Is rising interest in World Cup just a myth?

Published 1:42 pm Sunday, July 6, 2014

Last week I helped get some visa papers ready for my daughter Rachel’s boyfriend Neil Harries so that he could stay in the United States.

Neil is from England. I can’t remember what town but I think it’s somewhere in the middle.

Anyway, Neil and Rachel met at the University of Rio Grande where she played volleyball and track and Neil played soccer.

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Neil is a very good player from what I gather. He was a two-time NAIA All-American including first team his senior year. Rio Grande has one of the top men’s soccer programs in the country. The RedStorm has a national title and a runner-up trophy and they have won scrimmage games against Div. I program like Marshall and Ohio State.

But when Rachel asked me to help get the visa papers ready, I asked, “Does Neil want to stay in this country to do graduate work or is he just too ashamed to go back to England since they got knocked out of the World Cup so fast?”

Neil has been working in Maine as a soccer instructor and playing with a semi-pro team. Rachel went to visit him at his host family’s home and they asked her, “I guess you must really like soccer?”

“No, it’s boring. I only go because Neil plays. I’m from Ironton, Ohio. We like football, basketball and baseball,” Rachel replied to their surprise.

We like volleyball, softball, golf, tennis and track, too.

We keep being told that soccer is the world’s sport and that popularity in the United States is growing.

We are told football is a dangerous sport, but I think that’s just the soccer fans talking in an attempt to promote their sport. The fact is, there are more concussions in youth league soccer than youth league football and there are more concussions among girls than boys.

In soccer, if you bump into someone you get a yellow card. If you knock someone down, you get a red card and have to sit out. Girls’ high school basketball is more physical than soccer.

Hey, in hockey if two players get in a fight the officials hold everyone back and let them fight until someone hits the ice.

There’s a reason soccer is big in other countries. All they need is a ball and a couple of trees or bushes 24 feet apart to use as a goal. Most of these countries don’t have the money for equipment to play other sports.

While the rest of the world has better soccer players, the USA has the better goalies and there is a reason. When our children are young, they throw and catch a baseball or football, swing a bat or a golf club, or shoot a basketball. It’s called eye-hand coordination.

I’ve heard soccer is exciting and baseball is boring. Who wants to see a 1-0 baseball game?

First of all, there aren’t that many 1-0 or 2-1 games, but even so, the game goes down to the final pitch. The Reds lost 1-0 at San Diego last week and someone could hit a home run or string a double and single together on back-to-back pitches.

I was flipping channels once and there was a soccer game that had about three minutes to play. The announcer said, “So-and-so has an insurmountable 1-0 lead.”

Three minutes left and it’s insurmountable?

To Neil’s credit, he has grown to like American football. He is a real big fan not only of football but basketball as well.

I’ll give him points for that.

Soccer has a goal that’s 8-feet high and 24-feet wide and the ball can travel up to 75 miles an hour when kicked on the nose, and it’s a major celebration when they score.

Baseball players have to hit pitches from 60-feet away up to 100 miles an hour. Heck, women’s softball pitchers throw 65 miles an hour from 43-feet away and it’s a lot closer in both sports by the time the pitcher releases the ball.

That’s skill.

Listen soccer fans, maybe the sport has gained popularity. I don’t care that people play it. That’s no problem. I like a lot of different sports. But don’t try and force me to think it’s the greatest sport in the world because Ghana can play it.

Soccer reminds of a little league team because it has a pitcher (goalie), a shortstop (midfielder) and a bunch of rightfielders.

If it is true, here are the top 10 reasons for the so-called increased popularity of soccer in the United States.

10. If you don’t like a referee’s call, you beat him up.

9. If you don’t like an opposing fan, you beat him up.

8. If you don’t like an opposing…well, you get the point.

7. ESPN said so and they should know. They bought the contract rights to the World Cup and they wouldn’t lie to us just to try and boost ratings.

6. The U.S. signed Edward Scissorshands until he found out you’re not allowed to use your hands. That I would have watched.

5. No scoreboard prevents any possibility of cheating on the time left in the game.

4. You don’t get confused about the players because they are only allowed on one side of the field.

3. You hear one of the players is named the “attacker” and it scares you, but then you see how he’s dressed and you’re not scared anymore.

2. If you lose in the playoffs, you still advance.

1. The 11 million illegal immigrants in the USA.

Now don’t get upset. Just having a little fun here. Enjoy the World Cup.

Both of you.


Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.