Don’t Care About the World Cup? These 7 Vital Words Show Why You Need to Learn to Fake it Right Now
We can’t emphasize strongly enough why you’d better learn to at least fake it–especially if you’re over 30, and would like to continue having a job and making money.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
The World Cup opens today, with host nation Russia taking on Saudi Arabia. If your response to that news is something like "Who cares?" or "Soccer is boring!" then let me offer you some tough love:
Fix your attitude fast. Seriously. Right now. You need to hear this.
Because while I don't care at all whether you're into soccer, I do care--and you should too--about what your colleagues and coworkers perceive to be your level of interest.
Here's the reason, in seven words: "In America, only old people hate soccer."
I'll offer you both anecdotal and statistical proof.
Anecdotal: My office of about 100 people. The under-30s are rearranging their schedules this week to watch Portugal v. Spain at 2 p.m. ET on Friday. The over-30s are talking about baseball, and asking if that "Ronald O." guy still plays for Spain.
(It's Cristiano Ronaldo, by the way, and he plays for Portugal.)
Statistical: A Gallup poll earlier this year shows 7 percent of Americans say soccer is their favorite sport. Context:
- that's more than twice what it was four years ago, and
- statistically, soccer will be the #3 sport in America pretty soon.
It's already bigger than the NHL (4 percent said hockey was their favorite sport), and will overtake baseball soon (9 percent). And, the data is skewed even harder by age.
About 1 percent of people over 55 said soccer is their favorite sport; 11 percent of 18-34 year olds claim it. For 12 to 17 year olds, soccer already beats baseball.
Heck, even Baron Trump, the president's 12-year-old son, was recently spotted dressed head to toe in an Arsenal kit. But I've never seen him wearing a New York Yankees jersey. Have you?
Soccer and the ADEA
This seems separate, but bear with me.
There's a federal law in the U.S. that prohibits discrimination in employment based on age over 40. It's called the Age Discrimination in Employment Act
Know what? For most people it's basically an unenforceable law. Age discrimination is alive and well. It's one of the biggest threats to your career if you've been working professionally for more than a decade.
So, if you want to overcome the tremendous bias in the U.S. workplace toward people over 40--heck, even over 30--you need to embrace the harmless things that keep you from being marked as an Old.
That means you have to continue learning, constantly. (If you haven't started that distance learning how-to-code course, I don't want to know why.)
It also means taking care of your health. It means making choices within the confines of a 21st Century moral code. It means have the requisite emotional intelligence to be able to interact with people about the things they care about.
Like, statistically, soccer.
Does every person in America under 35 or 40 love soccer? Of course not.
But enough do--and enough people who are older than them professes their hatred of the beautiful game, almost maniacally. It should be easy to see which side of that divide you want to be on.
The "sport of the future"
Soccer haters sometimes refer to soccer by saying it's "America's sport of the future ... and always will be."
Ha ha ha ha ha... nope.
Because the future is already here. Granted, the U.S. didn't make the World Cup finals this year--but true fans are already saying that's probably a good thing for the team's long-term success.
And, if you want to trace its rise in the country, it's probably best to point to three things:
- the fact that the U.S. hosted the World Cup in 1994, which lead to the creation of Major League Soccer.
- the popularity of EA Sports FIFA video game series, which has sold about $1 billion worth of games during its 22-year-history, and introduced millions who don't watch on TV.
- the Internet. In short, you can watch or stream every BPL or La Liga game. If you're old enough to realize you're the kind of person who this article is intended for, you're probably also old enough to still be a little bit awed by the notion of watching the
Compare that to 1990, just before the explosion, when Roger Bennet, an English-born American citizen who hosts the Men in Blazers soccer show worked at a summer camp in Maine. Short version: the World Cup was going on, and Bennet couldn't watch a key game, because none of the local bars would turn any of its of its TVs to see it.
"With no Internet back then," Bennet wrote, "I had to wait for the next day's Boston Globe to find out that England had predictably lost... But what scarred me most was the bar owners: Not only did they refuse to change the channel for two desperate English soccer fans, but they took a perverse, sadistic delight in doing so."
This is now
A quarter of the teams in England's Barclay's Premier League are now owned by Americans. And the United States, in a joint bid with Canada and Mexico, was just awarded the World Cup for 2026.
Maybe you can see what I'm doing here: dropping some mini-facts for you to use in your conversations with under-35, soccer-mad colleagues over the next few days.
Also: Iceland, a nation of fewer than 400,000 people that managed to put together a winning team and reach the Finals. And Italy and the Netherlands, which like the U.S.A. aren't even in the tournament this year. (Also: Ghana and Chile).
There, I hope that will get you started. (You can also read my colleague Chris Matyszczyk's analysis). Just don't be a hater. The time has come for Americans to embrace the Beautiful Game.
Or at least, you know: Fake it.