Football Frontrunners

Last week, sports fans across the nation were captivated by athletic men in shorts moving a ball between two nets.

And they weren’t even watching basketball.

World Cup Soccer has hit Youngstown hard, as anyone who has visited a local sports bar on game days can affirm. But are we coming out in droves because we really care that much about soccer?

Could it be that Youngstownians were thirsty for the sweet taste of revenge after our loss at the 2010 World Cup, against our bitter national rival….Ghana?

Probably not.

Maybe Youngstown has finally decided to get with the program and get cultured, like the rest of the world. Europeans are cultured, and Europeans watch soccer. It makes sense.

Unfortunately, the two events this spring whose headliners happened to be lead family members on Duck Dynasty suggests that too is not the case.

So what’s going on?

Americans, with Youngstownians as no exception, are frontrunners.

Are the people of Youngstown legitimately excited about America’s participation in the World Cup? Yes. Everyone wants to America to do well.

Would the people of Youngstown necessarily care if the World Cup wasn’t televised? Or if America wasn’t involved? Or if they cancelled the whole thing all together? Probably a lot less.

Americans are frontrunners when it comes to soccer. We don’t even call it the right name most of the time, because we gave the game’s name away to a sport where the superstar players regularly throw the ball.

Sure, there’s bound to be some hardcore, American soccer fans. But it’s not a huge number, and certainly isn’t reflective of the people showing up in bars to watch soccer all of a sudden. So there you have it. Americans are frontrunners, who don’t actually care about soccer all that much.

And it’s completely fine.

It’s great actually. Americans used to be so apathetic to soccer we couldn’t even fake interest in the sport. At least now we’re trying.

We’re trying together at sports bars, where we’re boosting the local economy by buying booze and pretending we’re hooligans.

We’re trying by forgetting the recognizable sports rivalries. Browns fans, Steeler fans, Buckeye fans, Wolverines fans — all cheering together for the unified US team, our combined competitive vitriol now aimed at those showboats from Ghana.

We’re watching because we want something to cheer for. It’s the same reason why everyone in the country watches the Super Bowl, regardless of whether their team is playing or not. It’s why we can go an entire season rolling our eyes at the Indians, but the moment they make it into the playoffs we’re screaming our lungs out at the bar.

Call it escapism, call it mass hysteria, call it whatever you want. People love finals, playoffs, tournaments and big global showdowns, because everyone, deep down, wants to adopt something bigger than themselves and support it until they’re blue in the face.

So, Youngstown frontrunners, keep on frontrunning. Keep going to the bars. It doesn’t hurt the economy.

Keep making friends with people who hate your favorite baseball team. It doesn’t hurt our local culture.

Keep on learning stats and information about teams from around the world to sound like you’re not just jumping on the bandwagon. It doesn’t hurt our national consciousness.