I think I have put a finger on why soccer is not popular in the US. It doesn’t have anything to do with the sport, or not using your arms, or anything like that. I believe the real reason is that soccer players, and since we’re talking World Cup we’re talking the best players in the world, have absolutely no self-respect. I think it must be that soccer fosters that sort of attitude, or at least never punishes it, that is our main problem.
Let me explain. In the first 45 minutes of playing time in this game (USA v. Italy), I have seen three separate guys carried off the field on a stretcher. THREE. For the record, all 3 of those guys carried off remained in the game. Here at home, if you see someone carted off the field, he is damn near maimed. Seriously. If you are watching an NFL game, and they bring out the cart, that guy is REALLY hurt. They are strapping that guy to a backboard and are cutting his helmet off with a saw, for fear of paralyzing him. It is ingrained in our athletes from the time you start little league that if you are still functioning, you walk off the field. Even if you need two guys acting as living crutches, you are walking off the field. I’ve seen guys with broken legs, torn ACL/MCLs, torn Achilles, all get off the field under their own power. I have seen guys who take a 110 mph slap shot to the face, skate off the ice. I would be willing to bet that if Joe Theismann wasn’t in shock from Lawrence Taylor giving him a second knee (aka tibia-fibula compound fracture), he would have preferred to walk off too.
I saw one Italy defender catch a knee in his ass, from his own goalie, and he rolled around like he was shot. The “trainer” came out, sprayed his ass with some ice spray and that was it. He never comes out. Another guy, who was carried off, I couldn’t even tell where his injury was. They showed a replay in which his legs pretty much just got tied up a little bit with the defender, but he was holding his shin like Theismann part 2. I have to think that “soccer trainer” is one of the easier jobs in the sports world. They don’t ever have to do anything, because no one really ever gets hurt. If they do, it’s the whole cry-wolf syndrome anyway.
I’ve been trying to see if any of the Americans flop as badly as the Italians do, and I haven’t really seen it. McBride went down and stayed down, but of course, he was intentionally elbowed in the face, to the point where his cheek was split open and bleeding. He did walk off.
So, if these guys were to have some self-respect, not scream like they’re dying one second, and staying in the game the next, far more Americans might watch and enjoy soccer. Until that happens, these guys, no matter how tough and in shape they might actually be, wind up looking like euro-trash nancy boys, who cry like they’re dying 3 or 4 times a game. Not exactly the sort of thing that really appeals to our sporting sensibilities.
That, and that our best player is apparently Pauly Shore.