Soccer is far and away the most popular sport in the world. In fact, over a billion people on Earth are playing soccer right now. But there’s one big exception to the sport’s worldwide dominance. Soccer is one of those things - like Fanta soda and Kylie Minogue and dysentery – that’s huge pretty much everywhere, except in America.
If soccer (or kickball (quiqueból) as it called overseas) is ever going to catch the imagination of the average American, it needs to adapt to our ways. Joe Toolbox and Susie Subaru have spoken with their feet, and their feet are saying “No way! We are walking towards other types of sporting events!” But it’s not too late to fix this. Soccer could easily become America’s favorite “last five minutes of SportsCenter” sport and we would never have to see ice hockey again! All it would take is a few small cosmetic changes.
1. Higher scores!
Go to a professional soccer match, I dare you. You probably won’t see or hear anything because of all the people in front of you waving giant flags and banging on drums and yelling long chants that they’ve spent 10 years memorizing. It’s very sad that they have to do all these things to keep busy, but can you blame them? There is most likely nothing happening on the field!
Soccer teams run back and forth for ninety minutes, getting all tuckered out while trying to make it look like something exciting is going on. Then, after all that effort, they often have to leave the field without scoring single point! It doesn’t really seem fair to anyone.
And so, I propose that from now on, a “goal” in soccer is worth not one point but six points, like a score in real football. Single points will still be awarded too, but for little victories like a successful pass or a brutal tackle or that fancy upside-down kick that never works or a super neat haircut or a cool evening breeze or the laughter of a child. What about a new, shiny pair of cleats? What about two attractive, chiseled athletes of different races bridging the color gap with a long, open-mouthed kiss? Who can put a point value on such things? My team of highly-trained referees, that’s who.
2. Ties: Not at all!
The glacial pace and lack of scoring are even more frustrating when the game ends and fans are told by ushers that no one even won. Americans like contests with swift, decisive outcomes, which is why we started the “War on Terror.” We demand better.
Lots of remedies for the tie problem have been proposed over the years, like various types of shootouts and extended extra time. Booo! These ideas are all bad, and insult the majesty of the “beautiful game.” The right solution is much simpler. In a game that’s tied at the end of regulation, play continues until the next goal. BUT… The goalposts are on rails and motorized to spread apart slowly, like a retractable stadium roof. Let’s say they move a foot every minute. Twelve minutes into the overtime period, the goal will have doubled in size. Eventually, a sudden-death game-winning goal is inevitable!
3. I thought of some more things that are popular everywhere else but America.
• the metric system
• underarm hair
• “Mr. Bean”
• sensible gun regulation
• Gary Moore, the guitarist from Thin Lizzy
4. Last name required!
In many countries, soccer players are known by a single iconic name. This is because so many of them are former bullfighters. But in the American heartland, that kind of thing comes off as a little flamboyant. Did any of the small-town sporting heroes on TV’s Friday Night Lights have just one name? I think there was a guy called “Smash” or “Crash,” but everyone knew that he wasn’t born with that. He wasn’t one of the American Gladiators, he had a normal name, probably Kevin or something.
From now on, soccer players need to have two names like normal people. If they don’t have a last name when it’s their turn to register, they will do what everyone does in that situation: look around wildly and just say the name of the first object they see. “Okay, commissioner, my, uh, full name is Rodrigo…uh…Lightswitch.” “My name? Is Miloslav…errr…Commissioner.”
5. Enough with the affectations.
There is only one thing worse than people who hate soccer only because it’s not American: people who like soccer only because it’s not American. The U.S. soccer scene is full of these pretentious public radio pledgers with their chic, severe eyewear and their season tickets. These are people who can achieve sexual climax only by correcting some poor sap who said “zero” instead of “nil.” U.S. clubs even use British-sounding stadium announcers to please these douchebags. It’s a national tragedy, is what it is.
Well, it ends here. From now on, we’ll hire the twangiest rodeo and stock car racing announcers we can find to call all U.S. soccer games. They will be forced to say “game” instead of “match,” “team” instead of “side,” and “fan” instead of “supporter” because look, we have perfectly good sports words for all these things already and we’re going to use them, dammit. There will be no more microbrews and Caesar salads at the game. Warm beer and corn dogs were good enough for your grandpa when he was killing Nazis and they’re going to be good enough for you. The only ice cream available for sale will be Dippin’ Dots, a perennially unpopular food that’s been calling itself America’s “Ice Cream of the Future” for thirty years. For some reason, that seems right for soccer.
6. Clocks: If not now, when?
Does a microwave clock count up? Does NASA mission control start at 1? Does Hologram Dick Clark tell us when the ball is going to rise on New Year’s Eve?
Honestly, soccer, how is this hard to get right? People are waiting to see zero. They’re not waiting for 90 or 93 or whatever-we’re-going-to-count-up-to-only-the-top-secret-“injury-time”-official-knows. When I am running soccer, not only will the clock move in the correct, American direction, but the countdown must be chanted out loud by all the players on the field at all times, except for the handsome ones making out interracially for points.
7. Finally, American bathrooms need bidets.
This has nothing to do with soccer. But if we’re going to start stealing from Europe, I think we need to start at the bottom.
Ken is a notable author and holds the record for the longest winning streak on Jeopardy! Follow him on Twitter: @KenJennings.