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Steinberg: Riding the soccer craze

July 16, 2011|By Leigh Steinberg

No sooner had I written a column for last week's Daily Pilot analyzing why soccer is the first sport that every youngster in this country plays yet it doesn't translate toward a high level of interest in pro soccer, then the U.S. women's team goes out and rocks the world.

The U.S. women defeated Brazil last week in a stunning come-from-behind thriller that has sparked a national craze. In the gym where I work out, a rapt group of men were gathered around the television set cheering loudly. Professional athletes and celebrities filled Twitter with descriptions of how moved they were by the game. Water cooler conversation at businesses throughout the country was filled with exultation for their achievement. It had some of the same frenzy as the men's hockey victory over Russia years ago. We are certainly front-running fans, but the enthusiasm is infectious.

So how does a team that labored in anonymity prior to the last several weeks become an obsession? First there is the element of patriotism. This has been a discouraging time in sports, the economy and international affairs. Our country is involved in a draining war in Afghanistan, a quagmire in Iraq, the worst economy domestically since the Great Depression, deadlocked and stratified Congress and in sports, the news isn't much better.

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The NFL lockout drags on, the NBA lockout has just begun, our beloved Dodgers are disintegrating. If it wasn't for the Angels, Southern California sports would be bleak. So along comes a team of young women who are succeeding in international competition. Beating the arrogant French at anything is good for the American psyche. And they stand poised to win the World Cup over Japan on Sunday. That is the same Japan that was virtually colonizing SoCal real estate and business not so long ago. We are a country that looks for opportunities to display our patriotism and national pride. Chants of "USA, USA" give people a chance to rejoice in being American.

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