Monday, July 18, 2011

The World Cup Final Proves Soccer Still Isn't Popular

On Saturday night I was having drinks with some friends and the subject of the World Cup final came up. When asked whether anyone was going to watch the game the consensus was we would all catch the highlights on Sportscenter.

As the game approached I changed my mind. It would be irresponsible and arrogant of me not to watch. How could I proclaim myself the expert on all things sports related and not watch the finals of the world's most popular sport? As a journalist and a sports blogger I owed it to my family, friends, fans, and followers to show some professionalism so I tuned in.

From the moment go the women's World Cup final had every element in a sporting event you could ask for. In terms of living up to the hype the final game far exceeded expectations. There was more drama and intrigue than the Maury Povich show. Even the President tweeted to say the World Cup final had his undivided attention.

As the game ebbed and flowed back and forth I always had the sneaking suspicion it would be decided on penalty kicks. Even when the US went up 2-1 during the extra session it only seemed right that the 2011 World Cup team would follow the same rite of passage as the 1999 team they are so often compared to.

The penalty kick segment was epic. The misses, the saves, and ultimately Japan's triumph captured the essence of sports. After the game was over I watched the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat and 3 minutes later I changed the channel and went on with the rest of my day as if nothing happened.

There in lies the problem. There was no lingering effect, no emotional exhaustion. When the Seattle Seahawks lost the Super Bowl I didn't sleep well for a month. When Kobe Bryant missed his chance to tie Michale Jordan's 6 championships my phone didn't stop ringing for a week. Soccer has made great strides in that last two decades, but it's still not in the hearts of American sports fans. Maybe in the future that will change. For now it's just an ancillary sport that casual fans tune in to every four years. If a World Cup final that exciting doesn't faze the public as a whole then the sport has a lot of work to do. Your thoughts?

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