Well, so much for the USA's fifth place world ranking... Stick a fork in 'em folks, they're all done... Even if they managed a miracle to beat Italy, the goal differential hole they dug themselves against the Czechs is too deep to overcome. The American team was completely outclassed by a much more aggressive squad with superior, dazzling skills.
As I said before, I really like watching World Cup soccer. It's such a huge, world-captivating event, but it's also fascinating to see such a high level of play. The skills on display are just amazing. As I watch it however, I can't help thinking of a number of reasons why I don't think this sport will ever really catch on in the USA, at least while it is still predominantly English-speaking. :-)
1) We really stink at it. If we can't be the best, we tend to act like spoiled children and lose interest.
2) The bargain-basement histrionics. What actors. What divas! There is some aggressive tackling that goes on, and I'm sure it hurts to be tripped at full speed, but I've seen what would be labeled as "incidental contact" in the NFL with barely any notice, cause these guys to fling themselves to the ground and roll around in agony as if they'd been knee-capped with a cattle gun. Come on, guys... Boston Herald sportwriter Gerry Callahan had a funny column about the game today that included this quote:
Speaking of which, do these guys know they’re on television? In high definition? With slow-motion replays? Do they realize how silly they look when they grab their hamstrings and fall to the ground as if they had been shot when they were virtually untouched by an opposing player? Do they all have to be such phonies? I mean, is it required? At any given time, there are more drama queens on a soccer field than backstage at La Cage aux folles.
Yesterday, I saw two Czech players taken off the field on stretchers after obvious flops. They both made AJ Soprano look like Olivier, but it’s apparently part of the game: You dive, you flop, you writhe, you scream, you grab something and you get up and play 30 seconds later.
3) As far as I know, we are the only ones of God's creatures with thumbs opposable to each of our fingers. We can do really great things with our hands. So why a sport with no hands...?
4) The game has a built-in flaw in that it is too hard to score. Defense really has the upper hand. In my opinion, this doesn't make the game less exciting, it just makes for too many draws. Americans can't see the point of playing anything without having a winner. When draws do occur, and they happen often in the late rounds, the games are decided by penalty kicks, which is a terribly unjust way to decide the game. They ought to consider continuing play, gradually removing players from the field as they go along.
5). Only one man in the stadium knows when the game is going to end, and that is the referee. At his discretion and whim, he can decide when the injury time is up, or when he is going to stop letting one team have a "last chance". This will never fly in the egalitarian States, where the referee would never be so trusted. Nine innings, four quarters, clocks down to the hundredth of a second. When it's over, it's over.