Being a child in the 1990s, which was not all that different from the 1950s, you kept hearing that baseball was “America’s favourite pastime.” In fact, it’s a British invention, was always a northeastern and midwestern sport, and has not been all that popular in recent decades.
The most popular sport officially is American football, an extraordinary game. Nobody on earth actually knows the rules; a fact that “experts” on television conceal by screaming incoherently. As it is, talking about football is actually more popular than football. The second most popular sport is Auto racing, but I fail to see the appeal.
This being a huge country, preferences aren’t the same everywhere. In California, the most popular sport is Basketball. Now there’s a sport for me: lots of scoring, easy to understand, it’s the only one of the big three sports that actually originated in America, and my local team is one of the best: the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers are consequently one of the most hated teams in the country, but not nearly as hated as the Miami Heat, for many, many reasons.
Hockey is not that important in America. Despite a brief Disney-inspired fancy in the nineties, most American hockey teams are token players in a Canadian game, even when, as happened two weeks ago, the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup for the first time.
Which brings me to association football. Oh boy. It’s a common cliché that Americans hate soccer, though this is not actually true: we just hate American soccer. The World Cup has been a nationwide event ever since the 1994 games concluded only two miles from my house. A month ago every pub in Downtown Pasadena was packed by noon while thousands of people cheered on Chelsea against Bayamón. Americans will gladly support Chelsea, Barcelona, and Dortmund, but MLS (the main soccer league) is less than twenty years old and comprises obscure teams like DC United and Real Salt Lake. When David Beckham joined the Los Angeles Galaxy, it was big news because it was considered a step down. And while we’re on the subject: when are you guys going to take him back?