Yeah, soccer and the Timbers work in Portland, but there’s a reason soccer doesn’t work in the US.
The Portland Timbers are the newest MLS team. They are thriving in their first season in my home city. Their new stadium is filled every game and I see Timbers gear being worn by the folks all over the place. It’s actually quite cool, to see a community rally behind a sports team. As an avid sports fan, I love it. But Portland is a weird city. Weird is our slogan. (I’m only half kidding.) And you wouldn’t find this love affair going on in almost any other part of America. We as a country just don’t embrace soccer like the rest of the world does. Here, it’s a niche sport and nothing more. And I understand why. As a person who played for nine seasons in my childhood, I feel my insight is valid.
In America, baseball, basketball, and football are king. Sure, they have the benefit of having almost a monopoly on media exposure. They do well in having their seasons neatly cover our calendar year. But most of all, they are sports with scoring, that have rules in place to avoid ties, have a clock or check down of game remaining for everyone to see, and are played by big, strong athletes that use their hands.
Soccer is a waste of good athletes. America is savvy enough to know this. The rest of the world simply is not. 90 minutes of ebb and flow producing a 1-0 score, or worse, a tie(?!) is not what our country wants to see. A clock that counts up and never stops leaves way too much room for corruption on the part of the officials (see several of the Euro leagues circa 2009 and 2010), and manipulation on the part of the players. I mean, why not fake an injury when your team is losing? The ref will just add a few minutes to the game, giving your team a chance to score and maybe at least tie the game. There is something inherently wrong with a sporting event being played in a stadium of sixty thousand people and only one person in the whole place knows when the game will be over.
Soccer has it’s place here. It’s a good child’s sport in which our youngest can learn the value of teamwork, commitment, and exercise. But it is no more than a vehicle to better sports with rules and formats more suited to the national audience. I for one am proud that my country tends to reject a sport with so many flaws. Let the kids play it. Then, when they become the greatest athletes in the world, let them play the American sports.