From time to time, there are moments where a particular feeling unites people in a nation from many different backgrounds and preferences. For example, in 2011, supporters of many different Canadian football teams united in their loathing of the band Nickleback playing the half-time show at the Grey Cup Final. There was a moment when Americans of every variety were united in their hatred of soccer. That moment was the 2006 World Cup, where the USA not only lost two out of three games, but only managed to draw Italy because of a blundering own goal by Italy’s Cristian Zaccardo. Not only was the USA eliminated, but it was a regression from the results of 2002. I recall America’s reaction as something between a tantrum and a meltdown. I’m here to tell you that American columnist Ann Coulter’s recent rant about how hatred of soccer unites Americans is so 2006. I wish to report that Americans are slowly backing away from their hatred of soccer. It’s not exactly an embracing. Let’s just say America “You’ve lost that hatin’ feelin'” with regards to soccer.
You’ve lost that hatin’ feelin’
There are two North American soccer leagues, Major League Soccer (MLS) and the North American Soccer League (NASL). MLS is the more established league. The total annual attendance of MLS has increased every year from 2002 to the present. I mention this to point out that even though the USA didn’t do well at the 2006 World Cup, total annual MLS attendance increased. For reasons I don’t understand, every twenty years or so, a trend in the city of Seattle, Washington catches fire, and becomes a trend for a much larger area. For example, in 1971, a little coffee shop called Starbucks opened in Seattle. In the early 1990’s, Seattle bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains defined the sound that came to be known as grunge. What’s the buzz in Seattle right now? The Seattle Sounders FC (Football Club) soccer team, who drew an average of 44,000 fans per game in 2013. Team USA is currently enjoying unprecedented success at the 2014 World Cup. The USA has not only advanced from the highly competitive Group G (called the “Group of Death” by some), but has advanced to the second stage in two consecutive World Cups for the first time ever. The USA went for forty years (1950-1990) without even qualifying for the World Cup, much less advancing. There are a number of national teams with outstanding players that failed to qualify. Therefore, in the greater scheme of things, qualifying for seven consecutive World Cups (1990-2014), as the USA has done, could be considered an accomplishment. I believe the attention span of American sports fans have prevented us from recognizing this achievement.
The history of American sports is strewn with the wreckage of predictions that Americans would embrace soccer, but the predictors keep predicting. Ann Coulter prefers the word “hectoring:”
“(6 [in a list of things she hates about soccer]) I resent the force-fed aspect of soccer. The same people trying to push soccer on Americans are the ones demanding that we love HBO’s “Girls,” light-rail, Beyonce and Hillary Clinton. The number of New York Times articles claiming soccer is “catching on” is exceeded only by the ones pretending women’s basketball is fascinating.
I note that we don’t have to be endlessly told how exciting [American] football is.
(7) It’s foreign. In fact, that’s the precise reason the Times is constantly hectoring Americans to love soccer. One group of sports fans with whom soccer is not “catching on” at all, is African-Americans. They remain distinctly unimpressed by the fact that the French like it.”
Soccer catching on in America is by no means an inevitability. But I consider it a wholesome development that Americans are at least attempting to understand and appreciate something that wasn’t invented in America. America, I consider it a positive change that with regard to soccer, you’ve lost that hatin’ feelin’.
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