dan Levy wrote at the Sporting Blog about how ESPN should cover the World Cup, including sending a studio crew to South Africa. It’s probably a good idea, that way their coverage isn’t just lip service to FIFA. Levy’s underlying message seems to be that promotion of soccer in the United States is a good thing, and this is a key component in carrying out that goal.
I don’t argue with that. Just with this: “The best thing to come out of the success of the U.S. men’s national soccer team is that, finally, soccer isn’t a four-letter word in the American sports vernacular.” Maybe jokes like The Simpsons did back in the day are outdated, but the four-letter word is now nine: B-A-N-D-W-A-G-O-N.
The win over Spain last week, according to the president of U.S. Soccer, was one of three landmark soccer moments in recent memory, along with the 1994 World Cup win over Colombia and reaching the quarterfinals of the ’02 Cup. Three great moments in the last 15 years? That’s it? Hell, the Marlins have won two World Series in the last 15 years. Would a third championship have made a big difference?
This isn’t about trying to squeeze soccer into The American Casual Fan’s loaded rota of football, baseball, basketball, college sports, NASCAR, and hockey. The doubt lies in the American soccer program compared to the rest of the world’s. Europe is the ACC, and the United States is Gonzaga. And even if all of those caveats were met … would soccer still be popular?
“People in America like to win,” Levy wrote, “and on an international stage, something the United States has never done in men’s soccer.” We do love international victory (Lance Armstrong, The Dream Team, gymnastics) but when it doesn’t happen, we don’t get that worked up about it, saying “oh well” in lieu of “oh hell,” then flipping back to our own intra-national leagues. Then we zone out international competition until someone notices we beat England or Italy or some other futbol-loving foreign country, such as South Florida.