Mark Heb

By Mark Hebscher

July 27,2014(ISN) – No, I didn’t mean U.S. idiots, although there are plenty of them when it comes to soccer. Let’s face it, the World Cup was terribly exciting for some, but kind of “meh” for most. In North America, it is NOT the number one sport, nor is it number 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6.

Soccer has been the “sport of the future” for some 50 years now in North America but it still lags behind bass fishing and lumberjack competitions when it comes to TV ratings. The MLS has teams with nicknames like “FC” (for Football Club) and “Real” (pronounced “Ray-Al”) and “Sporting”. It’s pretty obvious they’re trying to imitate European soccer clubs with these ridiculous nicknames. I mean, who’s going to yell out “Let’s go Union”? (For the Philadelphia Union) Or: “Come on United” (as in DC United, not Man U.) I’m a big fan of Toronto FC, but I hate the FC part. Why not just call them the “Toronto Reds” and leave it at that? At while we’re at it, can we stop with this “Nil-Nil” nonsense? I never even heard the word until I watched English soccer. Hey, this is North America. The word is “zero” or “nothing”. It’s not “nil” and the field is not a “pitch” and the game is not a “match”. Enough with the European references. Sometimes I feel as if I’m watching an old Monty Python skit.

If you watched the World Cup, you noticed an incredible amount of diving and crying and even some biting. This is because soccer is a sport that allows for great acting performances and partially blind referees. When an entire stadium and billions more TV viewers know a guy took a dive, and that guy is writhing on the ground in pain hoping to draw a foul and the ref doesn’t blow his whistle, the guy usually jumps right back up again and joins the play. In any other league, he’s penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. In soccer, they look the other way. How are we supposed to take it seriously? And by the way, maybe it’s time you got rid of penalty kicks in the knockout stage and introduced them in the group stage. Can you imagine if the World Cup were decided by penalty kicks yesterday? In the knockout stage, the winning goal needs to come in sudden-death, no matter how long they play. It works in hockey. Works in football. Can you imagine settling a World Series game with a home run hitting contest? Ridiculous. Shootouts would also prevent teams like the U.S.A. from backing into the knockout stage after choking against Portugal and getting blanked by Germany. A U.S.-Portugal shootout would’ve been a much better way to decide the game and produce a winner. A tie is like kissing your sister and getting your lip caught in her braces.

And a note to soccer fans: No matter how many times you tell me how great your sport is, you can’t just trash hockey or baseball or basketball while building up soccer. You think just because you wear that soccer scarf and can discuss the relative merits of the 4-4-2 versus the 3-5-1 it means you’re a genius and we’re all idiots? Well, that may be so, but I learned to enjoy soccer despite folks trying to shove it down my throat. And as for FIFA, the governing body of the sport, don’t get me started on these guys. They are more corrupt than the IOC AND most building inspectors in third world countries combined. They refuse to penalize those who dive. They refuse to get involved in allegations that games are being fixed all over the world. Sepp Blatter is a worse villain than Gary Bettman and Bud Selig put together. And, despite their woeful inefficiency, they have a stranglehold on soccer around the world. They are a money making machine, and as we all know, money talks.

But, for the sport to really grow in North America, there has to be more scoring. A 0-0 tie is not something North Americans look forward to (especially when some Brit calls it “Nil-Nil”.) Find a way to score more goals and create more chances and the “beautiful game” will become popular in North America. Until that happens, it’ll be a once-every-four-years spectacle that gets a month’s worth of coverage and then is quickly forgotten for the next 47 months.