Soccer is the most popular sport in the world.
The World Cup is the largest sporting event each year it is held. The 2006 finals averaged 260 million viewers. For comparison, the Super Bowl that year only averaged 90.7 million.
In Europe, fans live and die with their favorite teams. In fact, they get so fanatical the crowds frequently turn violent. They even have a name for these unruly people: hooligans.
Despite its outrageous popularity across the globe, soccer has failed to grab a foothold here in the United States.
This has to be attributed to what our society values in its athletes.
The three most popular sports in the US are football, basketball and baseball. All these sports rely on extreme hand-eye coordination and precision.
We ask our pitchers to throw a ball into a tiny strike zone, and our batters are given an equally difficult task of hitting it square with a small bat.
Basketball players are expected to throw a ball through a hoop much higher than they are. Often, if they cannot do this 50 percent of the time, we see it as a failure.
Football teams execute choreographed plays with extreme precision. Passes are expected to hit players in stride, and wide-outs are expected to have perfect timing.
Meanwhile, soccer is completely free-flowing.
Possession changes quickly and often. Players are not able to keep control of the ball for much more than a few seconds at a time. Also, kicking a ball is so much more inaccurate than what we as Americans have come to expect in sports.
When an American stumbles across a soccer game on television, they are not able to see the greater grace and skill involved. They see people who nine times out of 10 are failing.
This of course only applies to uneducated fans. There are soccer enthusiasts here in this country. The sport simply holds more of a cult following instead of mass-market appeal.
Because of this, I do not see soccer in this country catching up in popularity with the other major sports.
Our values are too ingrained into us to change.
The skill needed to succeed in soccer just does not compare to the skills we admire in athletes.
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