Sure, I knew the World Cup was happening. And I also knew the U.S. was playing. But I did not know was that the entire country had "embraced" soccer and, as a nation, we were now obsessed with the game. I was also informed that the entire country would come to a stand-still during the "matches" involving the U.S.
So how did I not know this country-wide phenomenon was happening? I suspect it is because I was too busy living my life in the real world and not spending enough time listening to the media outlets telling me their version of reality. I happen to work with a fairly international group of people, so one would expect them to be more interested in the World Cup than the average American, but even they seemed subdued compared to what the media was telling me was a rabid, nation-wide soccer craze.
Count me as being skeptical that Americans really cared as much about the World Cup as the media was trying to convince me. Americans like excuses to go to bars, party and go wild when the cameras are focused on them. This should not be mistaken with caring about soccer. However, that morsel of a thought that Americans could begin to care about soccer was something I found very disconcerting.
Given the state of the other major sports, soccer probably has a better chance to succeed than it ever has. The NFL has over-saturated itself and is losing the public relations battle on the health issues. MLB has turned a relaxed paced game into something that is an excruciating tedium of players mostly just meandering around the pitchers' mounds and batters' boxes. The NBA is becoming a league of spoiled brats more interested in selfish pageantry than in competition and team-work (with the exception of Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs). And of course, the NHL is too Canadian for most Americans.
So why would the prospect of a U.S. cultural transition to caring about soccer worry me? Because, like all Americans, I hate to lose.
As the rest of the world has spent the past many decades jostling for superiority on the "pitch", we Americans have been the victor. We have the ultimate superiority of not caring at all. We sit back and can says things like: "sure, we could win if we cared, but we just don't care" or "'Tis a silly game." It's hard to counter that sort of argument, especially when we can support this bluff with having so many superior athletes in our other sports.
But what happens if Americans begin to care about soccer? We enter in the fray with rest of the world, and very likely have to settle for being a 2nd or 3rd rate team. That is a scary future not befitting of a global super power. Americans need to sustain their "above it all" attitude. So please take the high road with me and refrain from having more than a passing interest in that other kind of football.