The scourge of soccer

As Seattle embraces major league 'football,' some new theories about how the sport is ruining America.
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As Seattle embraces major league 'football,' some new theories about how the sport is ruining America.

Some time soon — around the time the Seattle Post- Intelligencer print edition is due to be euthanized by its parent Hearst Corporation — major league soccer will debut in Seattle, playing in Qwest Field in colors much like the throwback uniforms of the Seahawks. I suppose for those of us who aren't soccer fans it's a blessing really: I hate to see the P-I go but at least we won't have two sports pages and two sports staffs over-hyping a sport that loves to produce sister-kissing ties in the name of world-class competition.

A while back I wondered at soccer's weird American journey and wondered why this foreign sport had failed to catch on here in a big way, despite the fact that every American school child now grows up playing the game. The piece I wrote was "Why we hate soccer." But my analysis can't approach the theories put forward by Stephen H. Webb, a college professor and conservative. He has written a funny, insightful, and immoderate piece titled: "How soccer is ruining America: a jeremiad." A jeremiad by a fed-up soccer dad.

In his opinion, soccer hasn't failed to catch on, it has taken over:

Soccer is running America into the ground, and there is very little anyone can do about it. Social critics have long observed that we live in a therapeutic society that treats young people as if they can do no wrong. Every kid is a winner, and nobody is ever left behind, no matter how many times they watch the ball going the other way. Whether the dumbing down of America or soccer came first is hard to say, but soccer is clearly an important means by which American energy, drive, and competitiveness is being undermined to the point of no return.

What other game, to put it bluntly, is so boring to watch? (Bowling and golf come to mind, but the sound of crashing pins and the sight of the well-attired strolling on perfectly kept greens are at least inherently pleasurable activities.) The linear, two-dimensional action of soccer is like the rocking of a boat but without any storm and while the boat has not even left the dock. Think of two posses pursuing their prey in opposite directions without any bullets in their guns. Soccer is the fluoridation of the American sporting scene.

The scourge of soccer, however, isn't its foreign origins, he says, but evidence of moral decay from within. Ultimately, it appeals to a suburban mindset, a kind of athletic baby-sitting for America's youth:

Soccer is of foreign origin, that is certainly true, but its promotion and implementation are thoroughly domestic. Soccer is a self-inflicted wound. Americans have nobody to blame but themselves. Conservative suburban families, the backbone of America, have turned to soccer in droves. Baseball is too intimidating, football too brutal, and basketball takes too much time to develop the required skills. American parents in the past several decades are overworked and exhausted, but their children are overweight and neglected. Soccer is the perfect antidote to television and video games.

He concludes that the best thing he can do is take advantage of the time during his daughter's dull, endless soccer matches by reading a book until it's over. Which might go over well in Seattle, a bookish Nancy Pearl city filled with folks who might want to turn out to support the new franchise, but also use their time in the stands to better their minds.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.