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America and the World of “Football”

This is your time, America. As a nation, you love to dominate and control anything and everything that you can: technology, cinema, wars, money, the Space Race, the Olympics, you name it.

You are the country with the most athletes in the world, yet you’re known for having one of the highest obesity rates. Always striving for number one, even if it means being fat. Yup, that’s about as American as it gets.

Despite all this, the other superpowers of the world laugh at you. They’ve been laughing at you for a very long time, in fact. Why is this the case, you ask? Well, there’s a number of reasons.

First of all, there’s this thing called football. Yeah, you know it America. That game that has as much to do with feet as about 95% of all the other sports in the world.

No, I’m not talking about the sport that the rest of the world calls football, I’m talking about “American” football. No matter how much you get criticized for continuing to use that moniker, you defend it. You embrace it.

You love bragging about how physical and awesome it is, about how the only reason the rest of the world hates on it is because you’re the only country man enough to play it, about how the Super Bowl is the “biggest sporting event in the world”. I love you for sticking to your guns, America. I really do.

Sorry to say, though, I’m going to have to throw some statistics your way. Thanks to your continually growing dedication to the Super Bowl, the granddaddy of all American sports culture, this year’s game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos drew in an astounding, record-breaking 111.5 million viewers.

Yeah, that’s really good. However, I have one more statistic, and be warned – you may not even understand any of the words you’re about to read.

Just last year, the UEFA Champion’s League Final between Germany’s two top clubs, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, drew in a total of… drum roll, please… 360 million viewers worldwide.

What is the UEFA Champion’s League Final, you ask? Well, you could look at it as Super Bowl Sunday for basically every other country that watches sports.

To make it a little bit clearer for you, when people from other countries ask “What’s Super Bowl Sunday?” they are most likely going to be told, “It’s like the American version of the Champion’s League Final.” Then, they will probably laugh at you again because they just remembered that you call that strange rugby-wannabe with the helmets “football”.

Once you get passed all of that “football” and “soccer” silliness, you’ll find that the world is laughing at you for another reason: You’re not very good at it.

“Woah, woah, slow down there,” you say. “I’m America. Even if we’re talking about some relatively unpopular sport like soccer, there’s no way I’m not good at it.”

This is the time when you go look up the FIFA World Rankings and see that the USA is ranked No. 13 in the world. Okay, that wasn’t so bad, right? Wrong. You still get no respect.

Europeans will stand strong when they tell you that the only reason you win games is because you play in a region against teams like Costa Rica, Honduras and Jamaica. You pretty much never have to see names like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Balotelli, Ribery… basically every superstar in the world.

Now’s the time when you remember how the USA shocked the world by making it out of the first round of the World Cup four years ago. That was good, right?

Well, you did it by beating Algeria… and then you lost to Ghana in the next game. So… I don’t know, it’s definitely not a failure, but remember, when it comes to you, the only goal is being number one.

America, I just want you to know one thing. The more difficult things get, the more you seem to thrive. It’s in your nature. It’s in the hearts of your people. While you may be well behind in the big picture of world football, what you have shown in the past five years or so is something you should be very proud of indeed.

Personally, I didn’t care much for the US Men’s National Team for quite some time after becoming a fan of soccer. The culture wasn’t good, the publicity wasn’t good and the team wasn’t good. Honestly, I liked the women’s team way more.

Then, you beat Spain 2-0 in the 2009 Confederations Cup semi-finals. Spain. The number one team in the world. The team that was on a 15-game winning streak; the longest in the history of international soccer. The team that went on to win the World Cup the next year.

You did that, America, and you won me over. It put the following year’s World Cup journey in a whole new light. No longer were you just some hopeful underdog looking to spoil another team’s chances of glory. You believed that you could do anything, and you made us believe.

That’s why Landon Donovan’s unbelievable goal against Algeria won the award for Best Moment in the 2010 ESPY Awards, as voted by the fans. For once, the people of your country showed that they actually genuinely cared about soccer.

Since that fateful day, you’ve made a lot of steps forward. Players like Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Jozy Altidore have somewhat become household names, and of course there’s Donovan.

You went on a 12-game winning streak, the seventh longest in history. You took care of your own business by finishing first in World Cup Qualifying and winning the Gold Cup Final over rival Mexico.

Once again, I’ll tell you, America. This is your time. You are in the 2014 Group of Death. You don’t get to play insignificant filler countries this time around, now you get to face top teams Portugal and Germany and you get a shot at revenge against Ghana.

Show us once again that you have what it takes. Show us that same stuff that helped you produce American legends like Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Babe Ruth, Michael Phelps.

If you make it out of the first round in Brazil, your fans won’t just flip out. We probably won’t shut up about it until that next improbable, classic moment happens and we can start bragging about that.

I believe in you, America. Make us proud. When June comes around, win, lose or draw, we will be cheering. And if you do lose, I’ll just have to go extra crazy at EDC to help ease the pain. So no hard feelings.

 

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One Comment

  1. Michael Jorgenson says:

    *Correction – USA’s Gold Cup Final victory came against Panama, not Mexico.

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