Getting a kick out of soccer

JASON SUDEKIS and Brendon Hunt star in “Ted Lasso” (Apple TV).

By Jim Tortolano/Orange County Tribune

One of my least favorite modern terms is “cultural appropriation.” That’s a critique that suggest that one ethnicity unfairly “copies” the culture of another, i.e., jazz, rock and roll and polka music.

What’s wrong with people being attracted to something that originated with another group of people?  Historically, that’s how knowledge, religion, technology and culture spread from one area to another.

I now refer – in these vague terms – to the current boom in soccer, known to the rest of the world as football. Originated in England, it’s the world’s most popular sport. Until recently, most Americans have resisted the appeal of futbol, deeming it slow and boring (as opposed to baseball, which can be boring and slow).

FOOTBALL or soccer ball? (Shutterstock/Pasko Maxim).

As a youngster, I enjoyed playing soccer, and did so right into college. There’s a biiiig field (“pitch” in soccer-speak), almost constant motion and impressive teamwork. But Americans like lots of scoring; we have never been into delayed gratification.

But now, we’re seeing a steep increase in Stateside interest in soccer/football, sparked in part by the recent World Cup and the popularity of the Apple TV show “Ted Lasso,” about an American football coach who becomes the manager of a fictional English soccer club.

The “club” atmosphere of “world football” has started to take root in the U.S. here. The games/matches are not just dates on a schedule but opportunities for generations of people who live-and-die (metaphorically) with their favorite team.There’s a fair amount of drinking and joking and camaraderie. Each game is a moment of civic as well as alcoholic solidarity.

Now, we have some of that here in the U.S., but our major sports franchises have a tendency to move wherever a city (or rich patron) decides to go. The Athletics have journeyed from Philadelphia to Kansas City to Oakland and are almost certainly bound for Las Vegas. The Raiders have bounced from Oakland to L.A. and back to Oakland, and are now in Vegas.

But it would be unthinkable, for instance, for Manchester United to move to Liverpool.

I’ve even come around to a different view on scoring. The low scores make each goal a Big Thing. The pent-up anticipation is the prelude for a satisfying release of emotion, not unlike finally finishing a complicated Lego structure.

So, Americans are finally appropriating/embracing soccer/football. I can’t wait to see how we restless colonials start making it in our image, just as we have changed the world in a million other ways.

Categories: Sports

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