When I first came to
live in America, I thought I could never be really at home in a country that
called the World Cup the “Men’s World Soccer Championship”. At least our local paper did, in a tiny
segment at the bottom of the sports page.
Back during the 2010 World Cup, hubby and I
were in our nearest metropolis, Buffalo, when England were playing. We finally located a bar that was actually
showing the match instead of wall-to-wall baseball. The first snag was that England were playing
Germany. The second snag was that England lost 4-1. The third was that the bar
was full of German tourists taking time off from exploring Niagara Falls, who
ended up coming up to me and saying, “Ve
are so sorry.” But there wasn’t a local
American in the place.
Well that was then
and now is now. Things are different. Or so the media would have you believe.
I’ve read all about how America is finally embracing the Beautiful Game, especially
after the valiant performance by Team USA
in Brazil, with sentimental TV trailers
dwelling lyrically on the American team’s varied social backgrounds and the
fact that they epitomised “300 million
Americans.” I saw thousands of American fans gathered in New York City and
Chicago, got up as Uncle Sam and cheering them on. But
that’s cosmopolitan New York and Chicago. It’s not around here.
I was in the
hairdresser’s before Team USA’s last match and I asked her if they’d be showing
it. I even said “game” in the American way so she’d understand me. “Is that today?” she asked, puzzled. Then she twigged, “The World Cup? Wait a minute. Isn’t there some guy who keeps biting people?”
Having spent a
couple of days at the start of the World Cup in England and seen England flags everywhere,
it was a culture shock to come back to western New York and find life going as
if events a few thousand miles to the south might as well not be
happening. There were plenty of Stars
and Stripes flags in Tops supermarket but then I realised they were simply
gearing up for the Fourth of July.
The majority of Americans still, quite
misguidedly, think of football, no, wait, soccer, as a dull pastime with few goals, primarily suited
to women, small children and less-than-manly men. Most of the American lads I know wouldn’t be seen dead playing soccer
much past the day their voices break.
matches are a bit unfamiliar too. In
their traditional sports, American teams mostly just play each other and the
Canadians. I suspect the novelty of Brazil will soon wear off, especially as Team
The conservative columnist Ann Coulter got
some publicity when she penned a tirade entitled, “America’s favorite national
pastime: hating soccer”, remarking, “Everyone just runs up and down the field
and every once in a while a ball
accidentally goes in”. I might retort, “What about American football,
where the players mostly just stand around waiting for the TV commercials and
every once in a while run at each other like maddened bulls?” but most Americans wouldn’t get it.
Ms Coulter also implied
that the whole concept of soccer was somehow “un-American”, it being mainly
popular with recent immigrants, “I promise you, no American whose great-grandfather
was born here is watching soccer”.
That was an insult
to hubby, whose ancestor fought in the
American Revolution and who was sitting right by me, yelling in frustration as we
watched Team USA’s last stand. But true,
he doesn’t make a habit of it.
have been showing the World Cup matches
here but the commentators are mostly British – with the occasional Mexican, so
we can get to hear him scream, “Goooooooooooooooal!”
going to take a lot to wean middle America away from its comfort zone of American
football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey. Plus, America already has plenty
of religious fervour of the more conventional
sort without the Beautiful Game to complicate things.
To prove my point,
I’ve just switched on my TV and looked at the programme guide. And what does
the sports channel say? “World Soccer
Championship”, that’s what.