In the Washington Post this morning, sports columnist Sally Jenkins complains about the lack of popular outrage over America’s elimination in the World Cup: “Why is it that Americans expect to win in every sport we compete in except for soccer? How is it that a nation so obsessed with games seems abnormally lacking in ambition when it comes to the most popular one on the globe?” Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, New York, is shutting its doors. According to the Journal, the place never had more than 17,000 visitors a year, and “the hall’s passing seems to have gone almost unnoticed. The local newspaper barely covered its demise.”
The world is crazy for soccer, but most Americans don’t give a hoot about the sport. Why? Many years ago, my former White House colleague Bill McGurn pointed out to me the real reason soccer hasn’t caught on in the good old U.S.A. It’s simple, really: Soccer is a socialist sport.
Think about it. Soccer is the only sport in the world where you cannot use the one tool that distinguishes man from beast: opposable thumbs. “No hands” is a rule only a European statist could love. (In fact, with the web of high taxes and regulations that tie the hands of European entrepreneurs, “no hands” kind of describes their economic theories as well.)
Soccer is also the only sport in the world that has “hooligans”—proletarian mobs that trash private property whenever their team loses.
Soccer is collectivist. At this year’s World Cup, the French national team actually went on strike in the middle of the tournament on the eve of an elimination match. (Yes, capitalist sports have experienced labor disputes, but can you imagine a Major League Baseball team going on strike in the middle of the World Series?)
At the youth level, soccer teams don’t even keep score and everyone gets a participation trophy. Can you say, “From each according to his ability…”? (The fact that they do keep score later on is the only thing that prevents soccer from being a Communist sport.)
Capitalist sports are exciting—people often hit each other, sometimes even score. Soccer fans are excited by an egalitarian 0-0 tie. When soccer powerhouses Brazil and Portugal met recently at the World Cup, they played for 90 minutes—and combined got just eight shots on net (and zero goals). Contrast this with the most exciting sports moment last week, which came not at the World Cup, but at Wimbledon, when American John Isner won in a fifth-set victory that went 70-68. Yes, even tennis is more exciting than soccer. Like an overcast day in East Berlin, soccer is … boring.
And finally, have you seen the World Cup trophy? It looks like an Emmy Award (and everyone knows that Hollywood is socialist).
There are many more reasons soccer and socialism go hand in hand. You can read some of them here. Perhaps in the age of President Obama, soccer will finally catch on in America. But I suspect that socializing Americans’ taste in sports may be a tougher task than socializing our healthcare system.