The new American pastime?

World Cup fever.
World Cup fever.

Some Americans still hate soccer because it’s an assault on the sanctity of the American rite of snack time. That must be the reason. Nothing else makes any real sense.

Persistent soccer haters try to justify their dislike of the game in many ways, but the snack argument is the only one that holds any real weight (more weight than we care to admit perhaps). American sports’ time-outs, clock stoppages and football downs and huddles are built-in opportunities to raid the kitchen (or hit the loo).

Soccer has none of these pauses, just an ever-ticking, unforgiving clock that counts up, not down and that forces you to focus on the actual game. You might say, then, that the World Cup is the exact opposite of Super Bowl Sunday. People at World Cup gatherings actually have to watch the game and nothing but the game for 45 minutes at a time, leaving very little time to talk about other things or concentrate on navigating a buffalo-wings-and-blue-cheese-dressing platter.

That anti-soccer set looks increasingly silly to the rest of us who are having a blast at the party. They like to say the sport is boring. I suppose the best suggestion then for a little excitement is to add some commercial breaks to the game, because nothing says compelling television more than advertisers interrupting a game to try to sell you things you don’t need.

Another argument is that Americans don’t like soccer because we don’t like floppers, fakers and actors who exaggeratedly pretend to have been fouled to draw a penalty. If I were being sarcastic – I would never do that – I’d say our athletes in the NBA never pretend to be fouled, and Major League Baseball players never pretend to tag a runner out when he hasn’t even come close. Our players would never cheat, I’d say if I were being sarcastic.

We also still hear silly arguments that soccer is hard to follow even though it’s about as simple to understand as the rules of playing catch. And we hear crazy criticisms that soccer players are inferior athletes. But then, the heckler in the corner of the bar might have missed where U.S. striker Clint Dempsey played through the entire World Cup with a broken nose. My money is on Dempsey and not the heckler in an arm wrestling match, by the way.

Perhaps the issue goes deeper than snack and bathroom breaks. A very vocal group we’ll call “The Fun Police” continue to cling to the idea that it’s cool for Americans to hate soccer even as many have been swept up in soccer fever. Ann Coulter received much backlash for a column in which she called the increased interest in soccer a sign of the nation’s “moral decay.”

“I promise you: No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer,” she said. “One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time.”

It’s an American sport, after all, to be slightly uncomfortable about the country’s place in the international conversation, and maybe soccer’s newfound popularity is a manifestation of that. P.J. O’Rourke famously said in a critique of American foreign policy that, “Americans hate foreigners, because Americans are foreigners. We all come from foreign lands, even if we came 10,000 years ago on a land bridge across the Bering Strait.”

Maybe that’s why we still have an aversion to the metric system, the agreed-upon system of measurement everywhere but here and by all accounts a more-efficient method than ours. The U.S. Congress tried to push the country toward the metric system in 1975 legislation, which for a time led to signs on highways that listed the speed limit in kilometers as well as miles (not to mention baseball stadium dimensions measured in meters as well as feet). Our attempt at internationalism, however, didn’t last long. In 1999, NASA lost a Mars probe, because a Lockheed Martin engineering team didn’t convert its linear measurements to NASA’s standard metric ones. Cost of the booboo – a cool $125 million.

Then again, American cuisine is pretty international (albeit with a Yankee Doodle spin). And we Yanks do love our Brit and Brit-inspired TV (“Downton Abbey,” “American Idol” and “The X Factor”).

Don’t worry, Fun Police, no one is taking away snack time. But it is time to go with the flow and admit that hey, maybe the rest of the world was right about soccer all along.

As for those bidets, well, that’s another story.

Follow Mark Lungariello on Twitter, @marklungariello.

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