“Soccer will never supplant football in this country. Not in any lifetime.” Mike Francesa said that. He means, like, for eternity — football will be bigger than soccer in the United States. Ok.
While it’s impossible to know if that prediction will be accurate, one thing is for sure — soccer is growing exponentially in this country and old farty farts like Mike Francesa cannot fit that reality into their myopic sports worldview.
FACT: Young kids don’t watch baseball or golf. Go ahead, ask any high school baseball coach in the country, they’ll tell you that participation is down, as the younger generation want a faster sport like lacrosse. Golf courses are considering making the holes bigger just to get more kids to try it out. As far as summer sports go — soccer is a fresh, exciting way for kids to get outside and compete, and they’re doing just that.
It’s also one of the most popular sports played on video game consoles in this country. If that isn’t a sign of things to come, we don’t know what is. But you can’t blame Francesa for not knowing this stuff, because he’s so beholden to this 1986 Long Island mindset that he can’t see anything past the circular lenses of his outdated sunglasses.
Francesa doesn’t know that this country is bored with his conception of sports entertainment. He thinks everyone still looks up to baseball players like Mickey Mantle. We don’t. If you’re under 30, chances are you don’t watch baseball — you watch soccer. Not because of any allegiance to a particular team, but because it’s simply more fun. It’s creative, exciting, and it’s fun to talk about because you aren’t just citing stats the whole time. It’s a game explained through unquantifiable elements.
It’s a game of expression.
That terrifies people like Francesa, who are empowered by the abundance of statistics produced by sports like football and baseball because it gives them data to masquerade as facts, making them feel like experts. Mike treats baseball records like passages in a religious text, and preaches as such.
Young people find those numbers boring, static, and meaningless. They are, and so are Mike Francesa’s sermons about their importance.
In the kindest possible words, Francesa every day makes it crystal clear he is not taking World Cup calls
— Joe Fordyce (@joe_fordyce) June 17, 2014
Though he’s right up until a point, Mike’s theory that soccer can never overtake football is flawed in many ways. First off, the MLS does have a national TV deal with ESPN and Fox Sports, worth $720 million. Secondly, we’re experiencing “peak football,” that is to say, the game is becoming too popular for its own good. The league is getting greedy and before you know it, we’ll have NFL games six days a week. That will only detract from interest.
But let’s get back to the kids, ok?
It’s only a matter of time before Moms and Dads stop letting their children incur life-changing head injuries at the Pop Warner ranks. That’ll be the beginning of the end for football’s reign as America’s most popular game. As participation wanes, so will quality at the pro-level, and no one likes a sloppy football game (we’re talking 20-30 years from now, mind you). If the football powers that be fail to respond quickly to this shift in parental priorities (which they seem reluctant to do, as they are immobilized by their own gluttony), the game could go the way of baseball and become an exclusively American sporting relic.
But Mike could never comprehend that possibility. Maybe because Mike’s never left his studio? Mike can’t even acknowledge that soccer is a thing, even though yesterday’s US-Ghana match pulled in 14.4 million viewers — 300,000 more than the average Giants or Jets game last season.
We’re not saying that soccer should or even will overtake football in America. We’re just saying that soccer literacy will overtake the solipsistic views of guys like Francesa, who’ve been shouting down callers from their ivory radio towers for way too long.
Colin Cowherd will not be one of them. Watch him explain how the world’s game is taking hold of this country, and his personal acceptance of the fact that soccer will only grow as a topic in American sports discourse.