Jonathan Chait

The Pathos Of The Soccer Fan

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Daniel Gross writes the most sympathetic testimony I've seen from an American soccer fan. The usual American soccer manifesto consists of bluster about soccer as the sport of the future because lots of American children play it (the same logic would suggest apple juice is the drink of the future) or optimistic predictions about "huge" T.V. audiences (soccer optimists hope a World Cup match might approach that of an average regular season NFL game, or roughly one-sixth of a Super Bowl audience.) But Gross instead takes the honorable path of acknowledging reality and wallowing in the pathos:

[I]f you're interested in the game, and particularly interested in the U.S. team, you really don't have that many people to talk to. At a recent soccer practice, one of the other dads noted that his son wanted a jersey for some guy whose name he couldn't remember but who might play for a Spanish team. "Lionel Messi?" I asked. From the lack of recognition on his face, I realized I may as well have said "Lionel Trilling?" ...

My guess is that when the U.S. plays England, the bars in New York and Los Angeles will be like Condé Nast in the 1990soverrun with Brits. I won't be there. On Saturday afternoon, I'll be at a family gathering, one at which I'm confident nobody will be checking scores or talking about the potentially epic matchup with England. I'll have to tape it and watch it later, most likely alone. At least I'm confident none of my close friends or family members will call, e-mail, or text me with scores or updates, and that I can safely listen to the radio without the result intruding.

In addition to gaining sympathy for Gross's sad plight, I learned important facts from his article -- namely, that the U.S. is playing England in a soccer game, and there's a famous soccer player whose name sounds like Lionel Trilling.

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