Okay, we all love baseball, football, basketball, and in certain parts of the country, hockey, here in the good ol’ USA. However, the sports planet in which we all are members have a different viewpoint on what sport galvanizes its populace into a zealous frenzy.
Soccer, although scorned and ignored at the professional level in the United States, is the top dawg as a sport in the entire world – basketball is a close second.
Soccer’s version of the Super Bowl and Olympics recently concluded with France succumbing to Italy in an overtime game that was decided by penalty kicks.
The magnificent and compelling game netted ABC a 7.0 national rating. The high number was an amazing 180 percent increase from the 2002 Japan Cup.
The numbers denote that Americans are indeed paying attention to the great international game of soccer.
Through the years, Americans have interjected soccer in the basic fabric of youth sports. Kids between 7 and 12 are playing soccer at a rate that is unparalleled in America.
The problem is that good athletes turn their attention to basketball, football and baseball around the time they get to high school and college. They leave their young soccer roots and head to more so-called glamorous sports.
I remember talking to Hakeem Olajuwan when he was playing for the Houston Rockets and he told me soccer is the sport he loves and the one that gives him his hunger for sports competition. He also noted that he left his beloved sport after he grew to be 7 feet tall, but more importantly, he knew that the American basketball machine was a money and media opportunity he could not pass up.
It seems that many echo Olajuwan’s sentiments and choose the American high visibility sports over the game of soccer if they have the ability to make a choice.
To me, that’s the sad part of it all. Throughout urban America, our young athletes are locked into a box that limits their exposure to the myriad of opportunities available.
I love the Detroit Public School League (PSL) sports programs and the opportunities afforded to the young men and women that put the effort and discipline into their chosen endeavors. For many of our youth, sports are the vehicle that motivates them to achieve in school and keeps them on a positive track.
However, for some reason, wrestling, soccer, golf, baseball and tennis are sports that have lost their way in the majority of cities in America’s public school systems.
Lack of coaching, facilities and funding are reasons why too many of our youth do not have the chance to explore all of their gifts.
I’ve learned that we all have gifts and we only need opportunity and exposure to bring them to the forefront.
Placing our kids in the proverbial box of only basketball and football, and sometimes track and field, is so limiting.
We all know that the numbers say only a small few ascend to the professional level in football and basketball.
What if Michael Jordan played goalie in soccer? Wouldn’t his 6-foot-6 frame and super athletic ability bode well for the position? What about Isiah Thomas or Barry Sanders or Marshall Faulk playing soccer with their speed and agility?
Soccer is the world’s game and the opportunities for college scholarships and potential to play overseas in the multitude of professional soccer leagues is one vehicle that is eluding our youth.
America’s media machine is one of the main culprits in all this. They focus their sports pages only on the “Big Four” sports and basically ignore the others. Since it appears that the media drives perceptions, ideas, perceived wants and concerns, then it indeed has a profound effect on what career paths or sports our youth deem important.
America should be ashamed of itself as it stands on its isolated island while the entire world embraces soccer. Our arrogance about our sports being the only ones that matter is folly.
Someway or somehow we need to provide more opportunities for our urban youth to expand their athletic gifts to soccer, wrestling, baseball, tennis or golf.
Tiger Woods, Venus and Serena Williams, and France’s soccer team proves my contention concerning exposure.
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