Why do people who don’t like soccer have to create some political reason to do so?

Forget about the fact that this guy doesn’t link to anyone that actually fulfills his stereotype. I’m sure some people would argue about the great diversity that exists in soccer over and against that of American sports, but that would be stupid because anyone with eyes knows that American sports are very very diverse. Nevertheless, this guy doesn’t actually link to those straw men, so let’s forget he didn’t.

Instead, I’m going to argue why I love the World Cup rather than why I think he’s wrong for trying to argue something I, as someone who probably fits his stereotype in other ways, never disputed.

The reason I love the World Cup is pretty much the exact reason I love NCAA basketball tournament. In both tournaments, you have an extraordinary number of games being played in a short period of time. Each of these games has more significance than the vast majority of games during the regular seasons of traditional American spectator sports. Diversity does play into why it’s fun to watch, but it’s not ethnic diversity as the guy claims. It has to do with diversity of styles and traditions and abilities.

When a 12 seed beats a 5 seed on the first day of March Madness, it creates a buzz and an excitement comes over the game that is palpable. It’s fun watching a midmajor beat a team from the ACC even if you have nothing at stake in the game. I went to a DIII college as did most of my family so I don’t pull for any team over another in the NCAA. I just like watching the games because of the intensity and what’s at stake for the athletes. Everything seems to matter. And it’s a similar feeling I get when Slovakia beats Italy. I know it’s probably short lived when, say, Weber State beats Georgetown (if that’s ever happened), but there’s something about seeing those scrappy underdogs fighting above their weight that’s more exciting than the average NBA game. When the Wizards beat the Cavaliers in January, does anyone really care the next day or even remember? No. But when Butler beats Kansas in the tournament, they do. As do they when Serbia beats Germany or when South Africa beats France.

The World Cup also carries with it a history that seems more relevant to NCAA basketball than it does to other pro sports. UNC-Duke reminds me of Germany-England. They have so much in common and have a heated rivalry. The Netherlands are kind of like Syracuse in more than color since both teams, until ‘Melo at least, were historically great teams that couldn’t win the whole thing. The Mid Majors are like African teams that always show promise and often introduce major players to the world but rarely seal the deal versus the powerhouses with money and more tradition like UCLA and Brazil. Princeton is kind of like the U.S. team in that they both lack star power and flash but do have grit and technique. They are also upper middle class.

When the guy writes:

The World Cup is a paradox: the results of individual games seem pretty random but the results always come out about the same: traditional soccer powers get to the finals.

This is very similar to the NCAA tournament isn’t it? Georgetown may lose in the early rounds, but Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, UNC, UCLA, Florida, Michigan, etc. will probably account for 2 or maybe 3 of the teams in the final four. To me, this says that something right is going on. If the results were completely random then a) the sport might not be worth playing since it’s little different than a lottery and b) the sport might not be worth watching since we don’t get the sense that something great is happening. The paradox of all sports is that nobody likes the Yankees but if the Yankees didn’t exist as perennial winners then it wouldn’t be as fun to imagine the Rays beating them. Same goes for Italy. But when Italy loses early, we have plenty of other teams to hate. Same goes for Duke, which is kind of like the Italy of college basketball–traditionally powerful, coddled whiners.

Also, though the World Cup is populated with spoiled multimillionaires, much like the NFL, NBA, and MLB, the teams they play for in the World Cup are not the ones paying them. They are playing for the pride of their country as the basketball players in the NCAA are playing for the pride of their college. Of course great play in the tournament may lead to great pay in the future. I suspect Gyan of Ghana will be hearing from Ajax or Man City or FC Porto as they offer him loads of money, just as Carmelo Anthony probably moved up to the top two positions in the draft because of his awesome play in the NCAAs and as Greg Oden was able to hoodwink the Blazers after his play. But they aren’t slogging off because they don’t have the money in their back pockets. Villa and Sneijder are plenty rich right now, but their profiles have been increased as they wouldn’t have been without the tournament.

Also, let’s face it, the fans at the World Cup are more interesting than the fans at pro games. Okay, so fat guys like to take their shirts off in Green Bay in December. I get a little tired of that every year. It’s kind of cliché. But what will the fans of Paraguay dress like? I don’t know until the tournament since they are an unknown entity until it starts. Likewise, North Korea. Likewise Central Michigan State or Davidson College.

The level of play that we get from a Lakers-Spurs game is much greater than that between a Duke-Butler game, but the passion is vice-versa. The same goes for Manchester United versus Barcelona over Netherlands-Uruguay. When Uruguay almost came back in extra time last night, it was great fun even though, perhaps especially because, Uruguay was missing its two best players. Plus, we’ll have to wait 4 years before we can witness it again. The NBA season never seems to end. And the English Premier League is going on as we speak.

Nobody makes much political hay over the NCAA tournament, but it has a lot in common with what seems to have become ground zero for an ideological battleground. Strangely, though, I don’t know if the left is participating (other than me, but nobody cares about me). Maybe it’s because there’s nothing to make hay over or perhaps because some people, like me, just like sports and the World Cup is another chance to enjoy them.

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