When my ex-boyfriend asked me to go to a Mets game with him, I was honest and admitted I didn’t really care for sports. “But I do like sitting outside on a nice day, drinking beer, eating nachos, and heckling people,” I told him.
“That’s pretty much what watching a baseball game is,” he said. “See you tomorrow.”
He was right – I may not have cared who caught the ball and who scored a goal or a touchdown or whatever they’re called, but I had fun. And as a dilettante, I certainly didn’t pretend to be an expert on baseball or claim I’d been a Mets fan since I was five. (Although, to be fair, the only year the Mets were good was the year I was five.)
However, not all fly-by-night sports “fans” are honest about the fact that they just got to the party. During the last week, I’ve seen regular people who don’t follow soccer and probably couldn’t name a single soccer player suddenly morph into diehard soccer hooligans who pretend that they’ve been following the sport secretly for the last ten years. I don’t suspect that all of my fellow countrymen are lying about their interest in soccer, but it seems suspect that people who have never watched a game in their lives are suddenly talking about committing suicide if Argentina doesn’t win.
For a long time, one of the hallmarks of the World Cup was that, like Eurovision, Americans didn’t really play a part. Americans have traditionally been more interested in basketball, football, and baseball than soccer. But once David Beckham moved the wife and kids out to L.A., soccer started to become something that the U.S. became interested in knowing about. I have no problem with people becoming casually interested in the World Cup and using that as a launching pad to learn more about soccer, but acting like you already know everything about it despite not being able to name a single pro team that isn’t Manchester United? Please.Yes, it’s definitely plausible that someone has an Italian dad and they grew up talking about how great the Italian team is, but if soccer were really as popular year round as these out-of-the-blue fans claim it is, we would have successful pro teams (like England does) and Univision would not be the only network carrying games on a regular basis. The people who swear they loved soccer their whole lives and just never chose to mention it until last week are the same ones who swear that they totally discovered Lady Gaga when she was still Stefani Germanotta.
Simply peppering a conversation with the occasional “their midfield is really weak” does not fool anyone. Just admit that you want to get drunk at 3 PM on a Saturday and paint your face to look like the Brazilian flag. That is totally acceptable! But claiming that you’re actually an expert on all things soccer despite never having mentioned it in your life? I’m on to you. And while you’re at it, get off my lawn.