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Saturday, June 17, 2006

JAPAN LITE

World Cup spirit runneth over


Zzzzzzzzzz. Eh? Oh, it's Saturday morning? Time for Japan Lite? Sorry for the drowsiness, but if you've been watching the World Cup soccer on TV, you'll understand. All the games are on at night here. I usually go to sleep after the 10 p.m. game and wake up for the 4 a.m. game.

News photo
The World Cup unites the world's people.

After watching Japan lose to Australia last Sunday, I stayed up to watch the U.S.-Czech game that followed at 1 a.m. I made it through the first half but fell asleep at halftime and completely missed the rest of the game. Zzzzzzzzzz.

In the morning, I went to CNN's Web site to see the results, but there was no mention of World Cup soccer at all on the front page. The sports section had a couple of headlines about the NFL. I finally went to the FIFA site to get the results.

And this is why I am glad I'm not on my home planet during the World Cup. In America, they just don't get it. Having been married to a professional soccer player for 13 years, I am well aware of the biases against soccer in the U.S. Interestingly, none of them has anything to do with the reputation of hooligan soccer fans. I wonder, maybe we should be advertising violence to get more Americans to like soccer. Fans more violent than the gridiron! Tougher than ice hockey players!

No, when Americans are asked why they don't like soccer, they usually say, "It's boring" or "It's a sissy sport" (More violent than the gridiron! Fans tougher than ice hockey players!). Others say, "Soccer is for kids," since soccer is popular from elementary school through high school. Yet others say, "It's a European thing" -- in America we have other major sports, like baseball and American football. I wonder if the lack of soccer enthusiasm has something to do with the lack of sexy cheerleaders. Zzzzzzzzzz.

There is no other sport that is so familiar to Americans yet so rejected by them on the professional level. I mean, it's not like we're trying to introduce cricket, a sport about which Americans have no idea. Absolutely everyone knows what soccer is, and most people have even played it in school.

So, what's the big debate about when it comes to soccer? There are those who like football and those who don't, but Americans don't sit around and debate the validity of football. If you like it, you watch it. If you don't like it, you watch a different sport. While America is a country with lots of professional sports, and welcomes more and more all the time, (snowboarding, skateboarding, etc), you'd expect people to be saying: "Soccer, cool! Bring on more sports!"

Unlike American baseball's World Series, which has nothing to do with the rest of the world (other than excluding it), the soccer World Cup has everything to do with the world -- even the U.S. So why miss out on the global fun? Take down that wall map of the U.S. in your home and put a world map up instead. Heck, go out on a limb -- find out where Togo is! Like the Olympics, the World Cup is a chance to live and learn, rather than just live.

Japan created the J. League in 1992, and the Japanese have wholly embraced the sport. Japan has gone on to participate in three World Cups, with the Japanese fans supporting their team all the way. In Japan you can see Japanese people and foreigners unite in fandom. And to think, with America's huge immigrant population, the fun they are missing out on.

So c'mon America -- just resign yourself to soccer and enjoy it (more violent than the gridiron! Fans tougher than ice hockey players!). Or at least respect it as the world's most popular sport. Thank you and good morning. Zzzzzzzzzz.



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