It Seems To Me. . .
Now World Cup is over, soccer haters can hibernate again.
By Robert Wagman
(Thursday, July 24, 2014) -- I have a confession to make, I don't much like baseball. I think it is a sport that manages to cram 10 minutes of action into three-plus hours. I go to baseball games (not counting those involving grandchildren) maybe twice a decade and then I'm ready to leave by the sixth inning. But I've never been moved to write about my dislike for the "national pastime."
So why do people who dislike soccer feel compelled to shout their disdain to whomever will listen?
Like clockwork, this happens every four years when the world, and this time around Americans by the hundreds of thousands, are enthralled by the spectral of the World Cup. Everywhere in the media -- on television, radio, in newspapers -- soccer haters come spilling out, proud to share not just their disdain for the sport, but their hatred of it, and by extension, their hatred for those who love it.
I've gotten used to this, and frankly I've grown amused by this outpouring of negativity that reaches a crescendo in World Cup years. I've written some form of this column every four years going back to 1994.. But this time around, I've noticed a subtle difference in the tone -- and in some cases the overt reasoning -- of the soccer haters. They say, either subtly or in some cases overtly, that somehow it is "un-American" to appreciate and love what we call "the beautiful game."
This time around, politically conservative writers have felt compelled to scream their opposition to soccer and everything it stands for in their minds. The prime example this year was the rant of conservative pundit Ann Coulter. In her syndicated column entitled "AMERICA'S FAVORITE NATIONAL PASTIME: HATING SOCCER" (her caps), she engaged in a surprisingly venomous tirade.
She wrote: "You can't use your hands in soccer. (Thus eliminating the danger of having to catch a fly ball.) What sets man apart from the lesser beasts, besides a soul, is that we have opposable thumbs. Our hands can hold things. Here's a great idea: Let's create a game where you're not allowed to use them!"
But Coulter went farther than the usual litany of anti-soccer arguments by spewing forth the assertion that the outpouring of growing interest in the sport is a sure sign of America's "moral decay."
"Everyone just runs up and down the field and, every once in a while, a ball accidentally goes in," Coulter wrote. "That's when we're supposed to go wild. I'm already asleep."
She goes on at some length as to why she thinks soccer is leading to national decline, including the fact that "all those suburban liberal moms love it. There are no heroes, no losers, no accountability and no child's fragile self-esteem is bruised."
But in the end, her hatred of soccer came down to simply, "It's foreign."
"In fact, that's the precise reason the (New York) Times is constantly hectoring Americans to love soccer. One group of sports fans with whom soccer is not 'catching on' at all, is African-Americans. They remain distinctly unimpressed by the fact that the French like it."
Then, Coulter threw in her usual anti-immigration rant. "If more 'Americans' are watching soccer today, it's only because of the demographic switch affected by Teddy Kennedy's 1965 immigration law. I promise you: No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer. One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time."
I certainly don't mean to label everyone who does not like soccer as a bigot like Coulter. There are many legitimate reasons not to enjoy the sport, but too many people don't just not like or not understand it. The bottom line for many of the soccer haters -- it's not a sport that America dominates, therefore it is un-American.
There was outrage when U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann told the simple truth: the U.S. stood no chance of winning the World Cup in Brazil. Klinsmann had long said he thought the Americans could get out of the "Group of Death" and go on to the knockout games; of course, the team and the circumstances proved him right. To win four straight elimination games against the best in the world was not going to happen. The U.S. simply is not there yet.
How it possible, the critics howled, that a coach does not have faith in his own team? Haven't a long line of Chicago Cubs managers going back a hundred years always led off the season with some kind of statement that with just a few breaks it will be World Series time in the Windy City.
Klinsmann was being honest and honesty in a coach is, I guess, also un-American.
In any event, the World Cup is past so the soccer haters can just go back and simmer again for four years. In the meantime, just shut up!