Mac Engel

June 16, 2014

The younger generation in the US gets the World Cup

The young generation gets this sport because they played it, and they are the ones behind this sport’s painfully slow rise in this country. The rest of us just know how to party.

Matt Suarez is the owner of the Abbey Pub in Fort Worth’s rapidly expanding West 7th Street District who figured his place would attract 75 people as an official watching party spot for U.S. World Cup matches.

He hoped maybe 100 people would show for Monday’s World Cup opener against Ghana, a perfect chance to bump his business on normally a slower day.

“I never expected this,” Suarez said.

For the sake of the fire marshals who may read this, there were indeed 100 people at the Abbey Pub for the match. Maybe a few more. Possibly. Never can be sure about these things.

His place was jammed with people wearing USA T-shirts, American flags, and chanting “I believe that we will win! I believe that we will win!” and the obligatory “U-S-A! U-S-A!”. The scene at the Abbey Pub was apparently similar at other sports bars and various locales throughout the U.S. on Monday.

Organizers who were expecting X to watch USA v. Ghana got Y, to the third power.

The young generation gets this sport because they played it, and they are the ones behind this sport’s painfully slow rise in this country. They can talk it, and they get it.

But for now, the vast majority of Americans who watched Monday don’t know John Brooks (he scored the game-winner on a header in the 86th minute) from Jurgen Klinsmann (he’s the head coach), but do know how to party, and love to be American.

The U.S. may be behind other more established national soccer powers, but at least we have joined the premiere reason to consume copious amounts of alcohol — patriotism at the World Cup.

But in watching this match, and specifically the reaction of those watching futbol on the pitch, it is rather hypocritical that in this country soccer lags so far behind baseball in terms of popularity.

For those of us who profess our undying Nicholas Sparks-style love for baseball, we have no reason to loathe soccer.

The common complaint about soccer is that nothing happens. Have you watched a baseball game lately?

MLB likes to report the financial growth of the game, and various figures to support these claims; in terms of action, the pace of play has become an inexcusable series of crotch scratches, pitching changes, tightening batting gloves, meetings on the mound, extended TV timeouts and 3-2 counts.

Baseball is greatness, but the pace of the big league game is an affront to any consumer who has to get up in the morning.

A regular-season baseball game has morphed into a reason to eat State Fair cuisine more regularly than once a year, and to kill three or four hours with the family. Ask anyone with a kid and they will tell you they never make it the length of the game. Basically, in most cities, a big league ballgame is a high-priced picnic.

And I say this as a person who grew up a baseball fanatic. But the way the big league game flows now needs tweaking.

If we Americans love baseball so much, it makes no sense that soccer remains in a fight for eyeballs with hockey.

The American will celebrate a 1-0 or 2-1 baseball game, but will destroy a soccer match of the same score.

With the exception of one halftime intermission, soccer features but one series of commercials, constant flowing play and an emphasis on one or two goals.

Americans have become so numb to commercials we simply no longer mind, or notice.

Soccer is highly athletic, plays about as well as a baseball game on television, offers violence, collisions, idiotic referees, mind-numbingly stupid decisions, and as evidenced by the Yanks’ dramatic 2-1 win over Ghana, plenty of made-for-TV drama.

Granted, only a few soccer matches contain the level of intensity, pride and interest of a World Cup. As evidenced by the popularity of the Olympics and its collection of “What is that?” sports, we Americans watch a guy eating hot dogs if he is wearing a USA shirt against the guy wearing a Tajikistan hat.

In terms of the game itself, it’s more than just a little odd that in a society that demands constant stimulation the snail-moving MLB game continues to bring in more money than a Mexican drug cartel, and dwarfs soccer and MLS.

For those at the Abbey Pub, and at so many other spots around the U.S. on Monday, they get it. Whereas the vast majority of us don’t. They can speak it. They know the rules. They know the language.

The rest of us? We know how to party, and we always love to say, “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

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