I’m not here to tell you that soccer has arrived. I’m not here to argue the merits of a sport that has no seat at an already crowded American table that has baseball, basketball and football bumping elbows (not to mention hockey fighting for its space).
I’m about as stereotypical as they come when talking of American soccer “fans.” I could not care less about the MLS. The only tidbits I know about international soccer I get from playing FIFA Soccer 11. The only time I really get into the sport is during the World Cup, and even then I find myself a little bored by the time the puny little trophy is awarded. That’s the extent of my soccer fanaticism.
Today the USA women’s team beat the Brazilians in a match for the ages. With the memory of Brandi Chastain’s sports bra fading from sight for many Americans, and completely erased for many others, this was the game that we were waiting for.
Well, that’s what you’ll be told.
As the game was winding down, Facebook and Twitter were exploding with silent screams of “USA! USA!” and afterward the front page of ESPN featured a great picture of the women celebrating their victory. It is completely appropriate to say that today, for however short a time that may be, women’s soccer reigned supreme in the United States.
There will be a soccer buzz moving around the country for however long the ladies stay in the tournament, then it will be relegated to “Hey, remember when that happened?” status.
I don’t mean to be a wet blanket on a day that means so much to so many people. Anyone who has a daughter, sister, close friend, etc. who plays soccer knows that today can’t be put into words.
But doesn’t the game lose a little luster with every hollow “God Bless America!” tweet or “Suck it Brazil!” Facebook status? Is every celebratory message empty? Of course not, but watching the same people who laugh when they see the MLS on ESPN show that much “emotion” about a soccer game certainly isn’t a ringing endorsement.
Look, I remember where I was when I watched Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria last summer. That game had that kind of effect on you. Today’s game is no different, and is perhaps even greater. I wish I could say that the Algeria game combined with today’s game would be enough to push soccer over the barrier it can’t seem to get over in this country, I really do, but it won’t. Yet, within the next few days, so many people are going to proclaim that very thing.
With the game so fresh in the minds of sports fans everywhere, it probably seems bush league to be kicking them with what I’m writing while they’re so high. But look at it this way: The game of soccer pulled me away from the baseball games on TV for a little while to write this article. A nation that has been captivated by a league fighting over billions of dollars will eat up the coverage of the match without even thinking about it.
Maybe I need to rethink what I said about soccer not “arriving” in the United States. It arrived, all right, but it won’t be staying long. That’s exactly what soccer is here; it’s a break from normalcy for most sports fans with the potential to captivate them that no other sport has. You won today, soccer fans, but be ready to step aside once another sport takes its place. Just know that, whether we admit it or not, we’ll all be excited when you come back.