…It’s a weakness of our entertainment culture that there is very little empathy and compassion for loss. Americans prefer to extol great individual performances — say, the swoops of Michael Jordan or the shotgun arm of Satchel Paige — and brush away failure with laughter; think of the oft-mocked Cubs and Browns. This is an attitude hostile to the very nature of soccer. This sport resists easy consumption and disposal; those dead-ass games are often as important as the exciting onces, and the emotional, personal, and patriotic levels on which the sport must be understood bring up scary feelings that often go against what Americans think of as “fun” — one reason, perhaps, soccer has never succeeded on American shores. The rest of the world remembers great soccer losses, and broods upon them. Soccer punctures any sense of invincibility a culture has with alarming frequency, and that cuts against the grain of a nation that still has trouble accepting it lost the Vietnam War. The fact is, soccer — with its maniacal crowds, mad tension, and the stifling importance of a single, two-hour stretch of time — is often not fun.
So why the heck do people love this sport? Because soccer, as has famously been said, is not religion — it is something far, far more important.