Yesterday I saw a headline that read, "America's Favorite National Pastime: Hating Soccer." I didn't read it, because I was pretty sure I knew the type of ignorant criticism it contained.
Not that all criticism of soccer is ignorant, mind you. I can understand if you just like a different type of action in the sports you watch. For instance, some Americans have a problem with soccer's typical low scoreline. If scoring is what you think makes a game exciting, then soccer will not be that exciting to you. And that's fine.
I also get it if you have a problem with affected soccer fans. I get that. I have a Facebook "friend" (is it redundant to specify it's a Facebook connection and still place the word "friend" in quotes?) who refuses to call the sport anything but "football." While he's not a foreigner, he does currently reside overseas (though his Facebook posts couldn't possibly be for local consumption, as his nation of residence blocks Facebook access). If fan affectations bother you, that would make watching soccer with soccer fans annoying. And that's fine.
But with the increased interest in soccer comes a number of people who are criticizing the game from their own ignorance. This reminds me of when I was reading blog posts from a relatively-new viewer of American football with recommendations on rule changes and player tactics. It takes quite a bit of hubris to say, "Hey, I've been watching you for a few minutes now do that thing I didn't used to know about that you've been doing for years, and I have a few tips for how you can improve." This was what drove the Wall Street Journal article last week regarding "writhing time." Yes, soccer has a problem with injury embellishment, and knowledgeable commentators have talked about penalizing faking ("simulation," it's called) more harshly. But noting that players removed by stretcher later returned to play is ignorant.
Soccer has a running clock. A player who needs medical attention needs to receive that attention off the field. How do you get a player off the field before he feels well enough to stand and walk (in which case, he wouldn't have to leave the field anymore)? You carry him off. Once off, the game resumes and the trainers try to evaluate him quickly because his team is disadvantaged playing the game with fewer players. He is either subbed out or returns to action. People who say, "Oh, he couldn't walk a moment ago and now he's fine," are showing their ignorance. Perhaps he could have walked but didn't want to until a trainer made sure his injury wasn't a break or a tear of something. Perhaps his injury hurt quite a bit, but now that time has passed (and he's been sprayed with that stuff), he feels better. Has no one ever been hurt, spent some time in pain, and then moved on with his life? This type of ignorance is baffling; ignorance of the intricacies of soccer can be excused a person who has not paid attention to soccer before, but ignorance of how the human body responds to pain is pretty lame.
Even if they aren't faking the extent of their injuries, some criticize soccer players for how easily they get hurt. These critics are showing ignorance, as well. Players wear shin guards that guard the shin. Not the ankle or the top of the foot. They are kicking balls at speeds up to 80 mph (I'd link to that stat, but the webpage had a creepy picture of a guy with super buggy eyes); if they miss the ball and get your foot, you're going to have a bad time.
Sometimes players fall from getting bumped. This is not necessarily simulation. Muscles cramp with little provocation sometimes; my left calf cramped terribly after eight miles of my most recent marathon, and I believe it was from getting hit by a pebble kicked by a runner behind me. It ruined the rest of my race.
So these are my reasons for not reading the article.
Later in the day, I saw a tweet of a soccer commentator, responding to a question about "the Ann Coulter article." I Googled it, and saw that Coulter was the author of the article attached to the headline I had read earlier. So I decided to read the article. And while I was reading the article, I got an e-mail from sometimes-reader Craig (whose wife is a more-regular reader, Alanna), asking what I thought of it.
I think most of Coulter's arguments are of the ignorant type. Nowhere does she say, "I know this about soccer and I don't care for it." Instead, she says things like, "Individual achievement is not a big factor in soccer." This shows she is unaware that major tournaments award a Golden Boot trophy to the top goal-scorer, that she is unaware that Cristiano Ronaldo recently won World Footballer of the Year, that she is unaware of the existence of Lionel Messi. She writes that no one receives blame, showing she is unaware of the death of Andrés Escobar. She asks, "Do they even have MVPs in soccer?", a question she could have answered with a two-second Google search. (My search is a Bing search because I've been boycotting Google since last Easter.)
Most of Coulter's criticism is of low-level youth rec-league soccer, not professional soccer. She shows not only her ignorance of professional soccer's competitiveness, but of all rec-league sports in America today. Ann, everyone gets a ribbon in every sport these days. Your problem is with modern pedagogy, not soccer.
Many of Coulter's criticisms are really just personal tastes. Thus, she thinks an 11-minute game that takes four hours to play is "more exciting" than a 90-minute game that takes 90 minutes to play. Okay, if that's what you're into. But don't tell me this is fact. It's just taste.
I get that opinion writers don't do nuances. I have been an opinion writer before. Even if you have room in your 500 words for the words "I think," you should drop them. Opinions written as facts are stronger and make for better reading. But opinion where no objective fact could ever exist is just being a blowhard.
Finally, Coulter goes from annoying to offensive.
I promise you: No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer. One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time.Of my four great-grandfathers, one was born in Czechia and one was born in Greece. In Coulter's estimation, I'm a "new" American (and my English ability is suspect). I have ancestors who have been in America since the 1600s, who fought in the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, the First World War, the Second World War, and the Vietnam War. The American-ness of my roots is beyond question.
Nor should it matter. Since when does it take four generations for someone to become American? I was under the impression it took a commitment and an oath. And the fact that Ann Coulter is a fourth-generation New Yorker does more to undermine her conservative credentials than the birthplace of my great-grandparents could ever undermine my perceived patriotism. If Coulter doesn't want to be evaluated by the chance location of her ancestors' births, neither should she so evaluate me.
In all, I was a big fan of Coulter's until I read her piece. Now I am offended by her casual dismissal of my ancestry, and I'm concerned about how ignorant she can be about something without prudently keeping her mouth shut (or fingers from typing). She should have watched a little more soccer before deciding she knew enough to write its take-down.