Tuesday, July 06, 2010


The World Cup is in the quarterfinals, and the U.S. is not

Perhaps you’ve heard that the U.S. was eliminated from the World Cup competition, with their loss to Ghana the Saturday before last. Sad for the U.S. team, indeed. But is it sad for all the American World Cup viewers? Should it be?

Most significantly, should they stop paying attention now?

On Friday’s Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC, our local public radio station, they had a segment with this as a teaser:

Had they beaten Ghana, the USA would be playing this afternoon. So, why should you still care what’s happening in the world cup? Mike Pesca, NPR sports correspondent, and Franklin Foer, editor at The New Republic, soccer fanatic, and author of How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization, join us to discuss soccer in the USA.

I didn’t listen to the segment, and don’t especially care to. I just find the idea that one might lose interest in a sports competition just because your team is out of the running... to be odd. And, yet, it seems a widespread attitude, which affects sports coverage, including our coverage of the Olympics — events in which the U.S. is not a significant force are often very lightly covered, with coverage focusing on those events the U.S. is expected to win medals in.

I don’t get it. If you like soccer, then

  1. you ought to be interested in watching the World Cup whether the U.S. is in the competition or not, and
  2. you ought to prefer to watch the best matches, which involves eliminating the weaker teams.

And, of course, if you don’t like soccer, then why would you want to watch it just because the U.S. is competing?

Maybe it’s because I don’t watch sports on television — though, honestly, if I’m going to watch something, I’d rather it be soccer than anything else — but I just don’t get the parochial my team or nothing attitude.


Nathaniel Borenstein said...

I think there are (at least) 2 kinds of sports fans -- the ones that are really fans of one or more particular sports, and the ones that are fans of local sport teams. It's easy to see why the latter lose interest -- they're rooting for Team USA, not loving the sport for its own sake.

I don't see anything wrong with this, except insofar as civic boosterism is just a step away from jingoism, and thus just a hop, skip, and a (very big) jump away from ethnic cleansing.

Even those who deeply love a sport can give up for a while based on recent events. In recent years I've needed to take a few mental health breaks from being a Mets fan.

HRH said...

Although you are making an interesting point here, but I do see a brighter side to this and that’s less time in front of television and hopefully doing something useful. With all due respect to those who enjoy watching a good game on TV, while eating fatty food, consuming alcohol and occasionally yelling at the screen, I never comprehended the concept thoroughly. My most agonizing experience in the recent days was going to a soccer party with a few friends to watch Brazil versus Holland. You can call it peer pressure. Oye!!