Galvanizing Sports Thoughts

By Tony Price, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: July 5, 2010

BOSTON (BASN) — As the World Cup has reached its version of the final four with Uruguay, Netherlands, Spain and Germany all vying for a shot at the title match held in Cape Town, I could not help but wonder if the games really made much of an impact here in the USA.

Sure the TV screens were tuned in at the local bars, taverns and restaurants across the country as team USA tried to advance on the big stage and the media blitz of snapshots we experienced of the often talked about but never really appreciated melting pot of fans rooting for the team.

While I expect a few secretly enjoyed watching the demise of the team as there is still a hint of anti-American sentiment that was prevalent in the last World Cup games.

Unfortunately for Team USA, their hopes and aspiration were once again dashed, as they were defeated for the second time in four years by Ghana and with it went the viewership. The pundits will point to the increase of patriotic pride and overall revenue as a direct result of the world’s largest sporting event. But let’s take a closer look and examine this phenomena.

I find it hypocritical that we saw so many images of Black, White, and Hispanic fans sitting together with a rooting interest.

When after the camera’s lights turn off and the hoopla fades these same individuals will travel back to their segregated neighborhoods and blame the others for their roles in the decline of the moral fabric and economic downturn.

This country has a real challenge with race, yet for some reason it seems there is at least one thing that can pull us together at least for 2-3 hours and that is our common interest in rooting for our favorite team to win. Secondly despite all of the hype surrounding the World Cup I believe it will do little to elevate the status of soccer as a primary sport in the U.S., joining the family of baseball, football, hockey and basketball.

Soccer in this country is still regarded as an affluent suburban sport; the word suburban is just another clever marketing term for white middle and upper class, in the same way as the word Urban is used to represent the Black population of inner cities.

You don’t believe me?

Quick, what image comes to your mind when you hear the word “soccer mom”?

See what I mean, I doubt many of you thought about the Ethiopian mom driving a caravan of youths eager to get to the soccer field. How many caravan commercials on television re-enforce this stereotype?

One of the attractions of the world cup for the average fan is that you get to witness many of the teams from what are considered third world and under-developed countries perform and compete at a high level while admiring the diversity of their rosters.

However when we think of the sport of soccer in this country, rarely do you think of the Salvadorian, African, Caribbean, and Asian athletes playing at the local dilapidated fields.

Maybe it’s because it’s a rare site indeed to see a group of youths just pick up and go to soccer field in the same manner you can watch a group of teens play pick- up basketball.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, if the men’s team had gone further maybe it could have added some infusion of the sport in the same way the women did a few years back, with Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain who became an overnight sensation after taking off her shirt, much to the delight of males everywhere.

It’s funny how this was exalted as pure passion, yet when the Williams sisters wear revealing outfits they are maligned. But that’s another story for another time.

Also does anyone remember Briana Scurry, the African American goalkeeper on that championship team who never received the same adulation and endorsement deals as her white counterparts.

Just another missed opportunity to grow the appeal of the sport and embrace the diversity.

The energy and momentum of the women’s victory was short lived, including the now defunct professional women’s’ soccer league that soon followed sure there was an increase in girls youth programs.

But the overall feeling and imagery of soccer has not changed.

Soccer has a long way to go to really be accepted in this country and join the Big Four, and that’s too bad, because it’s the one sport that actually cuts across many demographics and truly represents the face of America as we know it today.