Saturday, June 14, 2014

Ain't That A Kick In The Nuts

It goes without saying that Chad's recent post ridiculing US soccer fans is spot on. While he focuses on the pretensions of US soccer fans, there are a few annoying things about US soccer that he didn't touch on.

Let's start with the fact that the United States is really mediocre (at best) at soccer. There are plenty of good reasons the US isn't a soccer power, the main reason being that few really talented American kids choose soccer as their main sport. However, that doesn't stop America from dominating in other sports that the general public doesn't care about, including track and field, swimming, and figure skating.

Part of America's domination in many sports is simply a numbers game. With a population of 300 million, few countries have larger populations than the US. China and India have more citizens, and Indonesia is close. Yet the US isn't beaten by large countries. We're beaten by countries like the Ukraine, Costa Rica and Mexico. This has led to a lot of excuse making. 

One excuse I particularly dislike that is unique to the World Cup is the routine practice of fans in naming a particular group in each tournament as "group of death." "Group of death" really means a tough division, as exactly two teams from each four team division advance to the second round. Since the draws for divisions are random, some are unbalanced. However, to with the championship, a team must beat a lot of good teams, so stop complaining and win (or tie) your games. No one has ever called the NFC West the "Division of Death," and that's a good thing.

This year, the US is considered in the "Group of Death," along with Germany, Portugal, and Ghana. Let's think about that for a minute. I can stomach the idea that Germany might be a threat to the US. After all, we played them for all the geopolitical marbles twice in the last century. But Portugal? Is Prince Henry the Navigator still dominating the world? Portugal is a glorified suburb of Spain. And Ghana? Here is a Wikipedia fact snippet about Ghana:

Ghana is the 82nd−largest country in the world and 33rd−largest country on continental Africa by land mass, and Ghana has a land mass of 238,535 km2, with 2,093 kilometres of international land borders. Ghana is the 7th−best governed country on continental Africa, and Ghana is a constitutional democracy divided into ten administrative regions, and the world's 49th−most inhabited nation with a multiethnic population of around 24 million as of 2010.

I'd note that the 7th best governed country in continental Africa knocked the US out of the last World Cup.

Finally, the coach of the US team, Jurgen Klinsmann, has suggested that, "to say we should win the World Cup is just not realistic."

How much is wrong with this last sentence. Here are just a two things:
  • Can you imagine Herb Brooks saying something like this? The US probably had less chance against the evil Soviet empire in hockey in 1980, but instead of making excuses, Herb rolled up his sleeves and engineered one of the greatest upsets in sports history.
  • Jurgen Klinsmann doesn't sound like an American name. And it isn't. Klinsmann is German. With 300 million people, we couldn't find one decent soccer coach, or at least a coach that wouldn't concede defeat a week before the tournament.
I know people will dismiss my rant as that of a soccer hater. I actually don't hate soccer. Watching little kids play this sport this summer is extremely enjoyable. It's a funny paradox, soccer is great fun to play, is ok to to watch, and is not fun at all to follow.