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America captivated by soccer
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Have you been watching the World Cup? I have, even though I don't know the rules, or if there are any -- beside the obvious one that you can't use your hands.
That seems to be a pretty good rule that would improve almost any sport. Golf would certainly be a much more exciting sport if players had to kick the ball into the hole, or use the club with their feet. Tennis would be absolutely thrilling. And calling American football "football" would finally make sense. Why do they call it "football" when most of the time, the players are holding the ball in their hands? At least have the common decency to call it "foot and hand ball."
It turns out I'm not alone in watching the World Cup: The TV ratings for the World Cup are beating the NBA Finals and some World Series games, and the matches aren't even on network TV. Just cable. And when you see World Cup matchups like Portugal vs. Ghana, or Korea vs. Belgium, it suddenly becomes clear that what baseball so egotistically calls the "World Series" is really just a regional championship. Baseball's about as much of a "world" sport as hurling or hot dog eating.
And then there are the soccer fans. They are even more insane than the rows of shirtless, drunken men who show up at NFL games spelling out their team's name on their guts in the middle of an ice storm. Sheesh, it's like those guys aren't even trying.
Remember the vuvuzela debacle in South Africa four years ago, when a stadium full of horn-honking fans drove millions of people to turn off their TVs? That's what real fans do: get people to stop enjoying the game.
Someone said they don't like soccer because it's such a low-scoring game. And it's true, many games end up 1-0 or 2-1. But what if you only got one point for a touchdown in American football? Instead of 12 to 6, the score would be 2 to 1. Instead of 18 to 12, the final score would be 3 to 2. It sure would make the office betting pool simpler.
So why isn't soccer a huge sport here in this sports-loving country? I've heard a lot of reasons, but I've never heard the right one. The right one is: TV and advertising. A soccer game has very few commercial breaks. Let's see, a football game lasts an hour on the clock. With commercials, it lasts three hours plus. A soccer game lasts an hour and a half on the clock, and most games are done in two hours. A baseball game has no time limit, but it still has plenty of breaks for commercials. Boxing used to be a huge sport on TV, with every round a commercial.
Soccer? Forget it. Two halves, and the only real break is at halftime. How much money can you make on that?
Don't worry, soccer will come to America. As soon as they figure out a way to stop the game every 10 minutes or so to sell us some beer.
Contact Jim Mullen at