Euro 2012: Why Can't America Get Behind the World's Most Popular Sport?
With Euro 2012 starting tomorrow, one of greatest sporting events is about to take over the hearts and souls of football [soccer] fans across the planet. Unfortunately, here in America, you would have no idea what's about to go down because we're all too busy focusing on what city the Kardashians are currently taking over.
Okay, maybe that's an extreme, but hopefully, you get the point: appreciating the beautiful game here puts you in the minority. Sure there are plenty of fans across the country, but the excitement for the sport is lukewarm.
Despite decades of tiresome efforts to promote soccer to American youth and sports fans, and in spite of the tremendous success of the U.S. women's soccer team in international competition, soccer continues to be the ignored family member of our sports scene.
What's surprising is that even though American youth soccer remains one of the most popular sports for children to play here, with upwards of four million kids between the ages of five and nineteen playing in some sort of recreational youth league, professional soccer has not found its place in the eyes of the people.
So why don't Americans love such a beautiful game?
Why can't our society get behind a sporting event like Euro 2012? Why can't it capture our nation for even just one month? I'm unable to pinpoint one primary reason, but there seems to be a myriad of factors that contribute to this pushing aside of soccer.
First and foremost, the United States has never done better than it did in the first World Cup (1930), finishing third that year. It's quite simple: Americans just aren't that good at the sport, and the lack of success has had a direct impact on its lack of popularity.
Next, and possibly most important, let's look at the sport's television format: We're presented with two 45-minute-plus periods of continuous play, leaving very little openings for American television networks to advertise on.
Just look at American football. TV networks plan their entire fall lineups around the NFL schedule.
American football is a sport that has constant breaks in its action, and thus, yields lucrative advertising opportunities. Soccer's format does limit opportunities for the networks to make their money, but know this: The European Championship, which begins tomorrow, will put up numbers to prove that it is one of the world's elite sporting events. UEFA is said to earn commercial revenues of at least $1.6 billion for the tournament.
It's no secret, there is not a lot of scoring in soccer.
Goals are indeed a rare commodity in soccer; they are extremely hard-fought results, displaying a level of perpetual intensity that is difficult in other American sports.
In my opinion, it takes a more sophisticated taste to watch and be entertained by a game with little scoring. The action of America's most popular sports (football, basketball, baseball and hockey) gives the viewer a potential "score" on almost every play from beginning to end. With such a large pitch, Americans have often termed much of the action in soccer as futile; I cringe every time I hear something like this because the level of athleticism, physicality and strategy in the sport is unparalleled.
For every moment of euphoria in this year's Euro Cup, there will be dozens of heartbreaks.
Soccer is an extremely unpredictable sport; a game which not only tests but rewards the viewer's patience. The individual watching spends much of the game 'hoping' that something big is about to happen.
It's that anticipation which leads some to call the game "boring" but others to deem it beautiful.
It is that same anticipation that creates the best atmosphere a sport can have. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but for those of us who appreciate the intricacies of the sport, it very well might be the most exciting thing around.
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