Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Why No One Cares about Soccer

Where I live (in Algona, Iowa) virtually no one is interested in the World Cup. And the more I think about that fact, the more I am bothered by it. Why? Because the World Cup is a worldwide phenomenon. Almost half the world's population tunes in to watch. HALF!!! I don't think that many people even own television sets so that really shows how many people go out of their way to watch.

It makes the Super Bowl look like an adorably tiny event in comparison. Even if you're not into sports, you have to recognize the political and cultural impact of these soccer teams. For example, I'm fascinated by how Barcelona and Madrid's teams represent long-feuding political factions.

Not watching the World Cup is like saying you don't care what happens in other countries. The World Cup is one of the largest shared events in world history... not participating just seems wrong.

Of course, maybe I'm just biased. A recent Freakonomics podcast had the title "Why America Doesn't Love Soccer (Yet)." [Even that title reveals something, haha, because South America loves soccer. It's only the USA that doesn't care]. The podcast suggested that most people who watch soccer have a connection to Africa, Europe, or South America. For me that's the case: my dad was born in Zaire and I have relatives living overseas.

I also wouldn't exist if it weren't for soccer. It's true. My dad was playing on his college soccer team and my mom joined a 'cheer squad' which wrote little encouraging notes to leave in their lockers. They didn't know each other before that. My dad asked her to dinner as a way of saying thank you and, as they say, the rest is history.

So where does all of this leave me? I've resigned myself to the fact that no one around me watches soccer. I'm okay watching in isolation (though actually, my wife has surprisingly gotten excited for this World Cup). My only concluding statement would be this: if you have never watched a high-quality soccer game before, check out one of these final games of the World Cup. Try to imagine what gets the world so excited every four years.