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In Defense of Soccer Haters

The sport is not all it is hyped up to be

By Karthik R. Kasaraneni

Soccer is hip. Soccer is chic. Soccer is itthe perfect complement to that novella you penned with your MacBook Pro while sipping a fair trade latte at your local not-Starbucks. Liking soccer is yet another sure sign of your cosmopolitan good taste in the midst of an utterly ignorant America.

Unfortunately, soccer is dull. Soccer is stodgy. Soccer is a huge, boring, stupid mess—all positions I’ve resolutely maintained since recess ended on the last day of fifth grade. It’s fun to play, silly to watch.

But in 2006, talking heads on television started quietly insisting that soccer was the next big thing in American sports. By last summer they were screaming (and in 3-D HD, no less) that with this next World Cup thing, soccer would explode into a money-making machine the way real football did in the 60s and 70s. Sporting super-corporations like Nike, Disney, and mega-brewer ABInBev were investing millions to ensure this.

I wasn’t looking forward to being blinded by the vanity-driven me-tooism that was hurtling my way, but how could I not get excited to see America win? Maybe I’d be swept up yet.

Lucky for me, America didn’t win much, and soccer has since stayed dead as ever on these shores. FIFA’s hapless tournament did a great job showcasing all the things that make soccer unexciting. Millions of first-time fans with high expectations were greeted instead by a tournament where skill and fact took a back seat to luck and referee guesswork. I watched six hours of footage to see two “ties,” two obviously legal—yet absurdly unreviewable—disallowed goals, and an embarrassing loss to a country that’s a tenth our size. Again.

There was, of course, Landon Donovan’s last second heroic goal, but investing in five hours, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds of sheer nothingness for that one moment makes for, in retrospect, a pretty sad story. If I wanted to actually be entertained by sports drama last summer, I could have instead focused on Ray Allen shooting a record-setting seven for seven three-pointers in the first half of Game 2 but still losing the National Basketball Association Finals, or a post-philandering Mr. Woods hitting a 66 on Day 3 of the U.S. Open only to finish third in his quest for an epic comeback.

But that’s just the problem with soccer, and the reason it will never hold a candle to established professional sports in America. It’s those few epic plays or nail-biting moments of desperate faith and possibility spread throughout an entire game that make watching sports worth it—even losses. There’s always something in it for everyone; in soccer, there’s often nothing in it for anyone. A “nil-nil” result is a very real possibility, and every time even a superstar fires a shot, the expectation is that it goes 10 yards left of goal. Or is that meters?

It surely is intriguing that billions of foreign people see fit to live and die by this game alone. But frankly, we aren’t missing out on anything. Our D.A.R.E. officers taught us that just because everyone’s doing it doesn’t mean it’s cool. Nothing happens, the rules are subjective, the referees have too much power, and in the name of European traditions or anti-commercialization, the sport refuses to evolve. Americans by nature don’t take very kindly to any of those ideas.

One of the sports’ few merits is that anyone from the poorest peasant on up can play it on the cheap. Other than the ball, there are no pads or equipment to buy and no fields or courts to build. Lines in the dirt will do just fine for goals. But in a land where generations of deep pockets and a love of entertainment and competition have built up a sports infrastructure, culture, and market rivaled by no others, we don’t have to settle for boring old soccer, America’s already several leagues ahead.

Karthik R. Kasaraneni ’12, a former Crimson associate editorial editor, is a Chemistry concentrator in Currier House.

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EditorialsMen's Soccer