My eldest daughter, whose soccer teams I coached, is enamored with the World Cup. Thus our house is divided between the Americans-are-too-dense-to-understand soccer camp (her) and the soccer is one-dumb-ass-sport camp (me).
But I like and respect my children and I try to give weight to their beliefs, so I've given this some thought, and have watched several games from start to finish.
And so I've amended my opinion.
Soccer, as played on the world scene, is one dumb ass sport.
And I think I know why most Americans have no patience for it.
It's a game of cowards and whiners and it can end with a gimmick. And we don't care for those things as a matter of course.
Cowards? You bet. In the World Cup most games go like this: one team scores (eventually) and then the game devolves into one big game of keep away and stalling tactics.
In our major sports, we require the victor to lay it on the line, to give the other team a fair chance. Football requires you to move the ball forward, 10 yards every four plays, or you lose the ball. Basketball has a time clock, and no going backcourt. Tennis? You have to serve it in the box. Golf? You can look at it from all angles, but eventually you have to putt the ball.
Baseball and softball? You have to put the ball over the plate. There's no running away with the ball. Bases loaded, full count? You can't hide. You have to pitch the ball, and either the batter hits it or not.
Soccer's tactics of back passing, falling to the ground, keepers holding the ball, etc. etc. seem to us to be a concerted effort to avoid confrontation.
Whiners? You bet. Every contact, or near-contact, sends players into fits of melodrama, rolling on the ground in mock agony in an effort to draw a foul. We Americans recognize that this conduct belongs only inside a wrestling ring, not on the field of a major sport. We like our players heroic and courageous, not weepy and craven.
Finally, the gimmick of using a shootout instead of playing until somebody scores is tacky-- like ending a spelling bee with a 100 yard dash. My daughter tells me that the shootout is necessary because the 90 minute game and the 30 minute overtime are too draining, given the limit on substitutions at 3 per team; it would be too dangerous to keep playing.
So why not allow more subs in overtime? Why end the game with schtick instead of using the basic game which so many seem to hold near and dear?
Why hasn't soccer caught on here? Maybe because we like our games to be sporting, our athletes to be brave and honorable and our sports as free as possible of gimmicks.