Imagine if Game 7 of the NBA Championship ended in a tie, and they decided the winners by shooting five free throws apiece. Imagine if the Superbowl ended in a tie, and they chose five players from each side to kick field goals to decide the winner. Imagine if the World Series ended in a tie, and they picked five pitchers aside to throw strikes, or five catchers to throw out base runners, or five batters to have a home run hitting contest.
It would be preposterous and infantile. And oh yeah, unjust. But that's how the rest of the world is - a little underdeveloped and full of injustice. And that's how they like their games.
America is based on a just and efficient meritocracy that thrives on measured competition. That's why soccer has never really quite caught on here. They play a whole game and often the only score is a single goal awarded based on a flop in the penalty area. Americans would never stand for it. It reeks of random injustice and unearned glory.
Could you imagine if they played a whole basketball game and no one was able to score and then based on one foul the other team got a free throw worth fifty points? That about sums up soccer.
A culture gets the sport it deserves. While America runs and runs, the rest of the world takes its time and people's lives often change with one critical stroke of luck. In America, we believe in second chances. There's almost always hope that you can catch up in basketball and football. In soccer, you fall behind by two goals and you're pretty much done.
This is the point when a liberal would say that I am giving America too much credit and that I am being unfair to the rest of the world. And that both cultures are fine, it's just two different systems that lead to two different games. For all those who don't believe I'm a former conservative, let me help prove it - the American system is better.
(Yes, I know these liberal and conservative labels are absurd, just roll with me here. Pretend you're watching soccer and you're not bothered by all the absurdities in the game.)
It's better to have hope that you can overcome long odds and steep deficits. It's better to have games decided by merit rather than the award of an often-times random arbiter. It is better to be more efficient and be more assured that'll you'll be rewarded for your labors.
How often have you seen a soccer game where one team completely outplays the other and the weaker side wins anyway based on a fluke goal? The answer is -- all the time. I understand there's luck and fluke plays in all sports, but they are not as critical when they are not the only score in the game.
In soccer, one goal often determines who wins. In the rest of the world, one strike against you often determines your whole life. And that sucks.
Yes, I know soccer is an art form and it has a different beauty. And actually I love the World Cup despite the fact that I think the players are unacceptably whiny actors and that the Artic ice cap is more likely to fall into the ocean than have an important soccer game with more than two goals. But despite my affinity for a game I actually grew up with (I was raised in Turkey and New Jersey, both soccer hubs), I can see its faults clearly. It might be the beautiful game but it is not the just game. To me, justice matters.
Go ahead, tell me how I don't understand and how I am an American brute. Just don't fall down in fake, agonizing pain as you're complaining.
Credits and Clarifications - My friend, Steve Oh, who thinks soccer is much more of a bore than I do, came up with most of the analogies in the first paragraph. My friend and co-host, Ben Mankiewicz, came up with the fifty point free throw deciding the basketball game. I came up with the analogy of the games we play to our cultures. And I also realize that the current US government doesn't help my "America is more just" argument, that's one of the reasons I hate them. If Cheney continues in office for a couple of more years, who knows, maybe we'll become a soccer nation after all.