Isha Sesay is hot.

Maybe she’s “damn hot”.

Ms. Sesay is the very attractive, very knowledgeable, British-born, Sierra Leone-raised journalist who is reporting World Cup 2010 events from South Africa for CNN. Over the past month or so, largely because of Ms. Sesay, I suspect that I’ve learned more about soccer than I ever cared to know. Hot women can have that kind of effect on you.

I’ve made an effort to keep up with developments at the World Cup this year.  I was watching when the United States national team tied England a few days back. I was watching when the Netherlands defeated Uruguay to get into the finals. I’ve even kept up with all of the political intrigue surrounding the Nigerian national soccer team.  During all of this, I’ve even, in my own weird kind of way, grown somewhat  fond of the ‘vuvuzela’, the small bugle-like celebratory horn used by soccer fans to mostly annoy people.

Despite all of this—and despite Ms. Sesay’s “hotness”—– I still don’t get it.

Soccer.

The World Cup will be decided next Sunday in South Africa. Personally, I can’t wait for the whole thing to be over.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve made a big effort to like soccer —and for a decidedly long time too. As a child, I can remember more than one of my elders saying, while praying for patience, and at the same time surveying another “…damn fool thing that the boy has done’, “I’ve tried, Lord knows I’ve tried.”

For over two generations now, ‘I’ve tried’. I have also been waiting for the predictions made regarding soccer by various and sundry experts back in the ’70s to come to fruition. Specifically, ‘the theory’ in those days was that the United States would “very soon, now…see the light, join the rest of the world, and adopt soccer as its national pastime.”  Of course, some of those same people also said that we’d all be driving electric cars by now . Forty years later all of those experts are long dead, not even Ralph Nader is driving an electric car and Condoleeza Rice has more followers on Twitter than soccer has fans in all of ‘these United States’.

(It’s interesting to note that at the very same time that professional soccer was introduced to America, Europe also tried to scam us with the metric system. Americans embraced the “kilometer” with about the same amount of enthusiasm as we’ve embraced what the rest of the world misguidedly calls ‘football’. It’s obvious why the metric system never took over. As is reflected in the younger generation’s CRCT scores, we Americans  apparently relish the notion of doing difficult math at every available opportunity. Every American knows it’s ‘better’ to divide anything by 5,280 than it is to divide that same quantity by 10 or 100. Difficult math builds character, it seems.  It had also taken most of us Baby Boomers a full generation to  comprehend the English System of Weights and Measures. Asking us to now convert inches to centimeters was just asking way too much.  But I digress.)

An American “embrace” of soccer is yet to happen. Even lately, Americans are content to wile away our precious few off hours by watching real football in the NFL or the SEC; waiting to see who is going to apologize next for some monumental societal screw up; or by ‘friending’ a bunch of people on Facebook that we’ll never actually meet in real life.

I’d have thought that soccer would have surely caught on by now.  Sadly, it has had about as much appeal as eight track stereo tapes, the pet rock, or the leisure suit.  More than likely, the soccer player best known to the reader shares your last name, as well your house—i.e. he or she is your kid! Heck, the news media spends more time talking about the political  demographic of “soccer moms” than anyone else in the States ever talks about soccer players. When the fans of a sport are better known than the players…well, you can see that the whole notion becomes problematical.

Americans tend to identify the most with sports that we played as children. We’ve had at least two generations of children who have played soccer by now.  But as it turns out, even adults who played as children back in the ’70’s would rather spend their time figuring out who Randy, Ellen, and Simon hate on American Idol than they would watching soccer.

Quite frankly, I am surprised that I am not wildly enamored with soccer.  As a pre-adolescent, I was one of the more inept shortstops to ever play Little League baseball. This made me a perfect candidate to play soccer. Disparagingly nicknamed “Kick” by my fellow teammates, I was used to fielding baseballs off my head, shoulders, shins and any other body part other than with my hands. In the season of 1960, I set a Little League record for having more errors than strike-outs. (Sadly, I still own the record for the latter as well.) This proclivity for fielding a ball with a body part other than my hands would seem to point me in the direction for being a soccer addict. Still, the game has held little appeal for me.

One theory about our “non-embrace of soccer” is that American sports fans have grown accustomed to prolific scoring. On the other hand, soccer games of 1-0 margin are not uncommon. We Americans award a real football team one  point just because they show up for the first play after scoring a touchdown. There are also no helmets in soccer…as well as  very little padding. Americans like the suggestion that bloodshed is at least possible in our sport. Helmets suggest that bloodshed is not only possible but likely.

I suspect that another problem with the Americanization of soccer is that also you don’t hear much about real scandals in soccer…at least not ‘juicy’, sexy off the field kind of scandals. You never hear much about say, “Xtos Sellasie,” the goalie for  Outer Snookystan, having 17 kids by 19 different women or such.

Perhaps our “fear of soccer” is also attributable to our innate ‘”fear of geography.” I suspect that most of us would just as soon try to find the home of the Netherlands national soccer team on a map of Mars than try to find it on the world map. The World Cup Trophy is also a problem.  It looks, “for all the world”, like it was made by someone’s kindergarten class. It also looks ‘for all the world’ like somebody tried to melt it down last year.

Perhaps most importantly, we Americans intrinsically don’t like any sport at which we have absolutely no chance to ever be World Champions (if only because the sport is only played in the United States.). We’re too polite to say it, but most of us know that hell will freeze over on the very day the U.S. ever wins the World Cup.  It’s  also a sure Sign of the Apocalypse.  I’m pretty sure that this is all documented ‘right there’ in Deuteronomy.

If soccer were even close to being at the forefront of  the collective psyche of the country, you’d see some  iconic names becoming involved—pushing the sport over its American finish line, as it were.  You’d likely see President Obama —-or even Michelle—-playing soccer on the front lawn of the White House. You’d see Donald Trump Celebrity Soccer Matches as well as the Guthy-Renker Soccer Solution System whereby for three easy payments of $99, you can learn to “watch” a soccer game just like Pele.  Obviously, we’ve seen no such thing. Snoop Dogg won’t even rap about soccer.

In the end, maybe soccer just lacks “flavor.” Maybe it’s an acquired taste…like chitlin’s or foreign beer. Or rap music. ‘Course, I have yet to develop a taste for any of these either.

It is likely that Americans will never become rabid over soccer. Soccer fields in America will always be seen as playing arenas for “the smart kids,” intramural sports—and the ultimate proving grounds for “once and future”  NFL field goal  kickers.

But we tried. To our credit, we Americans really tried.

I guess it’s better to have loved and lost than never to…… well, you get the picture.

Anyway, the World Cup will be over soon.

Thank God!

Sadly, there will be no more of the vuvuzela’s refrain.

I will miss seeing Isha Sesay though.

© Copyright 2010 Will Cantrell

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Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell (a pseudonym) is a writer, storyteller, and explorer of the milieu of everyday life. An aging Baby Boomer, a Georgia Tech grad, and a retired banker, Cantrell regularly chronicles what he swears are 'mostly true'  'everyman' adventures. Of late, he's written about haircuts, computer viruses, Polar Vortexes, identity theft, ketchup, doppelgangers, bifocals, ‘Streetification’, cursive handwriting, planning his own funeral and other gnarly things that caused him to scratch his head in an increasingly more and more crazy-ass world.   As for Will himself, the legend is at an early age he wandered South, got lost, and like most other self-respecting males, was loathe to ask for directions. The best solution, young Will mused, “was just to stay put”. All these years later, he still hasn't found his way but remains  a son of the New South. He was recently sighted somewhere close to I-285, lost, bumfuzzled and mumbling something about “...writing' his way home.” Of course, there are a lot of folks who think that “Cantrell ain't wrapped too tight” but hope that he keeps writing about his adventures as he finds his way back to the main highway.