Why the US Men Failing to Qualify for the World Cup Matters Pt. 1

I googled “soccer sucks” to see what kind of responses I would get. I was sure they would be numerous because I grew up playing soccer and thought I had already heard all of them. I was also certain that many of the people who had authored these gems would happily defend baseball, which proves that cognitive dissonance goes far beyond mere theoretical postulating. My Google search led me to an article written a few years ago entitled “7 Reasons Why Soccer is the Dumbest Sport Ever”.

Some of the responses were predictable: “the lack of scoring” and “the flopping” among them. These answers are common cannon fodder for people who cannot appreciate the finesse necessary to excel at the beautiful game. However, assuming that the author Mr. Kels Dayton is a sports fan, which is a rather safe assumption considering he’s writing for SportzEdge.com, I’d recommend he look up a YouTube video entitled the “Stupidest NBA Flops of All Time”.

He could also watch another basketball flop that is one of my personal favorites, “Oregon’s Dillon Brooks Flops, Gets Booed vs. Utah”. The Dillon Brooks flop is so bad that it’s also spectacular. If that’s not enough, heĀ could instead choose to watch baseball, hockey, or a number of other sports with avid and passionate North American fans who don’t seem to mind the low scoring.

Dayton goes on to list more reasons why soccer is a “sad, frustrating game”. This reasoning struck me as even more odd. “They don’t stop the freaking clock.” “The ‘No Substitutions’ Rule”, “The Penalty Kicks” and “The World Cup’s Knockout Stage” rounded out his rationale for disgruntlement. These complaints make no logical sense.

He is arguing that the game is too slow and boring, while simultaneously asking for penalty kicks to be done away with, unlimited substitutions to be instituted, clock stoppage and the knockout stage to be abolished, all of which would further lengthen and slow down the game (or tournaments such as the World Cup).

These points are brought up not to belittle Mr. Dayton – an individual I don’t know who likely forgot long ago that he even wrote that article. Rather, an example has been made of him because his reasoning is not so unique. I’ve heard many of these complaints from strangers at sports bars to parents upset their child chose soccer instead of a more traditional or “tough” American sport (you know, the ones that leave you with lasting permanent brain damage and such).

Here’s why rebuking this rhetoric is important: it has permeated American sports culture and allowed us to place soccer at the bottom of our sports’ hierarchy. Nowhere has this become more apparent than with the United States Men’s recent inability to qualify for the World Cup, you know, only the most important sporting event on the planet (sorry, not sorry, Olympics).

According to FIFA, one billion people tuned in to watch the 2014 World Cup Final. Everyone from the Prince of Monaco to a grandmother living in a slum surely found a way to catch the Final. For comparison, Forbes estimated that 111.3 million people watched the 2017 Super Bowl, almost ten times less than the 2014 Final. The last World Cup Final even garnered approximately double the viewership of the moon landing. Yeah, it’s kind of a big deal.

While playing sports has valuable health benefits and can teach many life lessons, anyone who watches the World Cup can tell you that it’s about far more than just sports. It’s one of the few global events that actually preaches and practices (for the most part, ignorance will always exist) tolerance, togetherness, mutual respect, diversity, co-existence, passion, cohesion and unity.

For further proof of soccer’s importance, watch the celebrations of fans from any country in the developing world upon learning that their team has reached the World Cup. Judge me for it all you want, but these videos brought tears to my eyes. Passion is not a naughty world, and the World Cup showcases unrivaled passion because frankly, the World Cup is bigger than soccer.