Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
I think I've finally figured it out. Finally figured why soccer (what the rest of the world calls football) isn't has popular with the general American public as the rest of the world. I believe it has everything to do with how the game ends. But before I get to my theory, here's a little history.
With all the media talking about the current FIFA World Cup, the excitement it brings to fans, and the bragging rights the host country gets just by inviting everyone to their little corner of the world, it is VERY hard to ignore. I learned first hand, several years ago when I happened to travel to England during the World Cup weekend. I had never experience anything like the zeitgeist that permeated the ENTIRE country. Even in smaller suburban towns, banners were strung down the streets, flags were flying out of many windows, faces were painted with St. George's cross and every shop and public place I walked into that weekend had a game on the loudspeaker. Oh My!
The event that came even remotely close in my mind (and in my experience) was Super Bowl XX. I lived in a Chicago suburb at the time and everyone's attention was focused on the Bears. But it was only for several hours for that one day. Traveling through the English countryside that weekend showed me that not only was the whole country focused on the Cup, but this was an extension of their national hopes and dreams. I would imagine that traveling outside of the Chicago or New England area that January in 1985 would have found people focused on the more mundane things of life. Going to England during a World Cup tourney is a once in a lifetime experience that I wouldn't trade for anything
Now getting back to my theory. Looking for the recap of the opening game of the 2010 Cup, South Africa vs. Mexico, I discovered that the game, in tournament play, ended in a tie. Wow. Really? A tie? And then it struck me. I don't know many American professional sports that allow for ties. NHL Hockey comes closest to World Cup football when it comes to ties. In hockey team rankings are scored not on Win/Lose but points, making it easier for ties to occur. HOWEVER, there is a procedure to figure out a clear ranking in case of a tie when it comes to the playoffs like FIFA football. Other American-based sports don't really allow a game to end in a tie. NBA basketball has overtime, NFL football has sudden death overtime, and MBL baseball has extra innings. While ties in baseball are allowed - they are far and few between. Even NASCAR, with their cameras on the finish line showing with exact precision what machine crosses the line first and therefore, who gets the champagne shower in the winner circle. We are a national divided into the elite winners and everyone else.
Contrary to what we may think we're teaching our young children, American society is built upon the premise of someone winning and everyone else going home empty handed. This is evident in everything from our television shows (cooking, dancing, even weight loss becomes a win/lose game), our financial markets, even our politics (if you're not with me, you're against me, and therefore you're a loser!). So when we come upon a game that allows ties, we're perplexed, confused, and, sometimes, hostile towards it because it just doesn't fit in with our preconceived notion that there are winners and losers.
With that said, I'm paying a lot of attention to the FIFA World Cup. It's the world's elegant game and since I'm part of the world - I'd like to get in on the excitement.