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Answering The American Soccer 'What If?'

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We've all danced around this. We've thrown out the what-ifs. But it took until now for someone (Gregg Doyel) to just flat-out say it, proud of his ignorance, more than happy to cross the line into "downright offensive".

The world can have the World Cup... Because if [the USA] wanted to win the World Cup, we would do it. And futbol would no longer be the world's game. It would be ours... Our best young football or basketball. And the ones who don't play football or basketball are playing baseball. Everyone else? They're playing soccer. In other words, the U.S. World Cup soccer team wasn't the best of us. That was the rest of us.

Doyel then goes on to name a predictable list of American athletes, and asks you to just imagine if they played soccer: Chris Paul, Chris Johnson, LeBron James, John Wall, Sherron Collins, Devin Hester, and Steve Smith. He throws in Wes Welker as the token white guy.

And that's where Doyel betrays his lack of understanding of soccer. Americans look at soccer and they think, "Look at all those little, pale guys running around. If only our big, black athletes played soccer, we would dominate!" To which I respond, look at France. They have plenty of large, athletic players of African descent. And their best player is still Franck Ribery, who is 5-foot-7 and white. Oh, and France is terrible. The consensus two best players in the world are Lionel Messi and David Villa, and they both can barely ride the big-kid roller coasters. They're both of light complexion. They're both skinny guys.

Look, nobody likes to say it aloud, but it's not exactly a secret that athletic black guys dominate the NBA and the NFL. In soccer, baseball, and hockey, that's not the case. Why not? It's not as though there aren't black athletes playing those sports. People all around the world, people of every size and color play soccer and baseball. Is it possible that maybe those sports require a different skill set than football and basketball, perhaps a skill set shared by a more diverse chunk of the world's population?

I heard a joke recently that soccer is like the movie Twilight. People run around for two hours, nobody scores, the acting's terrible, and billions of fans insist you don't understand. Even as a soccer fan, I had to laugh, because soccer fans do often have their noses upturned at fans of other sports. But when people who don't understand soccer continue to write drivel like this, and clueless editors continue to allow it to run, is it any wonder?

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.