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World Cup Fever: Some soccer-bashers see America under assault

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July 1, 2014: Fans watch as Belgium scores against the U.S. during the Brazil 2014 World Cup viewing party at Solider Field. (AP)

Turns out I underestimated the soccer-haters out there.

Not just the folks who find the sport boring and are tired of the noise right now, but people who are truly offended by the clamor over the World Cup. That will probably subside a bit after Tuesday’s U.S. overtime loss to Belgium following 90 scintillating minutes of non-scoring.

I’ve had some fun on “Media Buzz” poking fun at the low scoring and bizarre rules, such as the refs adding time to the end of the game but not having to tell players, coaches or fans just when the thing will be over.

But there are folks out there who view soccer in a culture-war sense and believe the sport’s apparently growing popularity somehow diminishes America.

I first saw this sentiment expressed when a viewer emailed this response to our first soccer segment: “The popularity of soccer is not with REAL Americans. It's popular with the NEW Americans. The MM will continue to jam it down our throats as the new football.”

Real Americans? As opposed to, say, immigrants?

As for the mainstream media shoving the games down people’s throats, I wasn’t aware that people were being forced to watch.

Similar posts have carried the unmistakable message that soccer is for fur’ners and we don’t want any of that here.

Ann Coulter touched a nerve in what I regard as her semi-serious but also tongue-in-cheek column that declared “any growing interest in soccer can only be a sign of the nation's moral decay.”

Among Coulter’s reasons:

“Liberal moms like soccer because it's a sport in which athletic talent finds so little expression that girls can play with boys. No serious sport is co-ed, even at the kindergarten level…

“I resent the force-fed aspect of soccer. The same people trying to push soccer on Americans are the ones demanding that we love HBO's ‘Girls,’ light-rail, Beyonce and Hillary Clinton. The number of New York Times articles claiming soccer is ‘catching on’ is exceeded only by the ones pretending women's basketball is fascinating.”

So soccer fever is a plot by Hillary-loving, Lena Dunham-worshipping libs?

“If more ‘Americans’ are watching soccer today, it's only because of the demographic switch effected by Teddy Kennedy's 1965 immigration law. I promise you: No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer. One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time.”

Note the quotation marks around “Americans.” As opposed to fourth-generation Americans.

Salon’s Andrew Leonard mocks soccer-bashing conservatives, saying that Coulter is “playing on conservative insecurities about change and globalization and multiculturalism that are quite real. A generation of Americans feels its cultural-superpower primacy slipping away, replaced by something it would rather mock than understand or celebrate.”

He adds: “It’s scary stuff! We’ve got a black president and our neighbors are hooting and hollering about the World Cup. You can practically hear the pearl-clutching: 

What’s happened to our once great nation!? And why the hell won’t all these obnoxious people on Twitter just stop going on and on and on about it?”

But he goes a bit overboard too: What’s the World Cup got to do with having a black president who likes to golf and play basketball?

Leonard actually agrees with the right’s framing by saying the sports debate “is inseparable from historical narratives of race and culture and nationalism. In many countries, soccer is politics…Coulter and her ilk are actively terrified of it. Because the fact that the U.S. is finally joining in is a sign that we are gradually becoming part of this world rather than lording over it or building walls to keep it out. On the pitch, Mexico is our equal, instead of a source of cheap labor and cheaper thrills. Our stars are neither the biggest nor the brightest. We can’t samba like the Brazilians or pass with the crisp efficiency of the Germans.”

Ah, so this is about knocking down America a few pegs?

On a less apocalyptic note, Reuters media columnist Jack Shafer just wants to shut out the Twitter noise:

“As a soccer agnostic, with no hatred for or interest in the game, these many tweets hold a negative value for me. So, on June 12, when Brazil took on Croatia in the first match, and fans filled Twitter with the written equivalent of a vuvuzela orchestra, I tweeted my minor rebellion: ‘If I unfollowed you, it’s because you tweeted about the World Cup. Nothing personal.’…

“Since that tweet, I’ve thinned my follow list by 140 accounts, down to 500. I’ve even unfollowed Twitter buddies for the misdemeanor of retweeting a benign World Cup tweet…

“But don’t blame me for over-reacting, blame them for over-sharing.

I, too, am a sports fan, so I understand the intensity of the soccer mob. Yet my sports devotions have never induced me into tweeting about games or matches. ..

“Social media encourages writers toward conciseness and cleverness, the better to attract a larger audience. But these rules have dissolved during the World Cup interregnum. Ordinarily smart people are typing ‘Goooooaaaaall!!!!!’ into Twitter as if other soccer fans are blind to what they just saw on TV.” 

Well, the soccer-tweeting is getting a little out of hand. But I can’t resist scoring this point: maybe some people just need a little social media break.

As for breaks, I’ll be off for a few days. Happy Fourth.

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Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz. 

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