"Soccer: America's sport of the future, since 1972." This is the sardonic tag line of my favorite soccer analysts, the so-called "Men in Blazers" (http://meninblazers.com/) who record a weekly podcast and have appeared daily on ESPN during the World Cup.
It's a funny line, but one that rings true for me. I was born in 1972 in the United States, and like many other suburban kids I grew up playing soccer every weekend. I'm part of the generation that many (wrongly) predicted would transform soccer from eccentric habit to part of the sports mainstream. I did my part, fanatically following the World Cup and, later in life, becoming a fan of the English club team Arsenal. To tell the truth, I've always enjoyed the idea that being a soccer fan in the United States set me apart - the equivalent of following a band so hip that few people had heard of it.
The lack of love that the United States has shown historically for soccer is not the only thing that sets this country apart. In our recently released Global Peace Index, the United States performed lower than other countries with similar levels of human development. We have the largest share of the world's incarceration population, easy access to small arms, and big stockpiles of nuclear weapons. As a country, we spend far more money ($1.7 trillion annually) containing violence than any other nation.
The news is not all bad by any means. Criminal violence is down, and incarceration rates are slowing (and in some states like New York significantly reduced). And the United States has a lot of positive factors to draw upon, such as its high ranking on the Democracy Index (21st out of 167 countries measured).
To my surprise, the United States has officially caught World Cup fever, with television ratings through the roof and wild public watch parties in cities that are hardly traditional soccer hothouses like Kansas City, Orlando and Chicago. This enthusiasm will only grow if the United States manages to beat Belgium. Though I'd have to surrender my hard-fought outsider status, all things considered I won't mind if soccer finally takes hold in the United States and we manage to join the international mainstream.Related Articles
As the world looks to Brazil to watch 32 countries fight it out on the soccer field, we take a look how this tournament would turn out if they were in the playoffs for peace.
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