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Forget the World Cup Hype. America Will Never Embrace Soccer

Forget the World Cup Hype. America Will Never Embrace Soccer
ussoccer.com

Sure, you bought a USA jersey and all your hipster friends are talking about tactics, ball control and midfield strikers.

ESPN's networks are enjoying stellar World Cup ratings. And the BBC says "the U.S. has emerged as the pre-eminent English-speaking football nation at this World Cup."

Not to side with Ann Coulter, but she's right about one thing: America will never, ever be a soccer-loving nation:

Coulter suggests that any growing interest in soccer is the result of the so-called "browning of America" - the influence of Latino immigration on our culture - and that this interest in futbol is also "a sign of the nation's moral decay."

(This is how the extreme right-wing dishes out its racism these days - very cleverly.) 

The problem for Coulter's argument is that the opposite, in fact, is the case: When immigrants come to America, history as proven time and again that their cultures get bleached and their children adopt U.S. customs. (Gangs, for example, are an American phenomenon.)

I'm the case in point: The U.S.-born son of a soccer-loving Mexican man, I couldn't care less about the sport. Today's World Cup-obsessing immigrants are likely to get stuck with kids like me. Just as they shed their parents' Spanish, they'll come to view soccer as somewhat weird and foreign. Which it is.

Because, let's face it. The stereotypes about soccer - the yawn-inducing 0-0 games, the obscure strategies and fouls, the absence of a warrior spirit - are all true. America loves action. And it loves the taste of blood. This nation was born through violence, and it loves its guns: Give us NFL clashes, NASCAR crashes and UFC bashes and we're good.

But the biggest reason we will never be a soccer nation is more complicated than that:

America likes to be No. 1, and we'll do anything, including stacking the deck and rewriting history, to maintain the assertion that we are the best, if only in our own minds. 

This land was rightfully conquered (not stolen), our wars were won or at least not lost (Vietnam, anyone?), our Major League Baseball ends with a world champion (!), our football ends in the Super Bowl, and our Olympic medal counts are manipulated to show that we, of course, are on top.

Never mind that the rest of the world doesn't see any of this our way.

Our top sports are fairly indigenous, too: Baseball and football have their Anglo influences, sure. Basketball bears resemblance to a sport played in Mexico for hundreds of years. But all are now distinctly American. (That's how we get to declare our winning team the world champion.) Even NASCAR takes the perfectly good sport of auto racing and Americanizes it by having rednecks go in circles and crash into each other. 

If there were some way to get more blood out of soccer, and to up the scoring, it might have a chance.

But even then, there's a big problem: We are not the best at soccer. And since FIFA is a global organization, it would be hard for us to manipulate this game in our favor. For example, any attempt to declare a "world champion" soccer team in the United States based only on domestic play would, of course, be laughable.

Forget the World Cup Hype. America Will Never Embrace Soccer
ussoccer.com

But all these Latino immigrants will someday give team USA a World Cup-winning squad, right?

Here's a question: When's the last time Mexico won the cup? Yeah.

How do we become invested in a sport where we really have no chance? We don't. Other nations with cultures more resilient than ours have no problem rooting enthusiastically for teams that couldn't win a high school match. But for America, it's all or nothing.

We at least try to pick fights we can win.

And there's isn't much chance we'll grow on soccer, either.

Sure, there's talk of the millennial generation diving in, perhaps because they're the children of those soccer moms we hear so much about.

Phooey.

Every American kid since the 1970s played soccer when they were little. It's the easiest sport to adopt: You run, you kick, you get exercise even if you suck. But that doesn't translate into becoming an adult soccer fan. Sorry, it just doesn't - or we would have seen soccer conquer America long before the millennials came of age.

Echo Park hipsters wearing Brasil jerseys? Puleeze. It's a fad, like everything else Echo Park hipsters do. Those jerseys, along with over-sized Ray-Bans, will be gracing local landfills in no time.

And the ratings are huge, you say? 

ESPN networks drew almost 11 million viewers for USA vs. Germany. Univision had more than 3 million. That's 14 million or so American soccer watchers - for one of America's best showings in modern World Cup competition. 

An average NFL game, which draws its audience mainly from the two cities involved? About 20 million.

Soccer's conquest of America, just like the so-called reconquista of the Southwest by people with names like mine, is sorely overrated. Sorry to disappoint you, Ann Coulter. But at least you'll sleep well.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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