Soccer in America? Well, they can't win at baseball . . .

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EVERYONE knows by now that America doesn't understand soccer, but no one has mentioned that we soccer nations do not understand American sport or, indeed, American life. So for anyone planning to go to the States, or who just wants to watch America on TV, here is a brief run-down of the American way of sport.

1. There is no crowd violence in American sport.

2. This is because all the violence takes place on the pitch.

3. It is also because there aren't many crowds - most of the viewers are at home, watching the game on television.

4. All American sport is geared up for television.

5. This means that any American sport which does not have natural gaps for commercials is not an American sport.

6. That is why soccer is not an American sport, unlike tennis, golf, baseball, basketball and (American) football.

7. All American sports have gaps every 60 seconds or so, during which TV companies can insert commercials if necessary.

8. Contrary to legend, most gaps in American sport are not filled with commercials. Instead, there are replays of what you have just seen, and sports statistics, given out by drawling men who think it is more important to compare the game on screen with every other game in history, than to sit back and watch it.

9. Which, given that not much is happening on the screen, is probably sensible.

10. American football is probably the most violent, and therefore the most American, of all games.

11. In order to protect players against injury, they are allowed to dress up in crash helmets, protective padding, etc, all of which can be used as weapons against other players.

12. There have been proposals over the years to allow players

to arm themselves with small handguns, which many people say is a sacred right enshrined in the American Constitution.

13. So far, this has been successfully resisted by the advertisers, who say that the death of a player during the course of play could wreak havoc with the commercial scheduling.

14. People sometimes ask why Americans have not taken up cricket, which is not only riddled with chances to insert advertising, but also even more riddled with statistics.

15. The answer is that Americans could never adopt any game at which they were not already world champions.

16. They do not mind an American team losing to another American team, but the idea of an American team losing to a foreign team is anathema.

17. Do not get the wrong idea. They are not bad losers. It's just that they are not losers, period.

18. Preferably, in order to ensure victory, Americans will only take up games that nobody else plays, such as baseball, American football, etc.

19. Occasionally, despite best intentions, Americans get beaten at their favourite games by other people, even though other people do not play these games.

20. This has recently happened in baseball, where for the last two years the best American team has been a Canadian team, the Toronto Blue Jays.

21. The Americans have tried to deal with this by intensive counselling and therapy.

22. And by telling themselves that there are hardly any Canadians in the Toronto team anyway, most of them being imported Americans.

23. Which is pretty thin comfort, because they know that for years Americans have been importing Cubans and Puerto Ricans to play their baseball, and people from Eastern Europe to play their tennis, and there aren't a hell of a lot of native-born Americans in the US soccer squad either . . .

24. To make matters worse, America has not done too well in baseball at the Olympics, where they are often beaten by Cuba and Japan.

25. Recently, baseball has become less popular in America, and nobody in America can bring themselves to understand why.

26. And that we are witnessing the rare sight of a country in the process of giving up a game which it can no longer win.

27. Soccer will become popular in the US instead, if the American team does well in the World Cup.

28. And not if it doesn't.

29. Which it probably won't.

30. And now a short break for a word from our sponsors.