On Sunday I went out to play golf and caught up with the guy ahead of me at the 7th tee. The 7th hole at this course is the No. 1 handicap, so it’s not unusual to spend some time waiting for the players ahead of you to struggle to the green before you start your own tortuous way up the fairway. As I came alongside the player I noticed he was standing on the tee looking at his droid, and since he was dressed in a corporate-casual golf outfit, I jokingly said to him, “Well, you always have time to catch up with your emails when we get to this hole.”
“Oh no,” he replied, smiling, “I’m actually watching Costa Rica versus Greece.” That’s right. What was the hip thing for my generation to do on the golf course ten years ago – read our emails – has now been replaced by the World Cup. And the fact that many of the matches are drawing larger viewing audiences than the World Series or the NBA should tell you how America is changing. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that the popularity of soccer is due to the fact that we are being overrun by immigrants coming from countries where the real game of football is so-named because it’s played with the feet.
The truth is that soccer continues to grow in popularity because increasingly America is looking overseas for culture and lifestyle activities and even political ideas that were previously unknown or unpopular over here. In 2002, roughly 60 percent of Americans believed that our culture was superior to all others; a Pew poll in 2011 found this number had dropped to less than 50 percent. If you’re over 50, it’s still likely that your favorite sport isd baseball, the All-American pastime. If you’re under 40, soccer is your favorite sport.
It’s partially the surge in Hispanic population that’s pushing these trends; but the real shift is among people under 30 – the Millennials – who just don’t buy into the traditional versions of the American Dream. Of course this is also the first generation raised on the internet and gets the bulk of its information from video sources rather than print. Which is another reason that younger Americans look to Europe because cell-phones, droids and new technologies in general were much more prevalent in the Old World before they started appearing in the New.
People who continue to promote American exceptionalism, the idea that we do it better because we do it different from everyone else, are having a hard time selling this message to the kids who are glued to their screens, big and little, watching the World Cup. And what could be more exceptional than the 2nd Amendment and the Right to Bear Arms? Most Europeans have absolutely no idea what it’s like to own a gun; they certainly can’t even imagine keeping a Glock in their pocket for self-defense.
It will be interesting to see whether younger people, as they get older, start moving towards a greater appreciation of traditional American values, thus turning away from Europe and, like previous generations, embrace things that makes the USA different and great. This is certainly the line that the NRA and the gun industry is pitching at younger folks, and we’ll just have to wait to see how it plays out. Meanwhile, all you gun guys out there – do you know the name of one player on the American World Cup team? I don’t.