Ryan Ianni – Special to the Southern News –
If I, were to ask as the average student on campus, to name three professional soccer players, I’m confident that the majority would give me answers of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Landon Donovan or at least something along those lines. The first two just happen to be the best two players in the world currently, with Donovan as the best U.S. player in history.
Why is there such disconnect between sports in the States compared to overseas? In terms of athleticism, soccer is as demanding as it gets, with most professional players running an average of four miles per game. The fan base overseas is nothing if not rampant and loyal to the clubs they support. So what is the difference that makes soccer so difficult to grasp onto in the U.S?
One theory is that Americans don’t want to support a sport that they did not invent. Football reigns supreme on this side of the pond, with America’s pastime holding firmly onto second and basketball easily sliding into third. Three sports all created on this soil, all with a long history here, but why not embrace a sport with a longer history than these three, which has lasted over two centuries?
I’ve heard the same arguments over and over my whole life. There’s not enough scoring in soccer. Too many players fall and roll on the ground. It’s not physical enough. Of course soccer has issues, but so does every sport, regardless of its origin.
These are the same regurgitated arguments that crop up when I bring up this topic to traditional sports fans. One of my responses is that while I do agree that soccer can be low scoring, it’s all about the relativity of the goals. Meaning that if a goal were worth six points, then some games would be 24-12. Why does a touchdown in football need to be worth six points? If it were worth only one, and soccer were worth six, then all of a sudden football is a sport “without enough scoring.” This is the point I try to get across to some of the more stubborn sports fans I’ve met, but it doesn’t always take hold.
As far as players over exaggerating injuries, I’m here to say that I agree with the common perception. Professional athletes faking injuries is one of the black spots on this sport, but it certainly does not and should not define it. This is a physical sport no matter what the mainstream thinks. If you’ve never had a bulky defender, running full-tilt, slide tackle you from behind, then you don’t know how physical the sport can be.
Soccer has a rich history. It’s a game filled with beautiful one-touch passing, dribbling that could break your ankles, and goals that defy gravity at times. The feeling of being absorbed into a rampant fan base as you watch your team is unprecedented across all sports, and soccer has been around longer than most.
I’m not trying to advocate the U.S. turning soccer into the number one sport, like the rest of the world has; we have an identity and it’s unique to the world we live in. If anything, I hope that as a culture we can stop the uninformed and biased opinions of this sport, and begin to support this game that has given passion and joy to millions, from Madrid, Spain to London, England and all the way to a small suburban town in Connecticut.