On Wednesday one of the most watched sporting events will take place and the great majority of Americans will not notice. The UEFA Champions League final will be played tomorrow pitting Premiership powerhouses Chelsea and Manchester United against each other. This will mark the first time that two English teams will meet in the final match. The past couple years have audiences for the match rivaling and in some cases surpassing the Super Bowl.
However, while most of the world is bathing jubilantly in beer, Americans will be caught up in heated debates over which David is a better karaoke singer. Where did we go wrong? How have we, a nation in love with sports, not embraced the most beautiful of sports?
Well, we are also a nation in love with stuff. Lots of stuff. We have 30-packs of beer for sale and jumbo size bags of chips and super size fries and extra strength Tylenol and so on. We have forgotten to take a step back and look at the journey of things. We are captivated too many times by the score rather than the method the athlete took to score.
Therein lies the conundrum for soccer fans in the U.S. How do you prove to Americans that soccer can live and thrive here in the states.? How do you illustrate the awe that is inspired by a ball kicked 50 yards pleasantly curving through the air to finish precisely on the chest of a teammate? How can you make it seem relevant to an NBA fan who watches players perform the same slam dunks year in and year out at the Slam Dunk Contest? How do you explain the exhilaration one feels from watching goals almost scored at the post? This will prove difficult, especially to a nation that has had to change their favorite game of NFL football several times through the ages precisely to incite higher scores.
Soccer is a game of hope and patience. Two teams step on the pitch for ninety minutes and methodically pick and choose their chances to strike. There are no commercial breaks and no timeouts. One would be foolish to leave for a beer run during the half, for a goal can come in an instant. And then it is gone. The goal has passed. It is on to the journey again. That is where soccer fans truly live. I hope American fans can someday appreciate the nuances that make “the beautiful game” so much fun.