Soccer the beautiful game

Soccer the beautiful game
Chicago Tribune photo.

World cup fever is gripping America. According to the Wall Street Journal, 15.9 million people watched the U.S.A. play Ghana last Monday night. This set viewer records for the two stations carrying the game.

The ratings trounced the audience for the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup finals on Friday, which attracted 6 million TV viewers. Perhaps more surprising, the viewership numbers for the soccer game had an admirable showing against Sunday's National Basketball Association finals game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat, which attracted 17.9 million viewers. (WSJ/Business)

According to the Telegraph U.K., the World Cup brought more U.S. fans to Brazil than any other country.

Due to anticipated larger crowds for Sunday's game against Portugal, the Grant Park viewing site was relocated to Lower Hutchinson Field. The field filled to capacity in short order and entry was halted.

Sunday's game finished in a disappointing tie for the United States.

Many attribute soccer's popularity in America to the 1994 World Cup played in the United States, with some games played in Chicago.

The game's popularity goes back further. Just ask all those soccer moms and dads, whose children are now grown with families of their own. They trudged from game to game, club to club, and practice to practice during the 1980s. They still do it today. Many knew nothing about "The beautiful game". They learned from their children. They became fans.

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Soccer has been popular in ethnic neighborhoods, like this Sunday game in Logan Square.

Soccer has been popular in Chicago for decades. You could go to any large park on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and see the ethnics playing their hearts out. Crowds of families, friends, and neighborhood people would picnic while watching the games.

Bars in ethnic neighborhoods televise soccer games being played all over the world. There are many soccer clubs in Chicago, again, in ethnic neighborhoods.

The players were not kids. They were working men. Most were blue collar guys. Just like the guys who used to play Chicago soft ball; before the yuppies took it over using mitts to protect their tender hands.

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Young men playing soccer in Brentano Park while the U.S.A. played Portugal.

Go to any park, play ground, alley, or vacant lot and you will see young people playing or practicing soccer. It is not unusual to see a lone young person kicking a ball around.

Soccer is called "The beautiful game". The attribution is hard to trace. Some say the famed soccer star, Brazilian football icon, Pelé, was the first to use it. Others attribute it to sportswriter, Stuart Hall in 1958. There are other attributions as well.

"Beautiful game." was first used in print by British author, H.E. Bates in a 1952 article.

Bates article. "Brains in the Feet," is probably the most elegant critique of soccer and soccer fans.

"I think sometimes we forget or take for granted the unique beauty of this game. It is the only ball game in the world played with the feet."

"This game alone is true football, played within those narrow restrictions that, like the unities of the theatre,  are the terror and test of the artist."

"Odd that no writer has felt inspired to write about it all. Odd that all the poetry was been poured on cricket, while this intelligent and lovely game, even more the expression of us,has been left to itself by literature."

Professional soccer has trouble catching on. It is curious. Is it bad marketing, lack of money, or just clubs and leagues that cannot light a fire? Overall attendance at Chicago Fire games is in the middle compared to other teams in MLS. The differences in attendance are not that great.

The rest of the world loves soccer. Some places go the point of fanaticism or extremism. It is time for Americans to take a good second look at the beautiful game.

Some say it is too difficult to understand. Funny, people from other lands have no trouble understanding and becoming rabid fans of American sports. Pity they are so much smarter than us. It must be the better school systems.

Soccer's time has come in America. It is time we recognize the beautiful game, learn about and understand it. We should start watching it or better, go to local games.

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Facebook/NYT website

By the way, the New York Times always succeeds in disappointing America.

When Portugal scored the tying goal they gave them a bravo. That tells you whose side they were on.

Like Donald Trump, the New York Times is only great because they say they are.

Who knows? Maybe only the Portuguese read that tabloid.

 

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