Tom Purcell, 6/14/2010 [Archive]

Getting Americans Interested in the World Cup

Getting Americans Interested in the World Cup

By Tom Purcell

'Who cares about a bunch of guys playing footsie with a little ball?'

'Ah, yes, you speak of the World Cup. The fact is BILLIONS care. The World Cup is the most-watched sporting event in the world!'

'It is?'

'Absolutely, though Americans aren't watching much. According to a Rasmussen poll, only 8 percent of Americans are following it closely. Perhaps if we knew more about football -- we Americans call it soccer -- we'd understand why so many countries are so passionate about it.'

'Passionate?'

'According to about.com, soccer has been played in various forms around the world for 3,000 years. Organized soccer dates back to England in 1863, when an association was formed that began to standardize the rules of the game.'

'I didn't know that.'

'Each game is referred to as a 'match.' A match is comprised of two 45-minute halves. The field is called a 'pitch.' And cleats are referred to as 'boots.''

'How do players insult their opponents? 'Your mother wears army cleats?''

'Each football team has 11 players, with ten on the field and one protecting the goal. Players may use any part of their body but their hands and arms. The object is to kick the ball into the other team's goal. The team with the most goals wins.'

'I thought the team that put the most people to sleep was the winner.'

'Because of the sport's beauty and simplicity -- all you need is a ball and a makeshift field and you can play anywhere -- it quickly spread all over the world.'

'Kind of like the Bird Flu!'

'In 1930, the World Cup was born. It's an international competition that takes place every four years. During the three years leading up to the event, teams compete to qualify for 32 World Cup spots.'

'OK, the origins of soccer sound interesting enough, but the average American would still rather watch third graders play badminton.'

'But Americans should be interested in soccer. The United States has two of the world's best midfielders. We also have Tim Howard, one of the world's best goalkeepers. England was supposed to clobber us last Saturday, yet we battled them to a 1-1 draw!'

'Two scores in 90 minutes. How exciting.'

'You raise a fair point. Michael Mandelbaum, author of The Meaning of Sports, says Americans are results-oriented. We like lots of activity in our sports. One reason we haven't embraced soccer is the low scoring.'

'Who is the World Cup's leading sponsor? NoDoz?'

'Mandelbaum says another reason Americans don't follow soccer is because of its similarity to basketball. Both are simple games that seek to put a ball into a goal. He believes it's not possible for both to prosper in the same place.'

'At least there's lots of scoring in basketball. And you don't have to walk as far to get a beer.'

'Another challenge is that America already has four popular team sports -- basketball, football, baseball and hockey. Some argue that there's no room for another.'

'Maybe there's no room for a sport in which skinny guys fall down writhing in pain every time someone bumps into them. In fact, if the World Cup people want more Americans to tune in, they out to turn a couple of cameras to the stands.'

'The stands?'

'Sure. Some of those soccer fans are real fanatics. After they suck down several beers, multiple brawls are likely to break out. That's the kind of action Americans are looking for!'

© 2010 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. For more info contact Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email sales@cagle.com. Visit Tom on the web at www.TomPurcell.com or e-mail him at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

RESTRICTIONS: 'Tom Purcell's column may not be reprinted in general circulation print media in Pennsylvania's Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, and Westmoreland Counties. It may appear only in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and its sister publications.



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