Paste it in the head!


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

World's game? Not so much here, unfortunately

Most people who know me know that I am not a sports fanatic, or even much of a sports fan. (The exceptions to that rule being: whenever any of my home teams (Heat, Marlins, Panthers, and Dolphins) are in some sort of playoff, as I am the ultimate fair-weather fan; and when attending an actual sporting event. When I watch sports in person I get really into it. I think it's from years of watching my uncle bellow at the TV during Bills games. Generally, though, I don't follow sports.) However, underneath my sports-cold exterior lies a serious love of soccer.

I think soccer is a beautiful game, and so intense, and requires a fantastic combination of speed and grace and agility and cleverness. I think it's unlike any other sport in those aspects. I love the World Cup for its effort to bring together the best teams in the world, from every inhabited continent, for allowing people like me the opportunity to see a sport for once not dominated by the US. I love the international flavor of it, that the entire world is united in the ultimate tournament. I was reading today that FIFA estimates that 8 out of every 10 people in the world will see part of a World Cup game. And we think the Super Bowl is well-watched?

Now, most Americans do not share my enthusiasm for the sport, preferring the bone-jarring brutality of American football or the somnolence of the baseball diamond or the bling-bling hijinks of the NBA. Soccer has never caught on in the US, despite it being hugely popular among elementary school children and their parents. I suppose that somewhere between childhood and the peer pressure of junior high and high school, kids learn to see soccer as a less manly sport, somehow not as real and visceral as football.

However, despite soccer not being an American sport (which actually disappoints me less than I let on--I kind of like it that there's a sport played the world over that Americans don't get, and therefore don't get to dominate), I have to give credit where credit is due--for those of us who grew up without cable television, it was still possible to catch the majority of the World Cup games on various network and Spanish-language TV. In 1998, when the World Cup was played in France and I was in between my junior and senior years in high school, I followed the tournament as closely as possible, even to the point of reading the sports section of the paper, an unprecedented event in my life. I learned that watching soccer on Spanish TV is infinitely more exciting than watching it on English-language networks. The Spanish-speaking announcers clearly LOVE this game, and their passion was never more evident than when either team scored a goal--where their English-speaking counterparts would announce (excitedly, admittedly) the achievement of a goal scored by recapping the play that led to the event, the Spanish-speaking announcer would simply yell, for 30 seconds, "Gooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal." And rest assured, I do not exaggerate. Sometimes it would be two full minutes of "Gooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal," repeated until the announcer could milk it no more.

Since moving to Toronto, I have become accustomed to generally appreciating the Canadian approach to most things more than the American approach to same. I figured that Canadians, being a sophisticated bunch, would have caught on to soccer fever, particularly as Canada supports an incredible number of recent immigrants from soccer-loving countries the world over. When I received the World Cup schedule in the paper today, though, it appears that, for those of us without cable, the only game we will be able to see is the final.
A month from now.

What. The. Fuck.

Are you kidding me? Is there no Canadian Spanish-language television equivalent? Perhaps in French? Or Arabic or Chinese or Korean or something? I will watch it in sign language, I don't care. The beauty of sports, and especially soccer, is that you don't need to watch it in your language. I don't care what language it's in as long as I get to see it. Why do I have to have cable to see a sporting event that is watched everywhere in the world, mostly by people who will never, ever know the joy of 500 channels? I guess I'll have to badger my friends with cable or go to sports bars, neither of which sounds particularly appealing.

Grrr. And end rant.


  • First of all, you obviously forgot a very important home team of yours...the Toronto Maple Leafs. Yes, they are now your home team. Get used to it.

    Sometimes you are so American: I'd like to suggest that soccer is not popular in the US partly because the US team is no good, not just because. If it was popular, it is not a given that the US would dominate the sport. And yes, I know, I am so Canadian.

    I think it's weird that Canadian networks aren't showing more games given the effort people are going to all over the city to get together and watch the games on big screens etc. Even if soccer's just popular in Toronto, City could show the games and I'm sure it's popular in Quebec. Those Queebs know where it's at.

    By Anonymous Lorien, at 11:59 PM  

  • Yeah, I'm pretty American. I guess I believe that one of the brilliant things about the US is that we can pretty much do what we put our minds to, since we have amazing wealth and resources. We have just recently chosen to suck. However, the US men's soccer team is actually not terrible, and the US women's team kicks ass. You cannot deny that the US turns out some pretty decent athletes. I think that, in part, Americans' aversion to soccer is because it's not seen as "manly" enough, whereas football is all about grunting, sweating masculinity.

    I don't think that if soccer was popular in the US, the Americans would dominate on an international playing field; I do, however, think that if soccer was popular in the US, the US teams would be much more competitive internationally. Because it's not the favored sport in the US, the talent pool is much smaller than in many other countries, where being a soccer star is prestigious and a worthy goal. And I do think that if the US dominated internationally, soccer would be pretty popular. But you can't have one without the other.

    Furthermore, there are many, many countries in the world that embrace soccer fervently, despite their teams not being very good and not qualifying for the World Cup, which the US men's team did. Turkey, for example. Turkish people were going crazy over their teams while we were there, and Turkey's national team is not in the Cup.

    By Blogger Tasha, at 12:12 AM  

  • Also soccer is so EURO... it's like the same reason baseball isn't big in Europe 'cause it's the American sport.

    By Blogger Aundra, at 12:00 AM  

  • You know what though? I kind of like that when the World Cup and the Euro Cup comes around, people gather in bars and restaurants to watch the games together. It fosters community, it's nice. Sometimes there are good-natured arguments. It's more fun to watch something like that as a group, too. I remember waking up early to watch the last World Cup finale and I was so sad that I didn't have a bunch of friends around me to go "OMG look at their t-shirts! LOL" (the Brazilians tore off their jersies at the end of the game to reveal Jesus slogans on their t-shirts).

    The nice thing about Toronto too is that I find everyone is welcome to anyone's party.

    Oh and I remember hearing those "GOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAL"s on the radio when my dad would listen to soccer games.

    By Anonymous Anabela, at 3:21 PM  

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