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Friday, July 9, 2010
Americans too full for soccer

By Jim Caple
Page 2

Other countries boast about their passion for soccer -- but they shouldn't. Americans would be just a passionate about The Beautiful Game except for one crucial fact holding us back: It would be far too exhausting given how much passion and time we devote to all our other sports.

At the start of the year we've got basketball -- both the NBA and college -- plus the bowl games and the NFL playoffs. The Super Bowl and Super Bowl commercials. NASCAR. We've got spring training and March Madness. Opening Day, the Final Four and the Masters. The NFL draft and the NFL mock drafts. Spring football. The Triple Crown of horse racing and the Indy 500. The Stanley Cup playoffs, the NBA playoffs, the U.S. Open and the College World Series. More NASCAR. Interleague play. The NBA draft, the NHL draft and the baseball draft. Baseball's All-Star Game. The WNBA. NFL training camps and college training camps. The pennant races and the football season, both college and pro. The U.S. Open in tennis. Still more NASCAR. Baseball's postseason and the start of the NHL and NBA seasons. Midnight Madness and the college basketball season. Boxing. The Hot Stove league. Conference playoffs and the bowl season.

And that's just in a normal year. Every other year we also have to follow the Olympics, where our athletes are going to win more medals than just about everyone else.

Plus, there's bowling.

And other countries look down on us because we don't shoot our goalkeeper or burn our coach in effigy or separate our fans with fences and barbed wire? Please. We can't afford to be arrested for soccer hooliganism because a jail sentence would conflict with our fantasy football drafts.

This is also why I think fans are so passionate about soccer in so many countries. They don't have the choice. They don't have the incredible smorgasbord of sports to divert their attention and spread their passion. Sure, most countries have a few other sports but they still are serving limited menus that stress one superb dish. We have a delicious All-U-Can-Eat buffet of sports so loaded that not even a sportswriter could eat it all. Immigrants come to America because they've heard the streets are paved with gold. When they get here they realize it's even better than that -- our couches are upholstered in soft, stain-proofed fabrics that welcome the poor, tired, huddled masses yearning to spend a late October weekend in comfort while channel-surfing between college football, pro football, baseball, hockey and basketball.

Hell, if the only other major sport in the country was cricket, I would probably wear my local soccer team's jersey, paint my face and chest in the team's colors and set an opponents' bus on fire, too.

This is not a knock on soccer. It's a fine sport. A lot of Americans like soccer. Lots more watched the World Cup. Cup ratings have been terrific, with the U.S.-Ghana game topping many World Series games. But saying American fans should be even more passionate about soccer is like saying we should be more passionate about the metric system and Bjork. Or, to paraphrase an e-mail I received, it's like saying soccer fans in Ghana should be more passionate about the Phoenix Coyotes.

Whenever people talk about other countries' extreme passion for soccer, they seldom question whether it's really healthy to care about one sport so much. I mean, is it really good for a country to go to war over the outcome of a soccer game?

We don't have to worry about that here. America excels in so many sports that how we perform internationally in any particular one doesn't create national euphoria or crisis. (The joy we felt about the 1980 Miracle at Lake Placid had little to do with hockey and far more to do with beating the Soviets.) Americans didn't dance in the streets when the Dream Team won the gold medal in 1992, and when the 2004 team lost, we bitched for a little and then quickly turned our attention to the pennant races, the upcoming football seasons and our fantasy teams.

It's healthier this way, to be able to spread our your sporting passions, to not depend so heavily on one sport for your happiness.

Yes, Americans could focus our passion on one national sport and live and die by how our team does in it. But I don't think that would be very enjoyable. I mean, just imagine how obnoxious Red Sox fans would become if the Patriots, Celtics and Bruins suddenly left town.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter at jimcaple.


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