With the World Cup only a few weeks away, I again find myself wondering why it is that in the USA, football (or rather, soccer) is such a minority game. Just about everywhere else in the world (with a few exceptions) it is a popular and well known game. Love it or hate it, you know it's there.
In the US, the game they call football is something where they use their hands. Except in the rest of the world we call a similar game rugby, and don't wear all those pads, and don't stop for a chat every few minutes.
Okay, rugby isn't similar at all.
Why has football, aka soccer, not picked up in the US in the same way it has elsewhere in the world?
Could it be that simply they're not very good at it? They like to win, and coming late to the game it's very hard to win. Yes, there are many countries which won't win the World Cup and where football thrives. However, in the countries with a passion for victory at all costs there is a lively home game, and in other countries they just like the game.
In the UK we will see every game, whether England is playing or not (Scotland and Wales did not qualify). If England gets knocked out, we will still have the games on TV. Was this the same in the US after the USA got knocked out when they were hosting the World Cup? I would be surprised if it was.
Okay, in 1998 the US did lose to Iran. That had to sting!
However, in 2002 they got to the quarter finals, not bad.
Perhaps the 'not very good' comment was a bit harsh. A bit of research and I find that they won their qualifying group. This is pretty good, but they were in the same group as Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guatamala and Panama. Not the greatest opposition (Trinidad and Tobago are the exception here... they qualified and are playing England, so I'm getting the excuses in early).
I'm not a great sports fan type, but there are some things that are iconic that I do watch. Such as Wimbledon, the World Cup and so on. In all of the iconic team events, the worldwide events, the US seems to stand apart.
Cricket - the US has baseball (the rest of the world plays rounders!) Football - the US has 'soccer moms' (and plays a game called Football) Rugby - see 'US football' Formula One - the F1 Gp seems to be a bit of a mystery to the average US type (though, admittedly I may be wrong there). The Indy 500 seems to take all the boring bits of F1 and distill them into one event - compare and contrast with the wonderful Monaco GP!
Back to baseball, the major game in baseball is cheekily called the 'World Series' (though this is named after a newspaper sponsor).
The only things that the US plays along with the rest of the world seem to be individual events, tennis, golf, athletics and so forth.... much easier to 'break into' than a team game. It seems to tie in with the 'if we're not going to win, why bother?' theory.
Now, I've not got a problem with countries having their own games (e.g. Aussie Rules Football), nor with countries not getting on with one or other world sport.
It'll be a long time before Rugby or Football challenge Cricket in India. I like some of the US games, I loved seeing the Cubbies when I went to Chicago and the baseball mitt is a great item of kit for the Steve McQueen, 'slightly bored and need something to do' moment. No, having games specific to particular countries is not a problem at all, nor is the fact that some countries just don't 'get' some games. I just wonder why it is that for every major international team sport that I can think of, the US simply doesn't play with anyone else.
The US seem to share no major team sports with the world.
This is a great shame.