A History of Sports Americans Briefly Pretended To Like

by BILLY GRAY · July 7, 2010

It's almost over. In four days, we can quit feigning interest in soccer. What's that? You're a genuine fan? If you insist. But I contend that very few of the overnight fรบtbol fans who've crammed into American bars this past month will keep it up come World Cup's end. After all, this has happened before.

I have nothing against soccer. Like anyone else raised in an American suburb in the 1990s, I played it in grade school. The sport even forged an entire new demographic: soccer moms. But despite arguments to the contrary every four years during the World Cup, I have serious doubts soccer will have much staying power in our fair country.

It's not a diss. It's just that soccer joins a long list of completely respectable sports, played by talented and incredibly hard-working athletes, that will never join the trinity of football, basketball and baseball as the only sports us Yanks will ever really give a damn about.

Let's review some flashes-in-the-pan:

Soccer

Peak Popularity: Right now.

Why We Faked It: David Beckham. America's eternal emulation of Europe's supposed sophistication.

Why It Won't Last: Ties. Vuvuzelas.

Bobsledding

Peak Popularity: October 1, 1993, when Cool Runnings came out.

Why We Faked It: Cool Runnings and the enduring comic gold that is a Jamaican accent.

Why It Didn't Last: The Jamaican bobsled team still lost.

Swimming

Peak Popularity: Recurrent, but probably 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

Why We Fake It Every Four Years: Michael Phelps. Perennial American dominance. Near nudity.

Why It Didn't Last: Tedium. The emergence of full-body suits.

Gymnastics

Peak Popularity: 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics

Why We Faked It: The overnight celebrity of Kerri Strug.

Why It Didn't Last: Kerri Strug fatigue. Little Girls in Pretty Boxes.

Cycling

Peak Popularity: Lance Armstrong's 7th straight Tour de France victory in 2005.

Why We Faked It: Americans love watching Americans break records (see: Michael Phelps).

Why It Didn't Last: Doping scandals. Lance started hanging with Matthew McConaughey.

Curling

Peak Popularity: 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

Why We Faked It: Bemusement that this could actually be a sport.

Why It Didn't Last: Bemusement that this could actually be a sport.

Figure Skating

Peak Popularity: 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics.

Why We Faked It: Tonya. Nancy. Crowbar.

Why It Didn't Last: Those costumes.

Golf

Peak Popularity: 1997-2009.

Why We Faked It: Tiger Woods' ascent.

Why It Didn't Last: Tiger Woods' downfall. Fear of turning into our dads.