May 29, 2012 Leave a comment
My nephew and I got into a discussion a few years ago about soccer and its popularity—or lack thereof—in the United States. I was teasing him, pretending I didn’t much care for soccer. It just so happens that I played “American” football my whole life, so like him in the other direction, I was biased toward the oblong-shaped pigskin rather than the perfectly round ball used in admittedly the most popular sport in the world. But while I respect all athletes and, truth be told, probably didn’t play much soccer growing up for the sole reason that it happened to be a fall sport just like football; I purposely poked and prodded, doing my best to annoy him. I am his uncle, after all, and that is at least part of my job.
The foundation of my argument was basic, though. I completely respect soccer players, who are as conditioned as they come and tougher than most casual fans give them credit. But the teams put together in America, I contended, would never be as good as their counterparts in other countries around the world. And for one simple reason: the best athletes in America don’t play soccer.