Dear American Soccer Hater,
We really need to talk. I know that it has been a while since we’ve chatted. You see, I’ve had a few other things on my mind lately.
There’s been this small competition going on in South Africa, of that sport you so love to hate: Soccer. (I don’t dare call it “football,” I know how much that bothers you, and I’d like you to finish this letter. I’ll avoid use of the following as well: pitch, boots, kit, nil and anything that references extra-, added- or injury-time, if possible.)
I used to try to convince you that you had it all wrong. I tried to sway you. I would use statistics and anecdotes that remind you how behind the times you are.
Stories like how well ESPN is doing. With helpful facts that the US team’s recent win against Algeria was ESPN’s most watched soccer game ever, most watched non-holiday morning telecast ever, the highest watched program of any type on any network for key advertising audiences all day. They even had 180,000 people listening in online.
I would try to demonstrate the power of interest in the USA v. Algeria game by explaining it created the second most amount of Internet traffic ever. Of course, it couldn’t top the list. That high bar was set by the opening of the World Cup.
I might have shared stories of how the end-of-game drama of the USA v Algeria match drastically reduced stock trading on Wall Street.
Heck, I would even spam you full of videos of other Americans in rapturous support of our team from all around the world.
Now I know… none of that matters. And while we soccer fanatics have won a few of you over, in general, you won’t change.
So, I’m done trying. No seriously, I’m fully, totally, completely done.
And as they say so often when people realize they need a change: it’s not you, it’s me. In fact, it’s not that you won’t change, but I’ve come to realize something else, something very different.
What I realized was, that we don’t need you.
We, the “oddball American soccer lovers,” the immigrant fans, the youth-team leaders and the people playing pickup games on Saturday or after work, we are doing just fine without you.
I mean, it’s not just that we have new cool friends. Which we do. (You know, we have the President and Vice President, we have Reggie Bush and OchoCinco, and heck… even the somewhat logically connected Playboy Playmate and Bill Clinton have hopped on the US Soccer bandwagon.
It’s not just that we have a successful domestic league now. Which we do.
It’s not just that we can see as much soccer from a variety of countries nearly any day of the week, year round. Which we can.
It’s not just that our kids are playing the game as much or more than ever, and now can have a viable path to a professional career in the sport they love. Which they do.
It’s all those things, and more.
It’s also that the more I see you, the more you seem irrelevant. You sound out of touch. You feel like yesterday’s news.
For those who try to convince me that the “USA will never be a soccer nation.” I say it already is.
I also note that the nation no longer looks like the (almost always) wonder-bread white guys who are preaching of soccer’s ridiculousness on television.
I believe that the younger generation does indeed know who Ronaldihno and Cristiano Ronaldo are. (Even if primarily through their PlayStation or Xbox 360.)
The USA, or to potentially be more accurate the collective of people who live here, is already a soccer nation. Our league might not be as well attended as the NFL. That’s fine. But, just like soccer, it’s ours and as far as I can tell, it’s not going anywhere.
So please know that when your sentences start with “you know why soccer will never catch on in America…” I may look like I’m listening, but from that second on, you sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher to me.
Because I’m done.
To me, having you join our parade would be great, but we are marching either way.
And as long as I see Americans with this kind of passion marching through Seattle on their way to a stadium for an MLS Game, as in the above video, or those that sing America the Beautiful, while half-way across the world in a men’s room in a South African stadium during half-time of a World Cup game, as in the below video…
There’s one thing I know, sooner or later, you’ll be marching too. Or we will just step right over.