According to Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, Wisconsin State Journal sports columnist Andy Baggot and others, dark forces are conspiring to make us like soccer.
"You know who you are," wrote Baggot a couple weeks ago, failing to name names. Beck is even less specific, if possible, accusing the universe. "I hate [the World Cup] so much, probably because the rest of the world likes it so much," he belches on the radio. "And they continually try to jam it down our throat."
Of course the audience sought by FIFA (soccer's international governing entity) is much younger and more attractive to advertisers than those two cranks. The median age of World Cup viewers is reportedly 39, compared to 52 for the Olympics. More than 99 million Americans have watched six minutes or more of the World Cup on TV so far, up from 91 million in 2006. And that doesn't include those who are viewing online or via mobile devices.
But maybe the coolest part of the 2010 World Cup is that newbies are ignoring the yodelers like Beck and appreciating the sport on its own terms. The game hasn't been adapted to be some kind of faster, higher-scoring variation to get more Americans to tune in. And we're not just watching the games, we're talking about them, clogging up Twitter and Facebook with observations and opinions.
People in parts of the world where soccer dominates - Brazil, Germany, England - don't so much love the sport as live it. In America, we're just now getting around to enjoying it.