I was glued to my television during the recent World Cup and thoroughly enjoyed the 1-0 final won by the German team over Argentina.
The sport is growing in the United States due to the strong showing of the men’s team during the cup and the women’s team winning it twice in past tournaments.
There is also a quiet groundswell going for Major League Soccer (MLS) around the country, with Kansas City, Seattle and other towns starting to pack the seats.
So I find it ludicrous when I hear people criticize soccer in public or on sports talk radio as a boring sport because I know and suspect a few things.
First of all, I would venture that a lot of criticism comes from people who simply never played the game and don’t understand it. It’s fear of the unknown and they don’t know what they are talking about.
It’s the same reason why many English people find baseball completely boring. They didn’t grow up playing it and don’t understand the nuances of the game.
Being a life-long baseball fan, I love a good pitcher’s duel. But many baseball fans watch to see runs scored — hopefully on as many home runs as they can get — and are themselves bored when two great hurlers square off.
I’ve also seen my share of football games end up 6-3 that didn’t exactly register on the excitement meter. But I still enjoyed the game for the good defense played.
Why some Americans can’t understand that with soccer is beyond me. Not many goals are scored because it’s a huge field and that’s the nature of the game.
Yes, the flopping on the ground business gets old, but what most of the uninitiated don’t realize is that it’s done to give everyone a breather. Athletes who have to run for 45 minutes without official time outs are looking for a break and having played the game, believe me, they need it.
We have the same thing in our football. It’s called TV time outs and time between downs. Hockey is relatively non-stop but the players are only on the ice for 45-second shifts.
Basketball can be furious, but you don’t see fast breaks on every play and you surely see guards bringing the ball slowly up the court when teammates need to catch their breath.
Baseball is leisurely in its nature and doesn’t need many time outs, although they are still taken.
If the rule keeping hitters in the batter’s box was adhered to, the pace of baseball would pick up. I don’t find it scintilating when some guy backs out of the box after every pitch and adjusts his gloves five times. Now that is boring.
I also don’t buy the gingoistic argument that soccer is not a tough sport.
There are no pads, except for shin guards, but they don’t stop much when you take a direct kick to the lower leg. Bad knee injuries are common.
If you watched the World Cup, you likely saw players collide noggins at full speed, which has happened to me. The stars you see are just as bright as those seen after a ding taken on a football field or a fastball between the shoulder blades, two other things I’ve experienced.
I’ve got a permanent dent in my leg from playing soccer and suffered a deviated septum when I got a ball kicked directly into my face from two feet away on a five degree December morning.
Like basketball, soccer is supposed to be a non-contact sport. But if you ask anyone who has played either you will find that is simply not the case. People running in close spaces are bound to collide.
Suffice to say soccer is here to stay despite those who don’t understand it and therefore criticize it.
Making fun of the world’s most-played sport simply makes Americans look foolish.