Oh, I do love Anne Coulter so.
“Any growing interest in soccer can only be a sign of the nation’s moral decay,” the neocon columnist wrote three days ago.
No, seriously … really?
‘The Redneck Riviera’
I watched Thursday’s USA-Germany game in, of all places, an airport bar in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, that hotbed of liberalism.
Every day, I teed it up on the Grand Strand — 16 days in a row and I still stink — I was asked if everyone in Colorado is stoned because of our Mary Jane ballot initiative. This is not a progressive area, people. In addition to being a great place for a golf safari, Myrtle Beach is also known as “The Redneck Riviera.”
Every TV in the bar was tuned to USA-Germany. Ooohs and aaahs followed every shot. Cheers went up every time Portugal scored, which was a good thing given that our boys needed Cristiano Renaldo and company to beat Ghana to help them advance to the knockout stage.
The guy I was sitting next to had the best quote after Renaldo scored the game-winner for Portugal. “I stand by my middle finger at Renaldo.” (Let’s face it. Hating is a part of fandom.)
Yes, it was an airport, indicating people leaving Myrtle Beach, but said airport serves a distinctly southern population (Atlanta, Charlotte and Dallas, Lexington, Kentucky) as well as other Midwestern soccer hotbeds like Detroit, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Cincinnati, Columbus and Youngstown, Ohio.
Soccer is growing state-side. Doubtless, TV ratings have been helped by having the tournament in the Western Hemisphere for only the third time since cable and the satellite dish have allowed for more than 10 or so channels (Mexico, 1986, and here in 1994).
Will it surpass football, basketball or baseball? No. Local radio in Myrtle Beach is obsessed in June over South Carolina’s and Clemson’s chances as football season approaches.
Nationally, ESPN.com put up a poll on Friday, asking sports fans, “What do you expect of Michael Bradley against Belgium?” Sorry, but the average American would be hard-pressed to evaluate a midfielder’s play, much less locate him.
Even here in the Centennial State, where the Rapids draw well and youth and high school soccer is a big deal, Peyton Manning rules over Clint Dempsey.
But “a sign of the nation’s moral decay?” No.
Perhaps, Coulter and like-minded individuals are a bit confused by the concept that the World Cup involves a sport in which the Americans are not the best. (Cue dramatic music here.)
We’re No. 13!
I like this, and please don’t give me the “Freud hates ‘Merica.” The greatest moment in American sports remains the 1980 Winter Olympics hockey tournament, and that’s because we were hopeless underdogs against the Soviets, and there’s nothing more ‘Merican than beating the Soviets and Vladimir Putin. (Oh, wait, he wasn’t running the country back then.)
The World Baseball Classic means nothing. “Dream Teams” in Olympic basketball are getting a little silly. (LeBron James takes on Tunisia?)
It really is OK that the United States doesn’t rule the world of soccer … yet. As David Cope, our intrepid World Cup columnist, has often said, “The United States will win the tournament before England does again.”
Yes, Germany took us to the woodshed on Thursday, though the 1-0 result makes it look tight, but we are gaining. From CONCAF, aka the North American region, it was Mexico that had to scramble to qualify for the tournament.
Entering the World Cup finals, we were 13th in the world in soccer, and such luminaries as Spain (No. 1), Portugal (4) and England (10) are out while we take on Belgium (11) on Tuesday. Please do remember we weren’t meant to get out of the Group of Death.
Are we going to win the whole thing? Not likely. But another appealing aspect of soccer is that the best team doesn’t always win. (See the Portugal game.)
Regardless of some ‘Merica-centric minds, this is the biggest sporting event in the world and it’s exciting to see the red, white and blue have a spot on the stage.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.