Just like the kid who’s already anticipating the arrival of Christmas when it’s only June, so too am I highly anticipating a World Cup that is years away. The feel of the breeze as the ball sails through the air, the players moving around like lightning – it’s intense.
Unfortunately, this fine sport’s ultimate championship is not anticipated everywhere in the world – namely, the United States. For some reason, Americans don’t enjoy a sport that should be incredibly appealing. It’s just like hockey, really – crazy back-and-forth changes in possession, a nerve-wracking buildup as the team gets close to the goal and possibly, possibly a magnificent hit into the goal.
I just don’t understand. I love reading about the Appleby Arrows and their triumphant upset victory over the Vrasta Vultures in 1932. Or about the amazing Holyhead Harpies. And of course, the Moosejaw Meteorites are always hilarious to read about (oh, Canadians!).
Indeed, it is a great shame that the amazing sport of Quidditch has not caught on in the United States (What, did you think I was talking about soccer?). What is it about mid-air violence that people can’t get behind? I mean, we have broomball for crisake! How does that not translate when merely moved into the sky? Anyone who knows his or her Quidditch Atlas knows the sad reality of Quidditch’s poor transition to the United States.
Perhaps the answer lies across the pond. Recently, as reported by the New York Times, the National Football League embarked on a mission to spread the popularity of American football to the Brits. The game basically sold out, despite the fact that many of those attending didn’t really understand it.
But England’s response seems to be a far cry from America’s response to incoming games. Whereas England becomes massively excited about an American import – similar to Japan’s response to baseball – the United States doesn’t seem to give a damn about the hallmark of European sports: soccer. We’d rather watch trick-shot pool on ESPN3.
Basketball, football and baseball have dominated the American sports realm. Basketball players score points every 10 seconds. Football players might take a couple minutes to score, but they have downs to complete that provide some general satisfaction. And baseball might not get any major scores – the second game of the World Series ended with a score of a mere two to one for the Red Sox – but each batter provides a nice starting and ending point, and the innings change.
Soccer, by contrast, is always in motion except for penalties and going out of bounds. The scores most often don’t break more than a couple points each. There’s no natural stopping point. There’s much running around and build up. There’s much climaxing. Often, however, despite the great action, there is no payoff (minds out of the gutter, sickos).
And then there’s cricket. It’s kind of like baseball, only with what seems like a lot more rules than baseball. Baseball basically has one rule: hit the ball and run. Or, catch the ball and throw. Bam. Done.
Considering how these two sports are so popular – fiercely popular – in the rest of the world, it seems like America’s problem is having short attention spans and no interest in complicated rules.
But then there’s rugby. Rugby, by far one of the most fantastic sports ever invented, seems horribly underappreciated. It’s violent, fast and ridiculous. How do we not enjoy it so much?
In good faith I cannot possibly assign America’s inattention or general disdain for foreign sports to a severe case of ADHD. And to say we don’t like complicated sports is just plain wrong (the number of penalties you can commit in football is off the charts).
Then I thought of one of my favorite movies: “Rudy,” about the great Notre Dame football player. And I also thought of “Sandlot,” a virtual tribute to Babe Ruth.
And suddenly it hit me like a bludger.
There is no great American success story for soccer, just millions upon millions of dollars spent purchasing another nation’s icon.
There are no cricket heroes. There are no channels even covering cricket, frankly.
There are no rugby heroes. The closest we’ve ever gotten is that episode of “Friends” where Ross has a go at the sport.
There’s no triumph, no American dream, in any of these sports. We want great players and to see how much they can push the limit of physical prowess. And then we remain interested because we want to know who will come along next, to see who will next capture our hearts and imaginations. Mia Hamm helped a lot toward boosting soccer on the national stage, but the light has faded. Now what?
Other nations don’t need that. They embrace our national sports just out of curiosity. We should do the same and, perhaps, in the process, we will find heroes to root for. There are American teams for each of those sports. They just need fans.
Brenneman is a member of the class of 2009.