Backstory: Five good reasons Americans don't watch soccer
1. We didn't invent it.
Americans love their inventions. Which is why we like baseball. And why we're not big on foie gras. Why we can't live a day without a microwave. And why we can, and have, lived for centuries without lederhosen. The problem with America and soccer is that we can't say we had anything to do with its genesis. Unlike, say, our pride in both Chicken McNuggets and Ryan Seacrest.
Although Americans have tried to hide them for years, we have, as a country, bad looking knees. As opposed to the Brazilians whose motto is, "Look At My Knees, Please!" Or the Germans who will use any excuse to bend their knees and shout something both incomprehensible and lengthy. Americans' ambivalence about their knees explains the attempt many years ago by US soccer coaches to make capri pants an official part of the uniform. This suggestion was met with hoots of derision from all soccer playing nations, except Italy, which thought it wasn't a terrible idea, but wanted to accompany the tight pants with a snappy bolero jacket.
America is much more a land of hands than feet. Although renowned for our hand gestures, we have been sadly lacking in people who know what to do with their feet, let alone their toes, ever since Fred Astaire stopped gliding around floors. (The toe puppet craze was extremely short-lived.) As a result, the growth of both soccer and ballroom dancing has suffered. Attempts to merge the two "sports" fizzled in the late '60s. The Fred Astaire Soccer League was a spectacular failure, drawing somewhere between two and three fans to its inaugural, and final, match. This despite the innovation of requiring both goalies to wear toe shoes and stay on pointe for 50 percent of the match.
If you've ever watched an international soccer match you know that kvetching, aka complaining or oy yoy yoy-ing about being hurt, is as important to soccer greatness as being married to an attractive model. And yet, as much as American players writhe on the ground as if run over by a Panzer division, all our efforts produce only "are you kidding" headshakes from referees. The truth is our athletes are not very good actors. Ever see a Shaquille O'Neal commercial? Barry Bonds deny taking steroids? Not exactly Oscar-winning performances.
From an early age, we learn it is important to know the rules of the games we play. Why, for example, after you hit a baseball you should run to first base rather than the hot dog stand. Unfortunately, as hard as we try, we still haven't figured out the rules of soccer. What exactly is an offside? Why does the game continue after time has run out? And, most important, why isn't there a seventh-inning stretch?
• Chuck Cohen is a California-based satirist.