On Sunday I sat and watched the entire championship match in the World Cup. Oh sure, I stepped away at times for a moment (to use the bathroom, to put in a load of laundry, etc.), but for the most part I watched the whole thing. I even posted a status update on Facebook where I commented on how the ref was giving so many yellow cards that I feared I'd get one through the TV.
And the thing is: I was reasonably entertained, even though I wasn't really rooting for either Spain or the Netherlands, even though there was no scoring for nearly two hours. I'd casually followed the tournament, had watched parts of earlier games, and had even gotten emotionally invested in the U.S. team's victory that propelled them to the second round.
But did that convert me to a soccer fan? No more so than watching it during the Winter Olympics converted me into a fan of ice dancing.
I'm sure that in four years, when the next World Cup takes place, I'll watch some if the matches are on TV, but I doubt in the intervening years I'll view even a single game. Just like how when the Olympics roll around on that same schedule I'll watch the vaunted international competition. It will be a function of the power of sport combined with the convenience of merely turning on the TV. It won't make me seek out those events between the games even if they can be seen. It can hold my attention for a few weeks and then… there'll be something else.
Perhaps the appeal of soccer for the rest of the world is not merely that the sport involves nothing more than one ball and an open patch of land but also that they don't have the plethora of other sports competing for their attention the way Americans do.
If the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB all suddenly folded would MLS games shoot up in popularity? Certainly.
Now, it would still be way below NASCAR, but eventually, after the world's supply of oil is depleted and that cannot continue… and the associated worldwide quasi-Armageddon brings down most everything else, it's likely that soccer will be the primary sport here.
Oh wait. That is unless the World Series of Poker is still around. If there's still gambling and there's still TV, it's likely ESPN will be airing that. But hey, there's 24 hours in a day; they can't fill that all with poker.