I hate to be the one to break the news to everyone who will be doing human interest stories over the next few weeks but it’s not going to happen. Women’s soccer is not going to catch on in any major way in the USA because of the women’s world cup run. Don’t shoot the messenger on this one, because I would love to see it happen. In fact, I would love to see soccer catch on and become a major sport in the US in general.
Let’s get something clear. All of the crazed soccer fans that were out in bars cheering for the women’s team don’t care any more about the game of soccer today then they did 6 weeks ago because of it. They were interested in the story, not the game! Now that the story in over, so is their interest.
I hope this time is different but we’ve all been through this before. Who else remembers the soccer player who whipped her shirt off, got on the cover of SI and according to so many people brought women’s soccer mainstream like 10 years ago? Again, great story with tons of interest but the story ended.
I’m coming to believe that in the USA we are overly obsessed with exclusivity. Other than baseball, which even diehard fans will tell you is boring and acts more to fill time between other seasons, the majority of fans never played the sports they are fanatical about. I understand the phenomenon and the attraction. It is very intriguing to watch athletes do things that I have never done and could never, ever do. It provides for some great internal fantasy and entertainment but there is a serious disconnect in most cases.
Soccer and biking fall into the category of another phenomenon. They are two sports that 99% of the USA play as kids. Ask 10 people and 9 will tell you enthusiastically that they grew up playing soccer and riding their bike. High school in the USA is a strange and unforgiving place and that holds true for people as well as sport. There is an undeniable hierarchy of sport that explains the death of bicycling as a viable sport in that environment and I understand it completely. I’m one of those people who didn’t recognize bicycling as a sport until I was about 26 years old after having “grown up” riding my bike everywhere.
Soccer seems to be different because it is a viable high school sport to say that most high schools have a soccer team. Maybe it’s because soccer goes up against the juggernaut that is american football and you only get 3 winners in high school sports. Fall= football, Winter= Basketball, Spring= Baseball(although no one really cares or pays attention to spring sports in high school).
I have no intention of debating the merits of each sport and why the hierarchy is the way it is. I just thought it was necessary to point out a fact that you already know and ask you why you are devoted to one sport over another? I know my reasons for watching and enjoying certain sports but everyone’s reasons are different and as varied as human motivation itself.
Full disclosure, I’m not a soccer fan (although I would like to be). My sports are football, hockey, snowboarding, surfing, lacrosse, rugby, biking, swimming, triathlon and maybe golf. The theme is simple, I need to play or have played a sport to connect to it and consider myself a fan of it. The only exceptions are boxing and MMA because I have been in fights before and I’m fascinated by the controlled chaos and training that goes into it. This is not a full list and I will sit, watch and throughly enjoy a good game of any sport but that doesn’t make me a fan.
Again, I hope I’m wrong but just as Lance Armstrong winning seven Tour de France titles, Kelly Slater being on Baywatch and winning 10 world ASP titles won’t make cycling or surfing mainstream. Another great run and heartwarming story of the women’s world cup team won’t make soccer catch on in the USA.