Some Thoughts On Soccer and The World Cup

Welcome to the 67th edition of Tuesdays With Mitch, where we’re in the dog days of summer and nobody wants to read about the Rockies. So I’m discussing a different sport instead. One I don’t talk about much. Some good readin’ for ya this week. Let’s get into it…

Owwwww! His shoulder hit mah teeef!  (Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

I haven’t written about the World Cup this year for a reason. I don’t care about soccer, but that shouldn’t mean I’m going to berate those of you that do (or pretend you do for a few days every four years).

So you’ll have to trust me that I’m not trying to be a troll with this post. I’m not trying to be Ann Coulter. But even the most reasonable man can only bite his tongue so long.

My World Cup commentary thus far has been limited to a cool video of fans reacting to an important United States goal, a Vine of some guy trying to eat another guy’s shoulder then flailing around pretending his poor teeth were hurt, and a puppet dog hilariously making fun of foreigners. But allow me to expand my outlook on soccer, if you will.

I think soccer is stupid. It’s boring. It’s weird. I don’t understand it. And I’m cool with that.

I realize that I’m a little late to the party with this, because when the USMNT was eliminated last Tuesday, it effectively ended all interest in the World Cup in our country. But (as a commenter dutifully pointed out last week) the loss also generated a ton of fan reaction praising our boys as heroes who had really made a statement that the United States has arrived in the soccer world to stay.

The reality of the situation is the USMNT played four games and went 1-2-1. They were eliminated in the round of 16. That’s heroic now? The president needs to call and say good job on not even making the freaking finals, semifinals, quarterfinals?

On an international scale, we suck at soccer. We always have and we always will. We suck because we don’t really give a damn. We never have and we never will.

People were excited about the World Cup not because they have a newfound love for soccer, but because of national pride (I am an advocate of U-S-A chants, after all), an excuse to weekday day drink, and the biggest factor, social media group think.

Social media was flooded with athletes and celebrities voicing their support on the job done by the #USMNT. For what? The team’s 1-2-1 performance? Or was it to help build their own brand, get a few retweets and Facebook likes and show that they’re in touch with pop culture and supportive of whatever you support?

This obviously goes far beyond famous athletes and other celebs. It became “the thing to do” for everybody. Countless Americans didn’t want to feel left out, so they posted a bunch of tweets, statuses, pictures and stupid memes about the #USMNT even though they literally couldn’t name one player on any team the day before the World Cup started.

Is soccer on the rise in the United States? I guess. Maybe. But if it is, it’s increasing from a tiny minority to a small minority. So congrats on that, soccer.

If one percent of the Americans that were talking about the World Cup on Twitter start attending MLS games, the league’s popularity would at least triple. (Obviously that’s a made up statistic, but it’s probably true and you get my point.) And that will certainly not happen. Raise your hand if you’re going to watch all 90 minutes* of whichever South American country plays whichever European country whenever they play.

If you’re raising your hand you are either lying, have ties to one of those countries, or are a hipster who feels it’s cool to be out of the mainstream because regular and popular sports are for, like… jocks. And athletes. And who wants to watch that?!

*Or 120 minutes? or 60? I actually have no idea how long a soccer game is supposed to be because the stupid clock moves the wrong way and just keeps going until everyone agrees that they’re too bored to continue. I think.

Another reason we heard about the World Cup so much is because the large sports media corporations are heavily invested in soccer. ESPN spent a ton on the World Cup broadcasting rights so they shoved it down our throats at every opportunity. I’ve always been kind of startled at the masses’ acceptance of caring about whatever ESPN tells them to care about. Soccer is the best example of that. Fox Sports will broadcast the Cup in 2018 so FS1 jumped in on the fun, too.

So again, I’m not just trying to troll soccer fans here and I wasn’t “rooting against” the U.S. It would have been nice to see them advance and do well because it would have been funny if we were better at a sport we don’t care about than the countries who actually do care. But that is definitely not the case.

And that’s okay.

Quite frankly I am indeed relieved that I don’t have to hear about it anymore or be subjected to games and highlights of flops and bites* and soccer bails sailing just wide of a giant net. (That’s literally what the highlights consist of. This guy fell down in the 20th minute. And here’s 30 seconds of missed shots. Then they had a “cool down break” so here’s a guy drinking water. Then a couple goals. That’s some edge-of-your-seat stuff right there!)

*When that guy tried to eat that other guy my first thought was “I don’t know how you people watch this stuff.” Then I found out it was his THIRD TIME gnawing on an opponent, which is odd but whatever, lots of people have strange fetishes. What I don’t get is how the person being eaten has never knocked him the hell out, or even gotten in his face. I’m not one to advocate violence, but if I’m at the bar and some dude digs his chiclets in to my shoulder, the situation will likely escalate. Can you imagine what would happen on a baseball field if Buster Posey flipped his mask off and chomped on Troy Tulowitzki’s calf when he stepped into the box? Soccer is weird, man.

Listening to talk radio during the United States’ amazing, 1-win “run” in the World Cup was a nightmare. Every local and national host started each discussion with, “Now, I’m a soccer novice” or “Now, I don’t claim to be a soccer expert”. Then why in the hell are you on the radio talking about it? Hey Mike Golic, would you like to chime in with some commentary on do-it-yourself gardening while you’re at it? Or maybe give some lessons on how to play the banjo? No, because you wouldn’t know what you’re talking about.

So back to the shallow end, futball. You’ve annoyed us all enough over the past month. I don’t look forward to you doing the same in four years.

That Teddy Roosevelt guy was pretty cool though. Maybe he’ll be back in 2018.

Off to the weekly departments…

Stud of the week:

DJ LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki turned what might be the defensive play of 2014 on Wednesday. This is one of the best double plays I have ever, ever, ever seen.

That is majestic artistry.

The Lemahieu dive and flip all in one motion makes for an incredible play standing alone. But for Tulo to bare-hand the flip with his back to first base and one foot on second, then quickly and fluently spin 180 degrees and fire a fastball on the money… That’s next-level stuff.  Zero other MLB middle infield combos get two outs out of that.

We all know the Rockies are irrelevant, but watching that infield play defense is one of the lone reasons to maybe think about the possibility of perhaps flipping over and watching a minute or two of latest debacle for the local nine.

Douche of the week:

This guy is suing ESPN, John Kruk, Dan Shulman, and MLB Advanced Media for $10 million because they showed him on TV catching some ZZZZs.

I don’t want to be over dramatic, but that person is literally a perfect example of every single thing that is wrong with America and probably also the world.

Vine of the week:

Here’s Tim Howard (I’m told he plays soccer) deflecting a hug in a direct, yet polite, manner.

I’m surprised that would-be hugger stayed on his feet instead of pretending Howard just crushed his abdomen and flopping to the ground.

Tweet of the week:

Sean Doolittle was named an All Star and he apparently had quite the reaction:

Pretty funny.

A couple links worth sharing:

Picture of the Week:

Self-service beer stations have FINALLY arrived!

@darrenrovell

Pour ’em yourself. Pay by the ounce. Up to 48 ounces every 15 minutes. Thank you, people in charge.

Some other stuff the internet had to offer from the past week:

Roger Federer lost a fantastic Wimbledon final to Novak Djokovic. He was sad and apparently cries as majestically as you might imagine.

@cjzero

Bartolo Colon lost his helmet again!

I talked about him back in April and told you he would continue to provide material for me.

Here’s the entire Ronda Rousey fight from Saturday night’s UFC 175. I think she won.

This Megan Draper look-alike has no interest in kissing cyclists.

The oooolllllllll’ just-scratching-the-back-of-my-neck-maneuver. Classic.

This is just baseball players being dumb and having fun, but Vin Scully makes it worth watching.

I kind of hate that I like Vin Scully so much because I continue to dislike the Dodgers, but what can you do? Vin is the man.

And finally, here’s one for all you true United States soccer fans.

Those questions are hysterical. To be fair, Jimmy does this with a variety of topics, but let’s still acknowledge this as a true depiction of soccer in America.

Happy Tuesday everybody. Thanks for reading.  See ya next week.

***

Comment on any of this stuff below, or email me at mdhahn1@yahoo.com with post ideas, videos or other media I should know about. Subscribe at the top right of this page. Follow me on Twitter @MitchDHahn.

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10 thoughts on “Some Thoughts On Soccer and The World Cup

  1. Sack

    “I haven’t written about the World Cup this year for a reason. I don’t care about soccer, but…”

    “Every local and national host started each discussion with, “Now, I’m a soccer novice” or “Now, I don’t claim to be a soccer expert”. Then why in the hell are you on the radio talking about it? Hey Mike Golic, would you like to chime in with some commentary on do-it-yourself gardening while you’re at it? Or maybe give some lessons on how to play the banjo? No, because you wouldn’t know what you’re talking about.”

    I like most the of the stuff you post, but you should have taken your own advice. You are willingly ignorant about a sport, so just by commenting on it, you are in fact trolling.

    So here’s just a few places where you are wrong:

    1-2-1 and losing in the knockout stage is very impressive. 200+ teams start qualifying for the World Cup, and we made the final 16 (so therefore we don’t suck. Maybe not as good as in basketball, but we also didn’t invent this sport), advancing out of the toughest group, losing in overtime. Sometimes .500 is all you need to be to advance to the next round (see NFL: 2010 Seahawks, NBA; Eastern Conference, MLB; 2006 Cardinals .516%).

    The MLS on average draws more fans per game than NBA and NHL teams (I know they play less games) and is growing in popularity every year. TV networks are investing in soccer because the viewership keeps rising. More Americans traveled to the World Cup than any other country.

    And it’s not only hipsters, turns out a lot of us “jocks and athletes” grew up playing soccer and are now given an avenue to actually watch a sport we love. And also some people who never played fell in love with soccer just because FIFA is an awesome video game. Or because the American Outlaws are awesome and the games are fun, whether they are World Cup matches or friendlies in September.

    So I get that you are trying to be funny and cynical, but just because you don’t get something doesn’t mean it’s stupid.

    People have been bit in every sport, not only soccer (Danny Ainge by Tree Rollins, Alex Burrows in the NHL, Miguel Olvio, Tyson), and generally the response is not actually to escalate the fight, but genuine shock over this violation of general human code.

    Soccer is here to stay, and will only get bigger. Fighting it is like Tracy Ringolsby fighting the Sabermetrics discussion. You just look more ignorant every year.

    Is soccer perfect? Nope, far from it, and it isn’t for everyone. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t great and dramatic and enjoyable for anyone who actually tries to understand it.

    Reply
    1. Mitch D. Hahn Post author

      First off, thanks for reading and commenting. To address the two conflicting quotes you pulled… In this post I wasn’t trying to examine where the German coach guy was positioning his midfielders (is that a thing?) or comparing the keeper’s performance to other great World Cup performances. That’s the kind of thing that bugged me about talk radio and I probably could have been more clear.

      The .500 teams you named all sucked too and nobody called them heroes or heaped them with praise.

      Comparing MLS attendance numbers is apples to oranges based on an 18-team league that plays 17 games. (Dammit you made me do actual research.)

      You lost me when you defended the cannibal guy. Trying to eat people is never a good look. The other other freaky biters you mentioned were all at least in an altercation. They didn’t sneak up an unsuspecting prey from behind and then… come on… ACT LIKE THEIR OWN INNOCENT TEETH GOT BUMPED INTO BY THAT MEAN SHOULDER.

      The self-righteous, “I like soccer so I’m enlightened and you’re ignorant” is what annoys people like me who just choose not to care.

      But overall, you’re probably taking this post too seriously. Like you said, I was just having fun and writing with humor. I honestly don’t care about the soccer-watchers, y’all can do whatever the hell you want. I was just providing a voice for the voiceless who were a bit annoyed over the last few weeks.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment. I always like feedback.

      Reply
  2. NutSack

    Highly doubt MLS soccer pulls in more fans per game than any of the major sports you named. Your response to this article just goes to show how over dramatic both soccer fans and their players can be. Watching a group of men kick, flop, and whine for 90 minutes (or however long games last, who knows) with no outcome is not in the least bit “enjoyable.”

    Reply
  3. Uncle Bill

    Love this blog. I am a little surprised that you chose to bash soccer so roundly, considering that a) you never played it, and b) you have no experience even watching it. Soccer has been around the US for a century so the fact that you’re so ignorant of it is staggering. You sound like Popeye’s nephews when they say ensemble, “But we don’t like spinach!”

    Let’s dispel one myth: the US mens national soccer team is OK, not great. That’s why Jurgen Klinsman had to enlist the help of five German minor league players with dual citizenship with the US to bolster the ranks of the USMNT. These Germans weren’t good enough to make the German national team but they grew up in the culture of soccer academies where they could improve their game by playing top competition in their teens, kind of like how MLB drafts kids out of HS. Get ’em young. In Europe, they draft kids out of middle school, which would be considered reprehensible in the US.

    The US didn’t just go 1-2-1, as you state. THey had to qualify for the World Cup by playing in two tournaments among all the national teams that make up CONCACAF (North AMerica, Central America, and Caribbiean nations.) While Mexico is the only “power” in CONCACAF, some of these other nations are pretty damned good. Costa Rica? Canada didn’t qualify this year. Neither did Jamaica or Cuba.

    The US beat a really good Ghana team that had clobbered us in two previous World Cups, messed up in the final minute to draw Portugal (ranked 4th in the world) and lost to a German team that is now heading into the final after trashing host Brazil.

    Then we lost to Belgium. The US playing Belgium would be like the French national basketball team playing the Miami Heat. Yeah, they’ve got some good players but they’re not going to win.

    I’ve been involved with youth soccer programs since 1996 and the transformation that has occurred is real. Kids who played 15 and 20 years ago were coached by parents as volunteers who stepped up to the plate but who never played soccer as children. Now, that generation of soccer kids are parents, coaching their own kids’ teams. Some of the new coaches even played college-level soccer. Supposedly, there are more kids involved with youth soccer than in Little League these days.

    The feed stock for US professional soccer players is vastly improving . Youth soccer academies and amateur “minor league” soccer teams for adults are springing up. These amateur teams feed the developmental teams of MLS franchises. We don’t have hundreds of professional soccer teams like they do in Brazil but the US soccer movement is growing, despite the crappy economy and downturn in volunteerism.

    Which brings me back to my original complaint: you would have been a pretty good youth soccer player, if you’d had the chance. Low center of gravity, pretty coordinated, fairly tough, other than being a pussy about soccer. So don’t knock it until you try it. One day, hopefully you’ll have kids of your own and you’ll be cheating them of something special if you don’t let them play soccer because “you don’t like it or understand it.”

    And while you’re at it, eat some spinach.

    Reply
    1. Mitch D. Hahn Post author

      Actually, sir, I played two seasons for the “Purple People Eaters” in Jefferson County when I was like seven. Evidently it didn’t have a lasting effect on me.

      Reply
  4. Uncle Bill

    Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that will watch more minutes of the semifinals and finals of the World Cup, without US participation, than I watched of last year’s fine Superbowl. But most Denver Broncos fans can claim that.

    Reply
  5. dad

    Didn’t feel good today, so knocked off work early to get some rest. Watched 5 minutes of that whoever vs. whoever semifinal World Cup match and was sound asleep. Thank you soccer!

    Reply
    1. Mitch D. Hahn Post author

      That’s a good idea. I’ll DVR the Final in case I have trouble sleeping sometime. No wonder the ratings are so high… Naps!

      Reply
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