Two brief responses to Todd's responses to my comments on Americans and soccer. He writes: "Americans don't like soccer because Americans don't like soccer. The sports embraced by a given society/country/culture are largely conventional and traditional."
That's what someone once called "a nice theory, slain by an ugly fact." Within the last 30 years, Asians have gone from being soccer-indifferent to being possibly the most passionate fans on the planet -- FIFA had to disable all incoming traffic from Korea onto its website after Korea was eliminated from the World Cup because it was being inundated by angry fans! And the Thais and Malaysians make the Korena fans look tame. And the same, more or less, has happened in Africa, too.
Second, Todd writes
"it should be skill, not chance that decides games, and this seems to be a universal sentiment. One problem with the World Cup is that the talent levels are so compressed these days that almost every game comes down to a single goal and thus one referee's call (a penalty kick or quetionable red card) can thus prove decisive in a game."
Um, wrong. Two billion people are going to watch the World Cup final; it is a little odd that you talk about the "universal sentiment" here, or the "problem with the World Cup." The final of the World Cup is going to be decided, like all great soccer games, on a combination of incredible skill, team desire, and luck. You don't have to watch, if you don't like it -- fine by me. I think many Americans feel as you do -- that's OK, too. But don't tell me what the universal sentiment is!
I'm outta here -- Brazil-Ghana is starting soon. [If this game were decided on skill alone, 46 people would watch it; the Brazilian team is so skillful they couldn't possibly lose a single game, ever. But in fact, they might lose ... and I will be joined by 500 million folks in front of the TV to see if this is the game in which it happens]