Time to step away from World Cup hysteria - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Time to step away from World Cup hysteria

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I'm done, and you should be, too.

Put the vuvuzelas away. Stop worrying about how much time is really left in extra time.

Quit tweeting "Gooooaaaaaaallllllll" on the rare occasion when someone actually scores. Stop gushing to your co-workers about the inner beauty of a nil-nil tie.

Don't feel compelled to spend your lunch break Friday cheering for Uruguay just because Ghana knocked out the red, white and blue. Forget, for the next four years, that you now know the difference between a yellow and a red card.

Feel free, though, to continue hissing at the French.

It's time to declare World Cup fever officially over. Way past time, actually, but who could really resist watching to see if that scrappy squad of underdog Yanks could knock off the mighty Ghanians and live to play another day.

They couldn't, and for that the folks at ESPN have to be apoplectic. They used all their self promotional zeal to sell the happenings in South Africa as great theater, then got stuck with a clunker of an ending.

Even the British play-by-play team imported to make it sound all prim and proper couldn't sugarcoat it. Americans may not know soccer, but they do know a choke when they see one.

And this, really, was a choke of major proportions. The U.S. had a clear path to reaching the semifinals for the first time since the first World Cup 80 years ago, and was knocked out for the second straight time by a tiny country that most Americans would be hard-pressed to find on a map.

In countries where soccer really matters, this could be cause for deep national angst. England's ouster sent the country into a funk, Mexico quickly fired its coach, and the president of Nigeria was so upset he suspended the country's team from international competition for two years.

Here? We shrugged and went back to wondering where LeBron is heading or whether Brett Favre will put on the pads for yet another year.

No long debates over whether Bob Bradley was the proper man at the helm of the U.S. team. No questions about why the forwards haven't scored a goal in two World Cups now.

Soccer fanatics — and, yes, there are some — will point to ratings that show nearly 15 million people watched some of the U.S.-Ghana game as evidence that the sport is finally taking root here. Indeed, that's a solid number, though I'm guessing if ESPN put its promotional powers behind an American team competing in the world bocce ball championship it would get similar numbers.

If any further proof is needed, I offer you hockey from the Olympics. Lots of Americans suddenly became fans when Canada and the U.S. met for the gold, but most of them couldn't tell you who won the Stanley Cup this year.

We've seen this all before, beginning in 1994 when the World Cup was played in the U.S. and a cute dog named Stryker was the mascot. The game was already being played by tens of thousands of kids around the country, so FIFA figured that giving the U.S. the World Cup would spawn a new generation of soccer lovers from Texas to Maine.

Didn't happen, so they tried again with the 1999 women's World Cup. I was there, among 90,000 screaming tweeners and their parents, to watch four teams combine for zero — count 'em, zero — goals in regulation in the two final games at the Rose Bowl, a day now remembered by most for Brandi Chastain showing off her sports bra.

Those screaming girls are grown up now, and have grown out of their brief flirtation with the game. The women's pro league spawned by that World Cup was a bust and the MSL isn't doing a lot better now, even with the brief hysteria of a David Beckham signing.

Face it. We're a nation that loves football, not futbol. We prefer sports where scoring comes in bunches, and we like a sport even more when we play it better than other countries.

So stop complaining about the horrendous refereeing. Quit trying to figure out the meaning of a golden goal.

It's OK not to watch anymore. There's no need to stay up late at night studying the Uruguayan roster so you can impress your friends with your soccer knowledge.

Give the vuvuzela one last toot. Then go back to more important things, like figuring out where LeBron will end up.

Oh, and don't worry about the French. They've long since given up.

____

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press.

 

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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