Now that professional hockey is finally over with, just into summer, the World Cup is upon us. Personally, if I were American Dictator, I would order hockey to sign off by the first day of spring. I’ve never liked hockey, I admit. Surely, it need not bother us when the weather turns warm, indoor rinks and rabid fans notwithstanding.

The World Cup is convened every four years like the Summer Olympics—this year, for the first time in an African nation, South Africa. Sports bars in New York are going gaga over soccer. Bar patrons are cheering for players and teams they had not heard about until a week ago. The local dailies devote pages and pages of coverage. Team USA is given a shot at winning the Cup, which can be easily held in one hand, like an Oscar statue–nothing like the Stanley Cup, which takes a strong man two hands to hoist overhead. I suppose all those soccer moms finally raised a winning team.

Back in my day, we played soccer in gym class a year or two. No one thought much of it; none of us was any good at it. Times have changed, it seems. Also, I think, increasing numbers of immigrants from soccer-playing countries have had a hand in this newfangled soccer mania. Some form of soccer was played in ancient China, but the sport was formalized and the rules set in 19th century England. From there, it traveled through the empire.

All this faux interest in soccer will evaporate in four weeks when the World Cup is over and the infernal buzzing of the African vuvuzela horns has ceased, just like interest in women’s soccer mostly ended after the U.S. women’s team defeated China 2-1 for the gold medal in the 1996 Olympics, the first Olympics to have women’s soccer. Have you watched a women’s soccer league game lately? And that’s another thing about soccer. It’s too noisy and riotous. You could say that international soccer is war by other means. American football can be quite brutal, but the stands don’t erupt in fury.

American’s will never cotton to soccer because it’s fundamentally un-American. Americans like to think of themselves as whole, competent people. Sports stars are able-bodied men and women. They stand tall, like Joe DiMaggio swinging bats in the on deck circle at a Yankees game. This tolerance of wheel chair athletes with huge biceps racing at breakneck speed is all good and well in our all-inclusive society. But basically, we like our athletes to come with two good arms and legs.

The arms, dear reader, are for throwing. Americans are great throwers. Baseball is the greatest of all throwing games, with the pitcher taking on the entire opposing team. A perfect game is unequaled in all of sports. Catchers fire out runners attempting to steal a base; shortstops snare grounders, wheel and throw out runners at first base; and outfielders with great arms throw out runners at home plate.

The sheer size of a soccer field reduces the players to ant-like stature, who run back and forth like a ping pong game in slow motion. When someone finally scores, the announcer wakes up and yells “scorrrrrrrrrrrrre.” And goes back to sleep.

Soccer is for middle weights. When Queen Elizabeth watched an American football game, she said to an American friend, “Where do you get so many huge men?” Well, Your Majesty, we like to grow ‘em big. American team sports push the extremes of strength and speed. Soccer can be played anywhere, unofficially on a vacant lot. All the players need is a ball, and excellent lungs and wiry legs, so that they can run and run and run. I’ll take a bat, a ball and a glove, anytime.

By Hudson Owen. All Rights Reserved.

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