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Chillin' with Dylan—Soccer: America’s new fave?

July 9, 2014

By DYLAN MALONE
    There seems to be a shifting tide in sports happening right before our eyes.
    Think about what you were watching on sports television last year around this time. I can’t tell you how many times I got tired of hearing about football and who was holding out on their contracts or getting arrested in the pre-season.
    Then there’s the endless talk about how coaching changes, roster shake-ups and draft picks will turn the tides of another NFL season for some teams and spell doom for others.
    Fast forward to the here and now.
    All we’ve been talking about for the past month and a half has been soccer. European fútbol to be exact.
    It’s what the rest of the world goes crazy gaga over. Cities riot and loot when their countries lose. Just think about walking the streets in Brazil after their 7-1 loss to Germany on Tuesday. Yikes.
    In America, we just haven’t latched onto the enthusiasm quite like the rest of the world. Our attention spans and time have been spent on the grid-iron, baseball, and basketball.
    The NBA has taken over social media, a smart move by the Association, to the point that we now talk about the basketball 365 days a year. Even when the Spurs dominated the Heat in the Finals, we went right to talking about the draft.
    Now that the draft is out of the way, we are talking about free agency. With LeBron James, this generation’s Michael Jordan (in no way, shape or form does that mean he is better than his Airness just to clarify), we are hanging on his every move. If he is going to build this much hype every time his contract is up we may as well treat it like it’s the Olympics. We get just as worked up about it in the media, anyway.
    But seriously, baseball is struggling to entertain anymore. People still fill up the ball parks every night but how many people take time out of their busy lives to sit and watch a full baseball game on television. A fraction of the number that did five years ago.
    I’ve already talked about the reasons for that (too many commercials, stupid rule changes, steroids...) but it’s worth noting that when we stop watching one thing we fill our time with another.
    Enter soccer. We’ve been filling the void with NFL and NBA talk the past few years because the MLB doesn’t seem to matter until late September, early October.
    The World Cup has given us something to talk about. Like the Olympics, we have that country pride swaying our American flags in bars across our nation watching a sport we know very little about. There is definitely a patchy niche for this sport much like there is for hockey, but that niche will only grow as baseball drifts away.
    My biggest knock on soccer is the theatrics, however. After watching basketball players limp off the court or, if you’re LeBron, get carried off for cramps, I sort of laugh. There are hockey players who play with broken legs. Football players with equally as grueling injuries.
    Then there’s soccer. The sport where you fake an injury to get a penalty. Where does that lie in the spectrum of candy sports? Sure there are some guys who truly get hurt when they are kick-tackled running for the ball. Sometimes they knock heads together. For crying out loud, though, I can’t watch the phantom hits anymore.
    We live in the era of instant replay. Every millisecond of action is caught on camera and dissected. We saw you take a dive on national television. Then fans try to sell me on the physicality of soccer? I’m not buying in.
    It definitely has its entertainment, however. I’ve heard countless knocks on soccer’s sudden death penalty shots as a way to settle a tie.
    The biggest complaint comes from the athletes who say that they have slaved away for 120 minutes when you include the extra time and it is a shame to end the game on penalty kicks. The equivalent is like an NBA game that finishes an overtime, then shoots sudden death free throws.
    Except that the charity stripe in basketball doesn’t depend on a defender trying to keep the ball out. There are two sides of a penalty shot and rate the difference in excitement from free throws to penalty kicks.
    I’m paying more attention to the soccer game in sudden death than I have the other 120 minutes of next to no action. Penalty kicks are the ultimate risk/reward in sports. The most exciting spectacle in the game.
    Anyway, I think soccer is here to stay this time. It’s going to be hard to keep fans away if the USA gets better continuously like they have been lately. Stay tuned.

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