The headlines are screaming today about David Beckham’s curious journey to America. The world’s most famous soccer player signed with the Los Angeles Galazy of the Major Soccer League in the U.S. The headlines are screaming because “they” think we should care.
Granted, David Beckham is one of those few players who transcends his sport. He was a great soccer player in his prime, captain of England’s storied World Cup team. But his popularity doesn’t stop there. He is a fan favorite for gossip, paparazzi photos, and scandal. He is an all-time sex symbol on any respectable woman’s list.
Once upon a time, I predicted that soccer would gain a strong footing in the USA. I looked at the children’s soccer leagues that were booming and assumed those were future soccer lovers who would pay to see commercial soccer in the United States.
Then I looked at the strong showing by the U.S. Men’s team in the 1994 World Cup and thought soccer was really on the rise in America. That one would finally put soccer into the mainstream, right?
Then I looked at the fabulous triumph by the U.S. Women’s team in the 1996 World Cup and thought a million new fans were made when hotty Brandi Chastain tore off her famous jersey.
Well that’s three strikes against me so I’m out.
And the baseball analogy is perfect here. It finally hit me this morning why we don’t care about soccer in America.
What do baseball, football, and basketball all have in common? Answer: these are American sports, invented and developed in America, designed for American tastes, and played proudly by American boys. Our less popular 4th sport of hockey was a neighborly Canadian invention and even that took a long long time to gain any traction.
It seems that we don’t do foreign sports. We do American sports. That’s it, end of story. But why?
An irrefutable reality of our culture is that Americans are leaders, not followers. We export technologies, business practices, industries, and capital. We export fast food, movies, television, and Levis. We export the ideals of democracy, incredible charity, and military help for our friends.
We are the leaders and they are the grateful followers. So while our exports of basketball, baseball, and even now American football are booming internationally, soccer continues to hang precariously to the back page of the sporting news. We even changed the name of “American football” to “soccer” to give it a distinctly American identity. Didn’t work.
Soccer will never be an American sport. Sorry David Beckham, but welcome to Los Angeles. And enjoy a baseball game or two while you are there.
This post will be cross-posted on Rightfielders.com