With USA out, do we still love soccer?

I have to admit, I was glued to my TV during the USA - Ghana World Cup match Saturday.  Never in my life had I been a fan of watching soccer but I couldn't help but get caught up in the moment.  I even had a fleeting thought that I might have a new found interest in the universe's favorite sport.  Not surprisingly, this passed fairly quickly after the conclusion of the game.  I never really understood why Americans resisted soccer so much until I actually watched it for a few days.  It was rather shocking to me to see the vast cultural differences in soccer compared to just about every other American sport.

The most painfully obvious one is the lack of toughness in the players.  There is no doubt in my mind that soccer is a physically demanding sport that rewards the players with the most talent, strength and speed.  So why is it that they have universally adopted a strategy of manipulation and helplessness?  On first thought I understand why they roll around on the ground acting as though their leg has just been amputated when in fact they "tripped" on a blade of grass.  They're working the system.  Hoping to get that call that gives them the free kick.  But as I thought longer about it I realized that the referees are good at making snap calls.  They don't wait to watch the players reaction when determining whether or not to blow the whistle.  So why the extracurriculars?  I can only imagine it's a mindset that they have drilled into their psyche.  These are after all professional athletes presumably capable of a disciplined psychological approach to the game.  I wouldn't be surprised if some of them actually believe they are getting injured.  This is far from an admirable quality in an athlete let alone a human being.

There was one other factor I noticed in the game on Saturday.  Miraculously, once Ghana took the lead (and I can only assume this is a common occurrence) their players began taking injuries far more frequently.  Again, they're working the system.  Trying to kill as much time as possible.  And their trainers have no issue bringing out the cleanup crew to asses what catastrophic injury has occurred.  It's like they're all in on this big lie and the referees are powerless to stop it.  But do they realize how transparent it is?  Do you think these players go home and apologize to their families for appearing so weak in front of the world?  I would hope that they do!  How does a soccer player's wife describe what her husband does?  I see it going something like this...  "My husband has the greatest job!  He tries as hard as he can to succeed, and when he's incapable of doing this with his physical abilities he rolls around on the ground like an infant pitching a fit until someone helps him out."  Seriously.  And how much are they getting paid?

Let's do a little comparison.  A hockey player will go face first into the boards and jump back into the play bleeding from the mouth as if nothing happened.  A baseball player will take a 95 mph fastball to the elbow and trot to first base with nothing more than a quick glance (or glare) at the pitcher.  The mighty Brett Favre comes to mind jumping up after getting sacked by someone three times his size, grabbing the big man's face mask and head butting him with a smile.  These guys personify everything we admire in pro athletes.  They're capable of extraordinary human abilities that include avoiding injury.  When I watch soccer I find myself feeling like I can handle more adversity than the pro's in front of me.  My 1 year old niece accidentally kicked me harder the other day picking her up than that guy on the tv screen being carried away on a stretcher.

The World Cup players that I have been watching leave me feeling embarrassed to associate my gender with them.  I don't know what to make of the idea that this sport is so universally loved around the world.  Are that many people manipulating schemers at heart?  I'd think you would have to be to get such a thrill watching it happen on such a grand scale.

Will the USA soccer hype translate into more fans watching MLS?  I highly doubt it and at this point couldn't care less.  It was only fitting that the face of the USA team, Landon Donovan, is as meek and soft spoken as your average player on the high school chess team.  There is no killer instinct in soccer.  If you really want to help your team you must possess the qualities of the helpless.  The weak.  The one seemingly incapable of avoiding a slide tackle you can see coming 20 yards away.  This is why I can never fully get on board with soccer.  I tried.  Oh I tried.  But I watched too closely.  That ruined it for me.