Soccer: When we win, we will care

June 15, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND

Oh well, our World Cup soccer run was fun while it lasted, which was about three seconds when the Czech Republic, as Tony Kornheiser would say, built an insurmountable 1-0 lead.

Now we have to play Italy, one of the favorites. This is a desperate, must-win situation, a time when the entire nation must rally and unite behind our boys and ... And.

So, did you see where Miss America is coming to Hagerstown? Now there's something with spectator interest. Especially that upcoming luncheon she has with Hagerstown Mayor Bob Bruchey. That, I want a ticket to see. No wonder he wanted to be mayor so badly. If she leaves lunch driving a Ford, we'll know something was up.

I know, I know, appreciating soccer is the politically correct thing to do these days. I think it's a New World Order kind of thing. If the world likes it, we should like it too, like tofu or leg hair.


But to most Yanks, it's still chloroform on grass. Even when we try to say nice things about it, we can't. I heard a baseball analyst say this week that "Soccer's very popular with grade-school kids, until they get to high school and the athletes start playing football, baseball and basketball."

Ouch. Two guys in the gym were watching the ESPN ticker and they saw results for "W Cup" and thought it stood for Winston Cup. This caused problems, since they saw all these foreign countries and since the stock car points system is now the Nextel Cup. One of the theories they advanced before noodling through the correct answer was that "it still must be called Winston Cup in the rest of the world."

You have to feel for the institutions such as The Washington Post, which are always ginning up soccer and trying to cram it down our throats. They have links to the game story, game analysis, poll, streaming video, fantasy challenge, where to watch and full coverage.

Whew. The poll was especially rich. You're asked to "Grade the Americans," including the U.S. attack, the U.S. defense, the U.S. midfield, all the U.S. players - 20 questions in all. The only aspect of the game that made out relatively well among the few who bothered to respond was the "midfield," probably because they thought it was a battle in World War II.

All that setup and now poof, we're basically one and done. Oh well, save that Web site coding, you may be able to use it for the next season of "American Idol."

Of course in this country, it's not the sport that generates the excitement, it's winning that generates the excitement. If we were to actually win the World Cup a couple of times, soccer would be bigger than the Beatles. When we win, we will care, but not before.

Hence all the pressure on the U.S. squad to perform well. Soccer fans know that if we tank, it will mean four more years of soccer obscurity. I mean, look how fast everyone jumped off of the World Baseball Championship this spring as soon as we lost to whoever it was we lost to. Soon as were eliminated, that giant clicking sound you heard was everyone switching over to "Shark Week."

Same with Olympic hockey. We don't win, we don't care. On the other hand, you had 88-year-old grandmothers who wouldn't know a snowboard from a sarcophagus talking knowledgeably about the "Flying Tomato."

Of course you can look at the bright side and see the U.S. as set up for the most amazing soccer comeback of all time. As I understand it, we are in a very deep hole, not just because we lost, but because we lost 3-0, which is the equal of 73-0 in football.

Since total points matter in determining who moves on to the next level, we're in a tight spot.

But there is hope, and here's why. This very year I saw something I had never before seen in a soccer match. After watching, I don't know, maybe 20 total hours of soccer in my lifetime, I actually saw someone score a live goal. I couldn't believe it. I'd seen taped highlights of goals being scored of course, but I had never seen one during a live match.

In all honesty, I was stunned; I didn't know what to think. It was kind of like a caveman seeing his first comet.

But if this can happen, I figure anything can happen. So count me among the U.S. bandwagon members as the team shoots for the most unlikely of comebacks.

Ich bin ein soccer fan! Unless they lose.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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