So, have you caught the fever yet?
Are you discussing corner kick strategy with friends and strangers alike? Do you find yourself chanting "I believe that we will win" at all hours of the day and night? And have the terms crept into your lexicon: nil, the pitch, and stoppage time.
If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then you have, indeed, caught the fever. World Cup fever, that is.
If you have, you’re not alone. Millions of red-blooded Americans, people who wouldn’t normally know the difference between offsides and off-the-rack, have latched onto soccer during the World Cup tournament.
Don’t believe me? See how occupied your office will be Tuesday afternoon, when the U.S. team plays Belgium in the Round of 16. Only the unlucky won’t find some place to take in the match with newfound friends, and those who can’t get away will find a reason to close their office doors for a long wink-wink phone call. Nudge-nudge.
Yes, the United States is in the full throes of a love affair with soccer. Last Thursday’s loss to Germany drew more than 8 million viewers, more than twice the audience for the NBA draft, held later that evening. The President watched the match from Air Force One on his way to Minneapolis. After landing, he engaged the crowd in a chant of "U-S-A, U-S-A."
All of a sudden, names like Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Coach Jürgen Klinsmann fall trippingly off the tongue, as one newly-minted expert after another declares that this time, soccer will gain a foothold in the U-S-A, U-S-A.
But that was supposed to happen 40 years ago, when big names like Pelé came to the U.S. to be at the forefront of a wave in which soccer would wash over the nation. The sport has had its occasional growth spurts, usually around the time of a World Cup. All it generally takes for U.S. fans to start caring about sports we wouldn’t cross the street to watch is for national pride to be invoked.
And after a World Cup or an Olympics end, we go right back to ignoring track, gymnastics, curling and, yes, soccer. That is, until the next time our national pride is on the line.
The major reason for American indifference towards soccer is obvious: It’s not our sport. Our best athletes seek out the games we know, namely baseball, basketball and American football. Indeed, the idea that we call the world’s game "soccer" galls the rest of the world. They call it "football."
And the best soccer is still played in Europe, a fact the haughty Europeans never cease to remind us.
Soccer is not an affront to the American way of life, as conservative commentator Ann Coulter opined last week. It’s just not our gig. And we should be okay with that.
My guess is that soccer fever in the US will break probably around the time training camp opens for our brand of football. And then office life will get back to normal.
You can reach us via e-mail with your questions and comments at sports [at] large [@] wypr [dot] org. And follow me on Twitter: @sportsatlarge.