Millions of Americans are currently enthralled with the performance of our USA soccer team in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, as evidenced by the eruption of cheers when Landon Donovan scored a goal in the final minutes of the match against Algeria.
His winning goal has been hailed as a watershed moment in American sports history, and “futbol” fans are predicting he will be talked about years from now in the same breath as Hank Aaron, Joe Namath, Bobby Orr and Wilt Chamberlain.
Sorry folks, it’s just not going to happen, despite the praying by CNN’s United Nations correspondent, Richard Roth, to make it so.
It’s not that I detest soccer/futbol, but the reality is that Americans have not taken to the sport. As a native Houstonian, I sport the gear of the Houston Rockets, Texans, Astros and my Texas A&M Aggies (Houston has the largest concentration of Aggies), but the MLS’ Houston Dynamo didn’t make the cut.
Every year, I hear fans say that “it’s just around the corner” or “this is the year” or “the moment has arrived” when soccer is accepted along the lines of football, baseball and basketball. To be honest, even the National Hockey League has suffered immeasurably. And judging by TV ratings, the lack of a major TV deal and limited stars well known to non-hockey fans, it’s safe to say it is no longer viewed as one of the four major sports.
There are a myriad number of reasons why soccer hasn’t caught on, but no one can say it’s because of the lack of interest among the nation’s youth. Millions of kids nationwide play the sport, from inner cities to the suburbs. Yet once they become teenagers, soccer falls by the wayside and the interest shifts to baseball, football and basketball.
There have been several attempts at launching a major professional sports league, and the latest is the Major League Soccer (MLS), which has been around since 1993.
The league has valiantly tried to reach the big time, but it has struggled and largely caters to its small but loyal audience. If you walked into any sports bar in America and those there could choose which games to watch, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour or the National Hockey League would all likely win out over MLS.
Although I’m not personally a soccer fan, I’ve watched a few minutes of the World Cup. But it simply hasn’t been a “must see” for me like the Ryder Cup or even the Olympics.
And to be honest, the Olympic Games are probably the greatest comparison in terms of measuring the interest of soccer to American fans. Every four years, we go nuts over our “amateur” athletic stars. We cheer wildly when the U.S. bobsled team wins gold, love to see our track stars fly around the oval, and are enthralled with gymnastics. But once the Olympic Games have ended, we store our “USA! USA!” chants for four years.
I consider myself to be a huge track fan and would love to see it on TV more, but the reality is that in other parts of the world, track stars are treated like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Yet if Usain Bolt walked through a mall anywhere in America, he might get a few stares, but he wouldn’t be bombarded with autograph requests for photos, even though he is the Kobe of the track world right now.
So soccer/futbol fans worldwide, don’t take it as insult that Americans don’t worship soccer the way you do. Everyone has their likes and dislikes. That’s really just fine. You do you, and we’ll do what we do.
As for the World Cup, I’ll be cheering for the Donovan-led USA soccer team to do well, while flipping back and forth to the NFL and NBA cable channels, pining for my two favorite sports to return in the fall.
It’s just the American in me.
Roland S. Martin is an award-winning CNN analyst and the author of the forthcoming book “The First: President Barack Obama‘s Road to the White House as originally reported by Roland S. Martin.” Please visit his website at www.RolandSMartin.com. To find out more about Roland S. Martin and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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