Every four years, the nation becomes infatuated with the team and players representing the United States.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the FIFA World Cup, Women’s World Cup or either Olympic Games.
The results are the same, people are attracted because it’s a national pride thing.
Ever since 1994, when the World Cup was staged in America, people have said the sport would become a hit.
Newsflash, it hasn’t gone mainstream and the recent success of the U.S. women’s team won’t do anything for the growth.
Granted, things have improved since 1994. We have the internet at a larger scale and social media. We also have Premiership matches each week on ESPN, something that wasn’t available just a few years ago. And look at the Pacific Northwest - that recent MLS match between Seattle and Portland featured an electric atmosphere. But we still don’t have the one thing needed to make it work - being born into it. Everyone else around the world (mainly Europe and South America) grow up attached to the sport like we do with American football and baseball.
Another reason for why soccer won’t gain traction here is Americans hate the diving (as do most non-Americans) and the perceived slow nature. But they also love baseball, which is equally beautiful in its own methodical pace. Soccer is so great, because there aren’t a billion commercials blaring in between plays or time outs. It’s pure 90 minutes and the action is intense at the highest level.
But until American fans completely change the way they cheer at games (not cheer when told to by the stadium’s PA system) then the sport is doomed to a fringe/niche audience.
Check out Celtic’s Depeche Mode anthem, “I just can’t get enough,” in a 3-0 romp over Old Firm rivals Rangers on YouTube. Crazy, epic atmosphere. And the best part? Nobody cued them to do it over a loud speaker. Just natural passion.
But there are some positives to take away from Sunday’s final.
The finals generated a widely reported 8.6 overnight rating, better than last year’s World Series.
Twitter also blew up, with a reported record 7,196 tweets per second.
Heck, even a relative of mine, who dislikes the game, was intrigued and watched the riveting final between Japan and Team USA.
The United States lost for the first time in 25 matches against Japan, and did so after blowing two separate one-goal leads.
The back four started resembling the U.S. Men’s National Team’s defense, which is to say, it looked a lot like Swiss cheese.
However, the U.S. still had a shot at winning in the pressure-cooking penalty shootout.
But the defeat brought something else to the fold.
Japan’s victory over the United States should do the one thing that makes sports so special -- it transcends the game and gives inspiration to a country in need after the wake of the terrible tragedy occurred by the natural disaster earlier this year.
The same thing happened with the New Orleans Saints after the the football team gave its city hope following a Super Bowl victory just a few years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the area.
But soccer won’t gain popularity in America like it is everywhere else, because we already have major sports to follow and teams to cheer for. The best thing is to root for the national team and treat games like the final against Japan, and the quarterfinal clash with Brazil as those special, magic moments that give you goosebumps.
Kind of like that Miracle on Ice game in the Winter Olympics, albeit without the political overtones or magnitude away from the arena.
Until our youth system is overhauled to resemble the European model and our top players (see Kobe Bryant) don’t leave the sport for the Big Four (baseball, basketball, football, hockey), then that’s how it’ll be for the foreseeable future.
Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org