For anyone in the United States with a day job, it may be news that for the past several weeks the European Football (Soccer) Championship has been going on in Vienna, Austria. This event is comparable to the Super Bowl or March Madness in the United States, but actually only occurs once every four years, so it's a pretty huge deal. During the next several weeks clubs from Portugal to Russia will vie for one of soccer's greatest glories, the European Cup. Despite the fact that this competition will be broadcast in bars, town squares, and even movie theatres all over Europe, it is likely that ESPN's T.V. ratings for this event in the United States will be lesser than the NBA Finals, The U.S. Open, and even reruns of "Home Improvement" on T.B.S. (Seriously, who can resist the ape-like charm and sexist witticisms of Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor).

          Like many others I find myself wondering why Americans just don't care about soccer. Soccer itself is an amazing display of teamwork, precision, and intense rivalry, and is truly a sight to behold. Experts have put forth explanations such as lack of star power and a weak professional league. However I believe a so-called "lame soccer culture" is what truly repels spectators from the United States. After watching the competition for the past two weeks, I believe I have come up with three potential reasons for soccer's lack of popularity in our country.


¢1.       The Dramatic Dives:


        Since I began watching soccer, I have noticed a particularly disgusting strategy that many professional players employ during a match. This act known as "diving" is done in order to gain undeserving free kicks from the referee. It begins with the player dribbling swiftly down the field aggressively in the direction of the opponent's goal. Things are actually getting pretty impressive, but don't worry, this is about to change drastically. A defender then comes in for a sliding challenge, and the offensive player falls to the ground, a look of intense agony on his face that would seem to imply the sort of pain most people only experience a couple times during their lives. At this point one would assume that he has broken his

ankle worse than Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug back in 1996.  But not five seconds later the player is back on his feet ready to play at full speed.  Diving is so common in the sport of soccer that the act itself has become a separate penalty, punishable by yellow card. Depending on the team you are watching (the Italians, Argentineans, and Portuguese are probably the worst), this display of "gamesmanship" can occur more than twenty times in one game.  

               

                Now this sort of garbage may fly over in Europe, but in athletic competition in the United States this stuff just doesn't happen. How many times have you seen a batter take a 95 mile-per-hour-fastball straight to the back, pause for a moment while he considers whether or not he should charge the mound, then trot down to first base with a face of stone? In the same respect, how many times has a wide receiver on a crossing pattern met the shoulder pads of a 245 pound linebacker with such ferocity that his helmet explodes from his head, not unlike a Tweety Bird Pez dispenser. In general, the receiver will pop up in an instant (unless he is genuinely knocked out or he is Chad Johnson) to preserve his invaluable pride.  If Americans are ever going to follow soccer with the same passion as the rest of the world, the athletes need to learn not to crumple to the ground crying every time they take a cleat to the shin. In a country that produced "NFL Blitz", the movie "Total Recall" (How easy would a Chuck Norris reference be right here?), and the Enormous Omelet Sandwich from Burger King, it is not common to be enthused by a sport in which grown men show such displays cowardice.  To sum it up, European soccer is the opposite of John McClain in "Die Hard".


¢2.       The Ceremonies:

In the United States we pride ourselves in our taste for the delightfully tacky. This sort of tradition extends itself to the ceremonies before, during and after our sporting events. In the NFL, football players explode from tunnels through a gauntlet of fireworks,  large breasted cheerleaders with sparkling pom-poms, and "Back in Black" by AC/DC. During halftime of our nation's sporting events there is always some sort of spectacle to observe. Whether it is a half-court shot contest, an Asian woman juggling plates on a twenty foot unicycle, or a good old-fashioned baby race, Americans need something to spectacular to satisfy our very short attention spans.

             At the European Cup there are no such theatrics. Instead the players hold hands with a young child  (actually a little creepy) as they make their way onto the field, listen respectfully to both team's national anthem, and shake hands with opposing players before the match. How soccer of them. I mean there are usually only a couple of goals scored each game. Take note soccer. To become popular in the U.S. the sporting event needs to become just that, an event. Would it be so terrible to have teenagers dressed in wacky rainbow suspenders and comical wigs shooting Oscar Meyer Wieners into the crowd with a hotdog shaped bazooka?



               

¢3.       America is not the best:


The United States Soccer Team is currently ranked 21 in the world, somewhere in between Turkey and Israel. At the 2006 World Cup the national team failed to advance to the round of sixteen, win a single game, and managed only one goal in a losing effort against Ghana (The only other score was an own goal scored by Italy in the second game). In the Ricky Bobby culture of the United States this is simply not acceptable. It is not likely that the typical McDonald's eating, UFC loving, firework blasting American can witness a national team responsible for representing the Stars and Stripes being utterly dominated in by Spaniards, Italians, and even the French in athletic competition.

            

    Although the U.S. may not even be among the world's top ten teams, it's no skin off our back, because soccer is boring anyway. Because we don't care about soccer our team isn't any good, and because our team isn't any good we don't really care. I mean imagine for one moment that American football became an international Olympic sport and countries such as France, Argentina, and Portugal attempted to field teams against the U.S. The result would be an absolute display of carnage that would be in a word: glorious. I think it would go something like the episode of South Park where that pee-wee hockey team gets a chance to play against the Detroit Red Wings. As Americans we know where our skills lie, and they are obviously not with soccer. Therefore we simply cut our losses, and ignore the sport at the international level all together.




Oh yeah and the scarves don't help either.