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Whenever I hear someone say Americans are parochial because they dont love soccer as much as the rest of the world, I get a little steamed.
Whenever I hear someone say, Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, I reply, Yeah, and rice is the most popular food in the world. Soccer is the one sport that everyone in the world can compete on something like an equal basis, but that doesnt mean its the sport that all the countries in the world would choose if they could choose their favorite sport. What soccer really is is the worlds most popular compromise sport.
This is not an anti-soccer argumentIm trying to make a point. In the worlds most populous country, China, soccer is popular but no more so than Ping-Pong and basketball. In India, Pakistan, and Bangladeshthe worlds second, sixth, and seventh most-populated countriescricket is No. 1. (Talk about parochialism!) Indonesia is the fourth most-populated country, and racket sports, starting with badminton, are the games of choice.
In Japan, they spend their leisure time watching baseball, soccer, and sumo wrestling. Australians favor football (Australian rules, of course), soccer, baseball, rugby, and crocodile hunting. The Canadians like hockey, baseball, soccer, and rioting. In Cuba, its baseball and basketball. Baseball and tae kwon do reign in Taiwan. Russians go for soccer, ice hockey, and baseball.
Who did I leave out? Oh, yes, were now the third most-populous country in the world. What is our national sport? Football, baseball, basketball, soccer?
No, its all of the above. All the sports and a dozen moreall the sports that are popular around the globe. Parochialism, hell. The national sport of the United States is sports, and the sports capital of Americaand therefore of the worldis New York.
We not only draw fans from other countries, but we also draw them from other worlds. Were the home of the Quidditch World Cup, uniting wizards and witches from all walks of life. . . . So says the Hogwarts Experience website. Rumor is that Giuliani is pushing a new stadium.
It goes without saying that were the baseball capital of the world. This is where the great players from all over the U.S., Japan, Taiwan, Australia, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Venezuelato name just a fewwant to play. (This is where Hugo Chávez would play ball if he had another life.)
New York is also the basketball capital of the world. Add up all the college and high school tournaments, all the schoolyard bball legends, and theres more basketball lore here than in any other city anywhere. Im not even going to present any facts or figures to back this up. If you want to argue the case, go ahead, but youll be wrong.
Hockey? OK, Ill concede that were probably not the hockey capital of the world, though we do have two things that other more hockey-centric areas dont have: three NHL teams and the NYC Gay Hockey Association, which competes in international tournaments.
And if were not the center of the ice hockey world, were rapidly becoming the field hockey capital of North America. Field hockey is the worlds third most-popular participant sport behind soccer and cricket and, according to the New York Times, New Yorks hotbed of field hockey talent has produced its share of national and Olympic players. Teams often serve as links back to the homeland for players from the Caribbean, India, Pakistan, Australia, South Africa, England, and other Europeans countries. (The team from Westchester is almost entirely Dutch.) Today North America; tomorrow the world.
You dont associate cricket with New York? Well, stick this through your wicket: There are so many children of immigrants playing cricket that in 2008, the NYC Department of Education made it a varsity sport. The NYC Parks and Recreation website even lets you search for cricket fields near your Zip code. (If youre near Park Slope, the site lists 12 cricket clubs and facilities.) BTW, the second story I ever wrote for the Voice (and this was decades ago) was a profile of Garfield Sobers, the king of cricket, who was appearing in Prospect Park.
We got tennis; we got table tennis. Outside of Beijing, the worlds largest bastion of Ping-Pong diplomacy can be found in NYC. We boast a diversity of playing venues unmatched by any other city, including Bryant Parks monthly tournament, the Brownsville Recreation Center, the Upper West Sides simple Wang Chens Table Tennis Club, and Susan Sarandons elegant club in the Flatiron district, SPIN, with Olympic-grade cushioned flooring, a $60,000 glass and steel table, and a bar.
Running? The New York City Marathon is the biggest and best in the world; last year, there were more finishers and more spectators than in any marathon anywhere. And though the Boston Marathon is older, the New York City Marathon is better because when you start it and finish it, youre in New York City instead of Boston.
We vie with L.A. as the last great center of boxingprofessional bouts, neighborhood boxing clubs, Golden Gloves, you name it. Every three years, we host the Maloof Cup in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which, Im sure you dont need to be told, is the highest championship (with one of the best purses) a skateboarder can aspire to. In the spring, we even have competitive angling when the Fishermens Conservation Association hosts its annual Manhattan Cup, the areas largest catch-and-release tournament.
Were the most competitive city in the world. Even our dogs are kick-ass. The first Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was held in 1877, making it the second-oldest continuously held sporting event in the country (behind only the Kentucky Derby). Last year, 179 breeds were shownalmost as many as we have breeds of people.
You know why there are so many people here? Because when sports fans all over the world die and go to heaven, they come to New York.
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