Apparently there's some large soccer tournament happening somewhere in the world. I know this because my facebook stalker-feed is being bombarded by over-earnest soccer fans updating their statuses with bitter soccer apologetics. They hate that soccer isn't popular in America, and now their hearts are aflame with the hope that the World Cup will pique American's interest in the world's sport. Sigh.
Well, let me break it down for you. Americans hate soccer, and here's why: Americans are story people. We love stories. We love plot and tension and resolution. In fact, we crave resolution like we crave cheeseburgers. We like turns of fortune and plot twists. Story is built into our DNA, and the sports we love reflect this.
Every at bat in baseball and every possession in football is a story. There is a beginning (first down, strike one), a middle (a swinging bat, a missed tackle), and an end (the runner crosses home plate, the pass is intercepted). There is tension and resolution. And then we get to watch it happen again! And each at-bat and each possession is like a mini-story of our lives. We're down in the count. We need to go the whole nine yards. We live out the story of our lives dozens of time in the span of a few hours.
The reason why soccer will never, ever become a popular sport in America is because there is no clear story. There is too much tension and not enough resolution. (This is why, I think, soccer fans are so violent. Their game is fundamentally frustrating!) Far too few goals are scored. Far too many shots go wide. Far too little action takes place in front of the net.
Americans want results. We crave it. We need it. Whether it's in sports, business, or politics, Americans are pragmatists who want to see effort lead to results. We like touchdowns and interceptions; homeruns and strikeouts; slam dunks and blocked shots. While we admire the effort of soccer players, we hate--and I mean HATE--that so many shots miss the goal. It's the ultimate sporting letdown. There's nothing more frustrating than watching a great drive peter out because the ball trickled out of bounds. And this happens ALL THE TIME in soccer. The story isn't resolved. You're left hanging. Nobody succeeded and nobody failed. The ball just went out of bounds. This doesn't settle well in the hearts of Americans. In soccer, there are not enough happy endings.
Soccer will never take off in America. It's too frustrating to watch. Maximum effort. Minimum results. You can point to the increased activity in youth soccer leagues all you want. The fact is those have been growing since I was a kid, and you know what, we still hate soccer. We don't watch it. We don't want it. You can have your corner kicks and bittersweet draws. We'll take touchdown passes and walk-off homeruns. Thank you, and God bless America.