Monday, June 23, 2014

The Four Year Bandwagon

What a sight: behold hundreds of American soccer fans promoting their national team during the tournament that makes the world hold its breath every four years. This is not to say that soccer, or football, isn't passionately observed other than during this month-long tournament. Soccer is the most popular sport in the world because it is simple and only requires a stretch of land, markings, two nets and a ball. Simplicity is key, but Americans are spoiled with excess because we always want more, which is why our relationship with the sport is complex: soccer is another one of those sports we can all gather around, but it is also too simple for our tastes.

If you mention football to any American, we'd be thinking of a sport that involves ball movement via hands for the most part. This physical sport has become America's present obsession, a modern day gladiatorial event if you will. However, if you observe what you are actually watching as you tune into Monday Night Football, you may realize that you are not watching too much action at all. For a sport with so much action, there is in reality just about 11 minutes of true actual playing time. Does that mean Americans prefer sports with less movement and action? Not necessarily, but it does mean that the sport is easier to follow. For example, in American football, the ball is so very easy to follow as you know it will go from center to quarterback to offensive specialist or sometimes defensive specialist or harmlessly to the ground. Simple. The sport was built for television because after each play, they can show a replay, fans in the stands, or an attractive cheerleader with a smile on her face even though she is getting paid less than minimum wage. This is because the rules permit the display of extra footage. Pair that with a sport that requires maximum focus to follow a ball shot across the field for two nonstop 45 minute periods and you have two sports whose only common denominator is a green field.

When I was watching a recap of the USA Men's Teams dramatic 2-2 draw with Portugal, former Dutch striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy commented that the support the team had was outstanding and that it is great that so many Americans are supporting their soccer team. If this is the image that American fans are giving to the rest of the world, the world will soon realize our bandwagon nature. After winning the opening match against Ghana in dramatic fashion, the USA team had loads of momentum as well as tons of its countrymen willing and able to jump onboard the bandwagon. The next opponent was perfect: Portugal. The team that is headlined by the one players everyone knows: Cristiano Ronaldo. Every guys favorite player to hate because every girl loves him. After the US got off to a horrid start that saw them down a goal, they found their magic in the second half by scoring the equalizer and getting the go ahead goal. The finish line was less than a minute away when Ronaldo got the ball in stoppage time and delivered a beautiful volley that was headed into the net for the equalizing final play of the game. Americans were dumbfounded.

Whether or not the Americans advance further on into the tournament, they don't have what it takes to be a world class opponent in a very, very long time. In fact, they probably won't ever come close to winning the World Cup. This is because Americans are not true soccer fans. Sure, I can understand that a team isn't supported when they are doing poorly, but it is annoying when supporters start randomly appearing when a team does well. Especially after only one game. That's all it took. A win against Ghana and everyone was suddenly sold on the team. Ghana's FIFA ranking entering the World Cup was 37, so I don't see what the big deal is. Instead, after the 2-2 result, Americans were all distraught by the heartbreaker. Their words, not mine. Entering the World Cup, I thought that against Portugal, all the US could do was hope for a draw. I was wrong because in reality, the USA gave a winning effort that was wasted by an incredible late volley. Looking at this game though, three points would have been great, but one point is not something to be ashamed of. Instead of being satisfied with a position of controlling their own destiny, the Americans are upset and quickly jumping off the bandwagon because we can't settle with a draw. In a match that the USA should've lost, leaving with a point should be a huge result that Americans should be proud of. Instead, we were left wanting more.