JONATHAN CHAIT JUNE 28, 2010
Over at the World Cup Blog, Stefan Fatsis is again full of soccer triumphalism:
A poster named “Irishman” puts it nicely: “The USA has the extraordinary luck to be both Germanic and Hispanic, black and white and brown, African and European and Asian, all in one driven national character.” Progress is uncertain for every national side, but it’s highly likely for the U.S. Irishman quoted Gandhi: “First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.” To which JustinO replied: “First they ignore you (to 1989). Then they laugh at you (1990-2001). Then they fight you (2002-present). Then you win (???). Does that look about right?” Yes, it does.
I'm still in the ignoring stage. So is most of the country:
Yesterday I watched the US-Ghana game in a steakhouse in the suburbs of Nashville, with the game sound replaced by a country music selection so immaculately insufferable that they’re surely using it to extract bogus information in the Guantanamo Bay torture resort. Apart from me, there was a guy drinking alone, and some of the kitchen staff.
That's Alexsander Hemon, also on the World Cup blog. People have been captivated by images of sports bars packed with World Cup fans, but of course, in a huge country it's not hard to pack a few dozen people with a niche interest in a room. If you want to claim that World Cup fever is going mainstream, you have to look at places that haven't self-selected for high-level soccer interest. And overwhelmingly America still looks like that steakhouse in Nashville. The World Cup is not like the Super Bowl or the NCAA tournament, where it's on television in every public area and everybody is talking about it. Indeed, it turns out that even I am following the World Cup more closely ("Not very closely") than most Americans:
Perhaps one day soccer will gain a mass American following. I wouldn't mind. There are lots of sports I don't personally enjoy watching, but I don't find the prospect of them becoming more popular any kind of threat. Maybe soccer will get huge in the U.S. That's okay! It won't stop me from enjoying the sports I like to watch. All joking aside, the idea that this is something worth fighting over seems bizarre.
Hemon takes the sensible position that he doesn't care if soccer never becomes a major spectator sport in America:
I've lived here for nearly 20 years, and have not had any problems finding people to watch or play soccer with—none of us, whether born in Bosnia or Togo, Rosario or Cleveland, worries about acceptance of soccer. The World Cup and Champions League are easy to find on TV, the bars showing games are packed at 8 AM on Sunday for a Premiership game. In fact I can see more Premiership games here than my friend in London, and this in addition to the Italian and German and Argentine league games that I get to watch. I play my soccer at 7 AM on Saturdays, because all of the soccer fields in the city of Chicago are continuously booked through the summer. Many of the fields along the lake shore are infested with children playing every day of the week.
Right. You need some level of popularity to really enjoy a sport -- fans of curling probably have trouble getting together a game or watching it on television. Once you're a top 10 sport, though, the country is big enough that you have all your playing and spectating needs taken care of.