Hey, America had a great World Cup right? It was fun, wasn't it? It was, but you know what made it fun? Not being like the rest of the world, not being a soccer nation.
The United States' record at the World Cup was one win, one draw and two losses. That's right – a 1-1-2 record. Normally fans wouldn't get so excited about such a record, but we Americans can take pride in how 'our boys' played – with great spirit and sportsmanship. They outdid the rest of the teams at the World Cup in those areas and we're happy about that.
It won't be like that if (when?) America becomes a soccer nation, as some Americans seem to want. Nope. If America becomes a true soccer nation – like England or Germany or Italy – then we have to accept that the World Cup will never be a fun occasion again.
Look, we lost to Belgium the other night, but still we held our heads high, proud despite defeat. Why is that? Because we all know that soccer remains, essentially, a minority sport in America. That's changing and if that keeps up eventually the USA will go from plucky underdogs to arrogant favorites.
America is a nation of 300 million people. Belgium has 9 million. If we really were a soccer nation how would we accept losing to Belgium? My guess is not well. Nobody in England or Italy or Germany would take such a defeat well.
Yet, Italy has only 60 million people; England 56 million. Even Germany has a population of only 82 million – and they expect to make the semi-finals at every World Cup. Brazil is the biggest soccer nation at 200 million and they expect to win every World Cup.
Now, I'll admit the Brazilians still seem to be able to enjoy the World Cup despite the pressure they exert on their own team, but few European countries manage that. I don't think America would either.
If the 300 million Americans were as invested in their soccer team as the English or the Italians or the Germans are in theirs we would expect – no demand – nothing less than a spot in the World Cup semi-finals each time and we would expect to win half of them.
There would be a lot less fun and a lot more gracelessness – from the players and the fans – and a lot more ridiculous hype followed by stinging criticism from the media. Rather than celebrating Tim Howard's shot-stopping we'd be emptying both barrels on the guys playing in front of him. And if we were really a nation of soccer-obsessed fans we would probably have let Howard have it for the German goal that beat America.
Oh, and in those years where we win the World Cup? It won't be unbridled joy like we experienced with the 1980 Olympic hockey team, but more like what we get when the USA wins gold in basketball these days, when our over-paid, over-hyped, over-indulged superstars stomp all over teams from smaller nations with less interest in basketball. It'll be 'our due.'
That's what awaits us as we march towards being a world soccer power. When that day comes – and it's not that far off – remember how it felt to celebrate a 1-1-2 team. Probably won't feel anywhere near as good.
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