You might have heard about the 2014 FIFA World Cup if you have had any contact with civilization within the past three weeks.
Sadly, Ann Coulter has also had contact with civilization within that time frame. On June 25th, she published this article on why soccer was a sign of the “nation’s moral decay” (as opposed to Cowboys fans being the cause). The article drew criticism from a variety of outlets (such as Huffington Post, Elite Daily, and my personal favorite, Awful Announcing), which is to say that I am not alone in my assertion that this is worse than the Star Wars prequels.
Perhaps the only reason it drew such harsh criticism was that it was published a day before the United States were to play Germany in the final game of the Group Stage. Perhaps the nation doesn’t care about soccer. Perhaps we were only upset at Coulter for poo-pooing on our patriotic parade.
Alas, no. There is not a shred of intelligent thought within the article.
Coulter starts out by arguing the “individual achievement is not a big factor in soccer.” While soccer is perhaps the sport where you most need to play as a cohesive unit in order to have success as a team, individuals can still dominate the sport. Luis Suarez, biting incidents aside, put on a historic season at Liverpool this past year when he scored a record-tying 31 goals in a 38 game season, nearly leading his club to the Premier League title in the process. Ask any Argentinian football fan how many games they would have won in this World Cup if Lionel Messi were not on their team. Tim Howard has become a national hero after his incredible, 16 save performance against Belgium in Tuesday’s match.
Like hockey, individual play is not as obvious in soccer as it is in baseball, football, or basketball. The play is continuous, possession changes constantly, and some goals are really scored on just pure luck. However, player tracking, which utilizes technology to – you guessed it – track what each player does on the pitch has been utilized throughout the past decade. Even if you, Ann Coulter, can’t tell if a mid-fielder is giving away possession more often than retaining the ball, technology can. At the end of the match, this data is processed into a score on a scale of 1 to 10, with each player starting the match at a 6. Anything above 9 is outstanding, and anything under 7 is considered below average. Simple, no?
Coulter’s idiocy continues: “liberal moms like soccer because it’s a sport in which athletic talent finds so little expression that girls can play with boys.”
Throughout the Group Stage, U.S. mid-fielder Michael Bradley ran over 7 miles per match. I’d like to see half of America run seven miles, cumulative, in a week’s span.
“No other sport ends in as many 0-0 ties,” Coulter theorizes. While ties in soccer are frustrating, only seven of the first fifty-four matches ended regulation with a scoreless scoreline (five in the group stage, and Argentina – Switzerland and U.S. – Belgium in the Round of 16). And while Coulter isn’t wrong by saying that scoring is fun, she is wrong in saying that it’s “a lot harder to score [in American football] when a half-dozen 300 pound bruisers are trying to crush you.” Yes, it might have been difficult to score back in the ’70s when the NFL allowed defenders to play defense, and it seems that Coulter is time-locked in the ’70s. She might have not noticed that Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers can seemingly score at will on all but the staunches of NFL defenses, but everyone else in America has.
The crowning glory of Coulter’s lack of thought process in the article comes when she believes that not being able to use your hands is a mortal sin. “What separates us from lesser beasts… is that we have opposable thumbs.” Thus, any creature with paws and claws can play soccer, since it requires no thumbs. Let’s gather up 22 cats, dogs, or chimps, throw them onto a 120 yard field, put a soccer ball at their feet, and see what moments of brilliance they can come up with.
Finally, and thankfully for our collective intellect, Coulter compares ratings between the World Cup and NFL games, and simultaneously loses vocabulary skills. She says that soccer is not “catching on” despite that the U.S – Portugal thriller attracted over 18 million viewers, an increase on ratings from the 2010 World Cup (albeit because the 2010 World Cup in South Africa had start times of 7:30 AM, 10:30 AM, and 2:30 EST). While she is correct that those numbers are only on par with “run-of-the-mill… Sunday Night NFL games,” let’s compare those numbers with other sports. The 2014 NBA Finals averaged 15 million viewers for its five-game series between the “Not Tottenham” Spurs and the Miami Heat. Similarly, the 2013 World Series – which was contested between the seventh and 21st markets in America, St. Louis and Boston, both of whom have a national following – drew roughly the same mark. For a 4 P.M. Eastern Time start, Tuesday’s Knockout Round game between the United States and Belgium drew an average of 16.5 million viewers. Not only was the game not in prime time, nearly the entire country was either just about to leave work on the east coast, or stuck at work on the west coast for a majority of the game. If each United States World Cup game had been played in front of a prime-time audience, I believe ratings would have skyrocketed.
Coulter adds a parting shot that soccer is only popular among immigrants and foreigners, which is the same argument that I would have expected out of Daniel Day Lewis’ character in Gangs of New York. We can pretend that we’re still isolated in the 1860’s and that what’s American should stay American and that everything else can stay overseas, or we can accept that soccer has gained a foothold in this country. We won’t know until we see if ratings have improved for MLS games or for English Premier League games.
The only moral decline in America we can attribute to soccer is that we all had to read an Ann Coulter article on soccer. Surely, everyone is all the worse for that.