Sports

The World Cup is good reason to take the sport of soccer off the shelf

I’m just going to come right out and say it — I’m not a big fan of soccer.

Sorry, that’s just the way I feel.

Football is my favorite thing to watch, and it doesn’t matter if it’s in person or on TV. There’s just nothing better than a good, old-fashioned football game.

College basketball and Major League Baseball come in a close second and third, while soccer ranks somewhere beyond my top 10 with things like NHL hockey, competitive eating and the National Spelling Bee.

They are stuff that I turn on when I’m having trouble going to sleep.

I know it’s not the popular thing to say, especially in Federal Way. The city is well known around the Puget Sound area as a soccer-crazy community.

The city has long been one of the soccer hot beds in Washington state. During the past couple of decades, Federal Way has produced numerous professional soccer players and a countless number of state championships at the youth, high school and adult league levels.

I know what the soccer fan is saying: “How can you be a sports reporter and not care about the most popular sport in the world?”

I don’t really know how to answer that question, other than to say watching a bunch of dudes run around for 90 minutes kicking a ball around isn’t my idea of a good time.

Especially when 80 percent of the games seem to end with a 1-0 victory.

So why am I so excited to sit down and watch the World Cup? I actually have no idea.

But I can’t wait to watch as many matches as humanly possible. I even came in late to work on Monday morning with a fake stomachache (don’t tell anyone) to take in the United States team’s opening-round match against the Czech Republic.

They kicked off at 9 a.m., and the Czechs blew away the Americans — in soccer terms — 3-0. That would be like the St. Louis Rams beating the Seattle Seahawks 35-0.

Why would I take time out of my busy schedule to watch a soccer game?

The easiest answer is national pride. The World Cup compares pretty heavily to the Olympics. It happens every four years and athletes compete for their home countries.

And when the Olympics roll around, I will watch every minute of coverage possible. It doesn’t even matter if it’s Americans or a ski jumper from Norway.

Any other time of the year, I would channel-surf right by a track and field meet or some kind of giant slalom.

But I can’t get enough during the Olympics.

The World Cup is the same way.

The Super Bowl is by far the biggest sporting event in the United States, but the once-a-year championship game pales in comparison to the World Cup.

The monthlong competition held in Germany this time is the most-watched sporting event worldwide. In a very non-scientific poll, the World Cup will be seen by more than 80 percent of the globe’s population.

OK, it might not be that popular. But officials from FIFA, the international governing body for soccer, estimate that 19 billion people will watch the matches over the course of the month.

That’s quite a huge estimate, especially when you consider the world population is only one-third of that amount — 6.5 billion. Which must mean that FIFA expects every person in the world to watch at least three World Cup matches.

But fans in the United States still haven’t really jumped on the bandwagon.

The past two World Cups — played in Korea/Japan in 2002 and France in 1998 — attracted only NHL hockey type-ratings in America.

In comparison, this year’s Super Bowl between the Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers drew less than 100 million viewers worldwide. But more than 1 billion are expected to tune in to the July 9 championship in Berlin.

Several taverns around Federal Way will televise all the games during the World Cup. The Time Out Ale House, Tall Timbers and Scoreboard Pub will be offering drink and food specials during matches.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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