Soccer is in a tough spot in this country. We do not have a healthy respect for the sport because we have such high regard for football, basketball and baseball. It’s not that we don’t acknowledge soccer; it’s that we love the other sports.
There are primarily three reasons for this: these sports belong to us, these sports capture the imagination and respect of our society and, because of one and two, these sports pay better (domestically).
Football, basketball and baseball were invented by our predecessors; they’re ours, they are part of our culture. These are the games of our fathers and although our children grow up playing soccer they quickly realize where our passion and praise as a people are directed.
And where our passions and praise are directed, the money isn’t far behind. Many stories have been told of boys growing into young men, making millions for their families. Like urban legends, these stories are passed down throughout neighborhoods, providing hope of fame and fortune for the obscure and downtrodden.
These, of course, are exactly the same reasons why soccer is so huge all over the world. Culture and opportunity, opportunity and culture.
How can it change? It won’t. The better question is why won’t it change?
The answer is simple: everybody loves a winner – especially us.
We don’t embrace soccer in this country because we lose to Ghana. How does a country the size of the US, with its resources and wealth, lose to Ghana in any sport? Is it because we don’t know how to play the game? Of course not. Is it because we don’t know the rules or strategies of the game? No. Is it because we don’t have the players to compete athletically with the rest of the world? Yes.
Team USA has the best soccer players in our country but it doesn’t have the best athletes in our country. Generally speaking, I’m not saying the guys playing for team USA are not great athletes, they’re just not our best athletes.
Until LeBron James chooses to be a soccer star, soccer is doomed in this country. Why? Because we lose to Ghana.
Can you imagine LeBron James as a soccer player? Can you picture Adrian Wilson as a striker or goalie in the game of soccer? Can’t you see Larry Fitzgerald hitting a “header” into a goal?
But they don’t play soccer. They choose what we love; they follow the money.
And this is the vicious cycle soccer finds itself in. Team USA cannot win the World Cup because it doesn’t have the athletes to do it. Popularity and praise comes with winning; so does caring… and caring is what eventually pays.
And that dooms the sport of soccer in this country more than any vuvuzela ever could.