I’m just about as American as any citizen of the United States of America can be. My favorite food is a plain cheeseburger with French fries on the side. How USA is that? My next favorite dish is a true delicacy: a hot dog gently glazed with a dab of honey mustard.
I speak English. And only English. Sure, I know a little bit of Cajun French, but not nearly as much as I should considering where I live.
And I’ve never been, nor have any desire to see other countries in the world. Call me close-minded, but I just like things just the way they are here. If other places were so amazing, why do their citizens desire to ultimately live here?
But my own nationalistic pride aside, I’ve been trying to broaden my horizons when it comes to the world of sports. I’ve been trying slowly, but surely to enjoy games played in other places that we don’t quite yet enjoy fully over here.
I figure that if others around the world think that their country’s sports are worthwhile then I should hop on the bandwagon and at least give them a shot to win me over as well.
And that takes us to futbol. And more specifically the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
I’m not a soccer fan. Not in the slightest. Of the thousands of professional players around the world, I may only be able to name 10 or 12 players off the top of my head. That’s a pretty bad ratio considering that I can probably name 75 percent of the players in the NBA off the top of my head, and then probably 85-90 percent when putting a little thought into what I’m doing.
But with all of that said, I am eager to watch the next few weeks of soccer, and I’m even more fired up to see how the U.S. will fare against a fierce group that consists of some of the most elite teams in the world.
Whether one chooses to admit it or not, within the next 20-30 years, soccer will become one of the premiere sports in our country.
It’s time we all just face it and accept this as fact. We’re too far down the road to go back now. The madness is already under way. The hearts of our nation’s youngsters are already pointing in the sport’s direction. We may never rival Brazil, Spain, Germany or the other world powers, but we are going to continue to grow as a nation in futbol success.
It’s all about the kids. In our country, there are more young children than ever are playing soccer. They are doing so because of baseball’s downward swing in popularity and injury concerns surrounding youth football.
In this job, I’m blessed to be able to see the youngsters in action. The Tri-parish area is a unique place, as all of our youth sports are very popular with high participation.
But soccer is among the best. The Houma-Terrebonne Soccer Association is one of the most successful youth sports programs that I’ve ever seen. The group has kids oozing out of it each and every year.
From the soccer program, the children filter into and out of our area’s high schools. The growth of the sport is one major factor in Vandebilt Catholic’s success as a program. Other schools in the area have flourished as well and have become far more competitive in recent years. This change is a big-time contrast from when I graduated in 2005. At that time, most of the young men and women who played prep soccer were just athletes from other sports who used soccer as a means to stay in shape.
Today, the local athletes train to be soccer players. They practice scoring goals, make amazing passes and everything that comes with the sport.
And as a result, the level of play has improved and the quality of competition has improved as well.
I’m talking about the Houma-Thibodaux area mostly because it’s the only area that I’ve studied first-hand, but all accounts tout that similar growth is going on throughout the country as more and more youngsters see the sport on TV, want to try it out first-hand and then fall in love with it and decide that they want more.
The lack of a legitimate professional league hurts the cause, but the MLS is getting better, and I think a big reason for that is because of the level of talent filtering through the youth programs.
So with all of this tied into a bundle, I can say that I am curious to see how the USA does in its latest attempt to showcase itself against the rest of the globe.
The competition will be stiff – the Yanks’ draw is among the toughest in the entire 32-team Cup. But this year’s team is also better than any American team in recent years, as well.
Guys like Michael Bradley, Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and Jozi Altidore are not just relevant names because they are Americans. They are relevant names because they are legitimate top-flight players on the global scene.
Having a coach like Jurgen Klinsmann also helps give the Americans some legitimacy, as well. Klinsmann has seen all of the highs and lows that come with the World Cup. He knows good futbol when he sees it and he seems committed to making sure that the Americans reach that level someday, preferably sooner, rather than later.
Whether it happens this World Cup, it all remains to be seen.
But sooner or later, we will get to the level where we will be among the favorites in the field instead of one of the underdogs.
There are just too many youngsters playing the sport for that not to be become a reality.
I don’t know if I believe that we will win.
But I do definitely believe that we will win in the near future.
You can book that.
I’m excited to see it all unfold, too.
How can a sport be known as the world’s game without America involved in the action?