The U.S. Soccer Team is average and its fans are apathetic
The World Cup Championship is upon us! Of course, most of you don’t care, because 1) no one in America gives a shit about soccer, and 2) the United States was eliminated from the tournament long ago. Notice how I used passive voice when explaining America’s exit from the world stage. The reason why I used passive voice is because no one really wants to hear the active version of what transpired, as in “Ghana eliminated the United States from the World Cup.” That’s right, Ghana—a teensy weensy African nation that exports gold, bauxite and American ass kickings.
At this juncture, I’d like to point out that America is abundantly average at soccer. Yet, every four years, the Word Cup rolls around and we convince ourselves that we might make an international splash that will leave the rest of the world saying, “Holy freedom fries, those Yankees can kick!”
Some of you, I know, disagree with me. Some of you are reading this and thinking, “Weinshilboum knows nothing about soccer! The United States played well before they were eliminated.” To the first accusation, I’d like to point out that — compared to the average American — I have extensive soccer experience. I have played on several quality American soccer teams: the Orcs and the Otters. True, I was in fourth and fifth grade at the time; however, I still think those teams — led by Austrian coach Fred Regal and his ringer son Andy Regal — still rank in the top 100 of best American soccer teams ever. Heck, we’d rank in the top 25 if you excluded U.S. women’s soccer teams from the list!
As for those who thought that America played well in the World Cup, I’d like to offer my rebuttal. The U.S.’ overall record at the tournament was 1-2-1, which, if I’m not mistaken, is the mathematic equivalent of mediocre. I will admit, that in one tie game, poor officiating cost the Americans a potential game-winning goal. But still, that was against Slovenia, a country that has — and I swear that I am not making this up — approximately two million inhabitants! Two million! The country of Slovenia is the equivalent to the state of Iowa: a couple million in population and utterly forgettable. So, in essence, we tied Iowa. Also, we only won ONE GAME. ONE. Granted, it was an exciting game decided in the last few minutes. However, it was against Algeria. I have nothing against Algeria. The country brought the world some fantastic things, including anti-colonialism and Albert Camus. But defeating Algeria is nothing to get too excited about, sort of the same way England didn’t get too excited when they kicked the crap out of the Falkland Islands.
To me, it’s interesting how Americans began complaining about getting better at soccer a few nanoseconds after the loss to Ghana. Usually, Americans are perfectly content to be “average.” For example, American children’s knowledge of science and mathematics is abundantly average, according to a 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. America’s response to this mediocrity? A collective shrug. Interestingly, eighth graders in Slovenia (the European form of Iowa, in case you’ve forgotten) scored higher than the U.S. in science, yet I didn’t hear people screaming about the test scoring then!
Given America’s happy acceptance of being average, I wasn’t surprised that Americans quickly shifted their demands from soccer improvement to problems with the World Cup. Never mind that America deserved to lose against Ghana. America lost because of other reasons: the refs, luck, bad coaching. So in the great American tradition of embracing our mediocrity, I’d like to propose the following changes to the World Cup format, changes that would make America’s mediocrity more competitive:
~ Cut down on the teams allowed to participate in the World Cup. This is the ultimate American approach to sports. Major League baseball calls their championship the “World Series,” though only American teams play. Who cares if the event is called the “World Cup”? We can redefine what “world” means! How about we redefine “world” to mean “America and a few European nations that we might beat on a given day” (which may or may not include the Iowa of Europe, Slovenia).
~ Generate a mandatory U.S. vs. France match in the World Cup. While France is significantly more talented than the United States in soccer, they are far more likely to implode (as they did this year when the team, after a tough loss, refused to even practice) Let’s face it, this is a big-time grudge match. Think about it: when France opposed America’s meddling in Iraq in 2003, some Americans began calling “French fries” “freedom fries.” In response, the French, well, they didn’t do much of anything. I guess they just wondered why Americans put more thought into naming potatoes than going to war.
~ Allow teams to use their hands. FIFA’s always been somewhat lax about handballs at crucial moments of play. In 1986, Argentina’s Diego Maradonna punched in a “handball” goal in World Cup competition. Maradonna, clearly an American at heart, renamed the handball. Instead of calling it “cheating” he called his action “the hand of God.” Earlier this year, France beat Ireland on a blatant handball. Why not just go all the way and let players use their hands? In fact, while we’re at it, let’s change the ball to an oval, add a few end zones and make a score worth six points. Now that’s what I call football.
David Weinshilboum, for reasons unknown to him, is rooting for the Netherlands in the World Cup Championship. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org