Column: Watching the World Cup Is Un-American
Friends, we are in the majority.
I know it does not feel that way in bars and on certain swaths of the Internet. Even the Google Doodle has gotten in on the action.
But we Americans who do not care about the World Cup are in the majority, and we must cling tightly to that fact.
It’s World Cup season. World Cup season is when one guy in your office suddenly goes nuts and pulls out all these strange flags from his desk drawer, and you realize that for the past several years, when it seemed that he was oddly disappointed for no reason, it was actually that he was following soccer. Now is his vengeance. Now everyone else has to start caring.
Don’t do it.
The World Cup is a grueling, multi-week ordeal. And for what? To figure out which country is the best at playing football completely wrong.
I object to the World Cup on several grounds. First: It is soccer.
I know they call it football. But this is not football. American football is football. You can tell this is not football because there are not nearly enough concussions. The only tight end involved in this game belongs to David Beckham.
No, this is soccer.
Soccer, to most American children, is something you are forced to play until you are 8. It is the thing that prompted people to give you all those unearned trophies that did something irreparable to your self-esteem and made the authors of trend pieces so very upset. If your experience was like mine, you mostly stood there hoping that no one would pass you the ball. If anyone did, you tripped over it. Sometimes you just fell over spontaneously.
Most of the popularity of soccer for the young seems to stem from the fact that soccer, like ballet, is something you can teach a 3-year-old to do badly without having to put in too much effort. This should tell us something. “Oh, look, Katie is standing there! What a great midfield player!” Soccer used to be something you did not have to care about once you were an adult. Not having any feelings about soccer was a sign that you were no longer 8. We should keep it that way.
Furthermore, the World Cup is un-American. Explicitly so. It says “World” in the name.
If I wanted to spend 90 minutes watching foreigners beat us embarrassingly, I would just leaf very slowly through our students’ international math and science test results. I don’t want to have to cheer for France against Germany, or Italy against Turkey. What is this, 1917?
If these objections are too broad and theoretical, there is always this problem: Watching soccer is a miserable experience. It is not that it is boring. I watch baseball. It is that it is both boring and impossible to look away from. It demands the kind of constant nervous vigilance with mainly zero payoff that I thought I could save for child-rearing.
I know, in theory, that there are supposed to be fun things about soccer. The elaborate histrionics of a player taking a flop. The elegance of it. The rivalries. People shouting, “GOAAAAAAAAAAAL!”
I have tried watching soccer in the hope that I am missing something. Inevitably, the game goes something like this:
Minute 1: People run around the field with a ball.
Minute 10: People run around the field with a ball.
Minute 18: Nothing has happened so far. I’m going to get a snack.
Minute 18.5: GOAAAAAAAAAAAAAL.
Minute 19: People run around the field with a ball.
Minute 90: People run around the field with a ball.
Hockey is like soccer, but in hockey people get into fights on the sidelines and carry big sticks, like Teddy Roosevelt would have wanted.
Other sports are better, too. In basketball, people keep making baskets all the way through. At least in baseball you can look away because nothing exciting ever actually happens.
I guess it’s better than cricket.
The Olympics are fine. The Olympics go on for days and we only have to watch Americans do things Americans are good at. Sometimes, to make sure it stays that way, we make up entire sports, like Skiing Down a Railing or Racing While Sporting a Soul Patch.
The World Cup goes on for weeks, and by the time it is over we have been forced to cheer for Germany. This is just wrong. We are the United States of America, and, the last several foreign conflicts aside, we are supposed to get involved only in things that we can win.
If this is what globalization has in store for us —weeks and weeks of watching more talented foreigners run around boring us to death? — then isolationism is sounding better every day.
Don’t give in. We don’t have to watch the World Cup. It may be the world’s most popular sport. But we aren’t the world. We are America.
Alexandra Petri writes the Washington Post’s ComPost blog.