The once-every-four-year apocalypse is nearly upon us. When I start hearing “FIFA” and “futbol” and “gol!” bandied about in conversation, I remind myself of the sage words of Tony Kornheiser:
Look, soccer’s cool. World Cup is big fun, because it’s the best players in the world, and they do amazing things with the ball. But it’s never going to take over America. For 25 years now the soccer people have been saying, “Tomorrow.” Just wait until tomorrow, when the next generation of soccer players grows up. But tomorrows have come and gone, and generations have passed. Hey, we’ve already got futbol. It’s called the NFL. They fill 70,000 seats every game, and when you get “tackled” there, pal, believe me, you get tackled. There’s no “Injury Time” in the NFL; this ain’t no disco. (Talk about delivering a huge hit, though, how about the flying head butt that Mexican guy landed on Cobi Jones? Oooooh. That was strictly Stone Cold.) Soccer gets a big run every four years, like the Olympics. We glom onto World Cup because we’re Big Event people. When we’re going good, like we are now, it creates an excitement the whole country can get lost in. But soccer will always feel like a foreign game here, because it is. Americans like sports where they can use their hands — football, baseball, tearing into barbecued ribs. Did you ever see how Brits throw the tennis balls at Wimbledon? What a bunch of nancy boys. Americans have opposable thumbs for a reason — to elevate us from kicking a soccer ball. My dog can kick a soccer ball, but she can’t catch a 20-yard out. I rest my case.
That piece ran in The Washington Post back in 2002.(Photo: audreyjm529 via Flickr)