Keep the buzz alive. Soccer in America might be uninteresting until the next World Cup, but it is still buzzing in my ears. Is it the vuvuzelas? Perhaps. Should I have taken this space and dedicated it to LeBron's "Decision?" No, thanks.
Every four years, or less if the Women's World Cup lights your fuse, soccer aficionados proclaim the coming of soccer acceptance in America. The contrarians discount the sport as a passing fancy. Why such extremes? Is it not possible for there to be a firm middle ground?
Thanks in large part to Landon Donovan's goal against Algeria, some will be soccer lifers. Cheering for the home team stirs emotions. Cheering arm-in-arm with fellow Americans stirs something much deeper.
What of the spike in popularity? Is it here to stay? Have we turned the corner as a country? Do we have a solid soccer fan base?
"You build it incrementally," said University of Tulsa men's soccer coach Tom McIntosh.
He knows a thing or two about building the sport. This fall marks his 16th year as the head coach. The Golden Hurricane vies with top programs across the country for the ultimate prize now.
The World Cup excitement has not escaped him or local sports fans.
"It has become such a global event, even in this country," he said. "The casual sports fan does pay attention to the World Cup every four years whereas maybe they are not following the national team on a yearly basis.
"Without question, it is a major spike, and there is always a carryover.
Every four years, you get a few more people who follow the sport on a regular basis," McIntosh said.
So soccer, to coin an overused phrase, "is what it is." It will not replace football as our national pastime during our lifespan, but it will continue to grow as Team U.S.A. continues to improve.
Our passion for winning is one of the defining elements of our culture. Is it possible the same drive for winning hurts our soccer evolution?
"There are certain ages where winning, although important, needs to take a little bit of a backseat to development," McIntosh said.
Kids spend more time playing games than practicing. This is a sport where intricacies are the difference between a goal and a missed pass resulting in a rush the other way.
"We want to play games in this country," he said. "Kids might play three games for every two practices. The reality is they should probably have four practices for every one game."
Another theory floating around is Americans learn soccer by dribbling a ball between cones. South American children learn in the street or by kicking a ball against a wall. Thus, they have a more imaginative game than we do.
It is only a matter of time for America. Some talking heads think America lags behind in soccer because our best athletes are not in the soccer program.
This logic fails. So if Kevin Durant, Drew Brees and Derek Jeter played soccer, we would automatically win the World Cup? It doesn't quite work that way.
What we need is the next Richard Williams or Earl Woods. America needs the next great sports dad to take away their child's formative years by ramming soccer down their throat.
"Daddy, can I go play with Sally down the street?"
"No, get in the back yard and practice that header we've been working on," said an overzealous dad to his 6-year-old.
You think it's funny? I think it is the next step in the sports world in which we live.
A Nation of Hope
McIntosh took over the University of Tulsa soccer program on an interim basis in 1995. He's been in charge ever since. The progress the team has made is astounding.
As he enters his 16th year on the sidelines, the goal remains clear.
"We always want to keep growing the program and taking steps," he said. "We haven't achieved what I think is possible here, which is to win a national championship."
Tulsa has advanced to the NCAA Tournament in five of the past seven seasons. In 2004 and 2009, the Hurricane surged into the national quarterfinals. The team has posted a respectable 6-5-1 NCAA Tournament mark throughout this time.
As the program's status across the nation increases, recruiting has changed. The reputation of TU's team improves, but other factors assist with bringing in the championship-caliber players.
"We have certain advantages with being a small school," he said. "It's about selling the benefits that we offer. I think there are an awful lot of them."
One thing that helps is TU's stature academically. No matter how much soccer grows in the next 10 or 20 years, there will still be minimal outlets at the professional level for Hurricane grads.
"We want to develop players, but even our own goal would be to develop two players a year that go on to a professional career whether that is in the U.S. or Europe," he said.
They have been close to achieving this the past six or seven years. But as is the case with many other sports, this leaves many without the option of turning pro.
"I think getting an education here is a huge privilege," he said.
If you are still reading, maybe you feel like me. Maybe this soccer thing can catch on.
Team U.S.A. united the nation for a couple of weeks. If TU's team gets on a similar roll this fall, maybe the city will embrace them the same way?
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