By Frank Lewis
I was watching “The Five,” Monday afternoon on the Fox News Channel and for absolutely no reason at all Bob Beckel begins to attack soccer. The next thing you know, the other four members of that intellectually-challenged panel chimed in. I heard things like - “It’s not a real sport,” “Nobody ever scores,” and my personal favorite - “If our real athletes played soccer, we would win.”
This is, of course, remarks from people who have no knowledge of the game. It is what I call reaction from the fear of the unknown. If I don’t understand something, I just attempt to marginalize it and hopefully cover up the fact that I’m afraid to learn something new.
What is sad is that many Americans believe there are only three sports, and because that is all they knew about when they were 10, their capacity to learn anything additionally, has been blocked by their own prejudices.
Some people are just not able to focus on anything that goes fast. Some Americans want to see a single play, wait a full minute and watch another play. They want to see a pitch, “ball one,” then wait another 45 seconds for the next pitch, “uh, ball two.” That is why they don’t understand soccer, and sometimes not even hockey, the two fastest sports next to Jai alai, where the ball travels right at your head at 188 miles per hour.
Many American sports have been drastically altered to improve offense and thus scoring. That’s because we have short attention spans, and need those points to pile up in order to feel we have gotten our money’s worth.
Soccer is a game of defense. It is frustrating at its best. You can work the ball all the way down field using all the skill imaginable, only to have one guy kick it all the way back upfield. But that frustration is what keeps you emotionally involved in the game and more appreciative of that one rare goal.
Now, I want to address the moronic comment - “If our real athletes played soccer, we would win.” Do your homework. Check how far the average offensive soccer player runs in a single game. He or she runs 10 miles. If you do the math, that is a mile every seven minutes. He or she doesn’t get to sit down and “catch a blow.” He or she runs for 45 minutes - then gets a blow - then runs for 45 minutes again. Yeah, they’re not athletes.
I sat glued to the TV Monday as the U.S. (representing all Americans including “The Five,”) beat their nemesis Ghana 2 to 1. All around the world, including the Port City Pub in Portsmouth, people cheered for America’s team.
After all is said and done I still believe soccer haters are a minority. I believe most Americans have caught onto the world’s most popular game. I would just like to have some of those soccer haters actually sit down and attempt to learn the game. One of “The Five,” said - “There’s no strategy.” What he should have said is - “I don’t understand the strategy.” That would have been more accurate. It is a game of skill, speed and strategy, not to mention endurance.
I love football and basketball. I am a big Ohio State football and Cincinnati Bengals football fan. I love the NCAA Basketball Tournament. But there is still room in my heart for the great game of soccer, the real futebol. Your team is playing in the World Cup, give them a few minutes of your time. Take pride in the red, white and blue, and even break into - “U.S.A., U.S.A.” once in a while. You might just get excited.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 252, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.