America and the World Cup

The whole world is caught up in the excitement of the World Cup, the global championship of soccer. This is a true world series, involving virtually every nation in the world, all of whom care passionately about it. Except the United States! We have a team, which opens the tournament Saturday in South Africa in a game against England, but who here is noticing?

What I want to know is this: Why is the United States so apathetic when it comes to soccer? You could say that it isn’t part of our culture, and yet our kids play it, and many parents take that very seriously. Do even soccer-playing kids follow the World Cup? Despite the low scores, soccer can be an exciting game. The scores are no lower than hockey–in fact, the games are very similar, except hockey is on ice–and that sport is a big deal in this country (ask Chicago Blackhawk fans, whose team just won that championship). So how do you account for America’s lack of interest in soccer, unlike virtually every other country in the world? We get all excited about the Olympics, even with less popular sporting events. Shouldn’t we get similarly psyched up about the World Cup?

UPDATE:  The American team took a 1-1 draw with England, which counts as a major upset!  England is ranked way up there as a contender for the championship, and a tie gives you a point and undefeated status in the tournament.  C’mon, everybody:  U-S-A!  U-S-A!  U-S-A!

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Winston Smith

    While football (er, soccer) was making its way around the rest of the world, Americans were, characteristically, inventing their own games such as basketball, baseball and (American) football.

    Is it possible that Americans disdain soccer because we are not guaranteed to dominate the sport? We call our baseball championship the “World Series,” apparently without irony, and until recently, Americans were the best players of baseball and basketball, although that is not necessarily true any longer. In soccer, by contrast, any third world country can field a team of fast, wiry players with tactical skill and courage who can eat our lunch. We are just one more team of guys in shorts, and probably not the best. That frightens us.

  • Winston Smith

    While football (er, soccer) was making its way around the rest of the world, Americans were, characteristically, inventing their own games such as basketball, baseball and (American) football.

    Is it possible that Americans disdain soccer because we are not guaranteed to dominate the sport? We call our baseball championship the “World Series,” apparently without irony, and until recently, Americans were the best players of baseball and basketball, although that is not necessarily true any longer. In soccer, by contrast, any third world country can field a team of fast, wiry players with tactical skill and courage who can eat our lunch. We are just one more team of guys in shorts, and probably not the best. That frightens us.

  • Joe

    For some reason it does not hold our collective attention. I don’t think it is fear of not being the best on an international level because my 7 year-old son (7) who is currently playing soccer also discounts it. He views it as only a placeholder sport. I asked him if he wanted to play again next year and he said, “when can I start football? I’ll play soccer until I can play football.” Other than the fact that I normally watch the Packers and don’t normally watch soccer, I have not tried to push him either way.

  • Joe

    For some reason it does not hold our collective attention. I don’t think it is fear of not being the best on an international level because my 7 year-old son (7) who is currently playing soccer also discounts it. He views it as only a placeholder sport. I asked him if he wanted to play again next year and he said, “when can I start football? I’ll play soccer until I can play football.” Other than the fact that I normally watch the Packers and don’t normally watch soccer, I have not tried to push him either way.

  • Joe

    Oh, and the comparison to hockey falls apart as soon as the gloves drop.

  • Joe

    Oh, and the comparison to hockey falls apart as soon as the gloves drop.

  • Alan

    Thanks for the thoughts; I have often asked the same questions.

    Although I understand Mr. Smith’s comments, I think they may miss the point. Sure, Americans could fear of being humiliated on the world stage, but that did not stop them from continually challenging the quasi-professional Soviet Union hockey team in the Olympics for decades. Remember, too, that they finally won. I would not doubt that this type of victory not only publicized the sport but popularized it as well. If Americans truly care about something that will provide national pride, they’ll probably do it.

    The fact is that soccer is just not the American sport to play. Everywhere you look, basketball, baseball, hockey, and especially football are the sports that are advertised, broadcasted, and discussed. Most athletic Americans can list off a number of professional football teams and popular players, and almost everyone watches the Super Bowl. In contrast, who really knows that Major League Soccer exists, much less obscure teams like Football Club Dallas?

    Marketing is the name of the game in the USA, and soccer just has not and probably cannot compete.

  • Alan

    Thanks for the thoughts; I have often asked the same questions.

    Although I understand Mr. Smith’s comments, I think they may miss the point. Sure, Americans could fear of being humiliated on the world stage, but that did not stop them from continually challenging the quasi-professional Soviet Union hockey team in the Olympics for decades. Remember, too, that they finally won. I would not doubt that this type of victory not only publicized the sport but popularized it as well. If Americans truly care about something that will provide national pride, they’ll probably do it.

    The fact is that soccer is just not the American sport to play. Everywhere you look, basketball, baseball, hockey, and especially football are the sports that are advertised, broadcasted, and discussed. Most athletic Americans can list off a number of professional football teams and popular players, and almost everyone watches the Super Bowl. In contrast, who really knows that Major League Soccer exists, much less obscure teams like Football Club Dallas?

    Marketing is the name of the game in the USA, and soccer just has not and probably cannot compete.

  • http://simonpotamos.wordpress.com Tapani Simojoki

    While basketball certainly is an American invention, and ice hockey North American, there’s a question mark over the true roots of baseball, and American football seems to be nothing but a modified (adulterated?) version of Rugby Football.

    I wonder if there’s another roots issue. Football (that is Association Football, or soccer—as opposed to Rugby Football, or rugger) in its modern form was organised in England in the 19th century. The oldest soccer club, Sheffied United, was formed in the 1850s. By this time, Britain and the USA were living pretty separate cultural lives.

    On the other hand, they play football—extremely well—in countries such as Brazil and Argentina, which have never had much of a cultural link with Britain, or certainly less than the USA.

    I remember some years ago, when I was living in the US, getting together occasionally to play football with some other students of an afternoon. During one such game, a fellow-student jogged past, and with a cheeky grin called over: “Hello, girls!” Perhaps this is part of the rub. The US has had the most successful women’s football team in the world, with some of the best individual players, of the past few decades. Perhaps that’s enough to drive the fellows away from a sport linked with the unholy trinity of (a) women (b) children (c) the rest of the world.

  • http://simonpotamos.wordpress.com Tapani Simojoki

    While basketball certainly is an American invention, and ice hockey North American, there’s a question mark over the true roots of baseball, and American football seems to be nothing but a modified (adulterated?) version of Rugby Football.

    I wonder if there’s another roots issue. Football (that is Association Football, or soccer—as opposed to Rugby Football, or rugger) in its modern form was organised in England in the 19th century. The oldest soccer club, Sheffied United, was formed in the 1850s. By this time, Britain and the USA were living pretty separate cultural lives.

    On the other hand, they play football—extremely well—in countries such as Brazil and Argentina, which have never had much of a cultural link with Britain, or certainly less than the USA.

    I remember some years ago, when I was living in the US, getting together occasionally to play football with some other students of an afternoon. During one such game, a fellow-student jogged past, and with a cheeky grin called over: “Hello, girls!” Perhaps this is part of the rub. The US has had the most successful women’s football team in the world, with some of the best individual players, of the past few decades. Perhaps that’s enough to drive the fellows away from a sport linked with the unholy trinity of (a) women (b) children (c) the rest of the world.

  • http://brbible.org/from-rich Rich Shipe

    Good stuff, Tapani! I like the “unholy” trinity line.

  • http://brbible.org/from-rich Rich Shipe

    Good stuff, Tapani! I like the “unholy” trinity line.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    I love soccer. And in 1950 we stunned England in the World Cup…hope we do it again this year.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    I love soccer. And in 1950 we stunned England in the World Cup…hope we do it again this year.

  • Winston Smith

    Soccer has always seemed so — foreign, one of the quaint things that Europeans and other foreigners do, like eating with your fork in your left hand, or driving on the wrong side of the road, or using the metric system. It’s American exceptionalism, for better or worse.

    (My tongue is firmly in my cheek, and I trust no one will think me a knuckle-dragging xenophobe. But you know that’s how many Americans think.)

  • Winston Smith

    Soccer has always seemed so — foreign, one of the quaint things that Europeans and other foreigners do, like eating with your fork in your left hand, or driving on the wrong side of the road, or using the metric system. It’s American exceptionalism, for better or worse.

    (My tongue is firmly in my cheek, and I trust no one will think me a knuckle-dragging xenophobe. But you know that’s how many Americans think.)

  • Louis

    Winston – :) . Of course, in rugby there are non-English countries also playing it – France and Argentina are top tiered countries, while Italy, Romania and others make regular appearnces at the world cup. Canada also regularly beats the US in rugby.. ;) .

    As a rugby fan, we love saying that American/Canadian football is rugby for wimps…..

    As to soccer – one explanation is that the game doesn’t lend itself to that short period, multiple intermission style of game which is essential to the culture of advertising and major commercial interests in the US (and Canada).

    Of course, cricket is completely antithecal to all this – or was, until the recent invention of the 20/20 game.

  • Louis

    Winston – :) . Of course, in rugby there are non-English countries also playing it – France and Argentina are top tiered countries, while Italy, Romania and others make regular appearnces at the world cup. Canada also regularly beats the US in rugby.. ;) .

    As a rugby fan, we love saying that American/Canadian football is rugby for wimps…..

    As to soccer – one explanation is that the game doesn’t lend itself to that short period, multiple intermission style of game which is essential to the culture of advertising and major commercial interests in the US (and Canada).

    Of course, cricket is completely antithecal to all this – or was, until the recent invention of the 20/20 game.

  • Cincinnatus

    One of the problems (aside from those already mentioned here) is that modern, professionalized sports are a product of the industrial revolution. Notice that all of them–basketball, baseball, football, soccer–were all popularized in their respective domains around the same period: the last decades of the nineteenth and the first decades of the twentieth centuries. As industrial innovations permitted greater leisure time, the working classes found outlets for their time in sports (as opposed to the more classical/legitimate, aristocratic uses of leisure, such as reading, writing, hunting, etc.). By the time the industrial revolution had ended, soccer had not emigrated to America’s rather insular (at the time) culture.

    The chief obstacle for soccer in America now is that the sport is currently an (upper) middle class hobby, not a genuinely popular, mass, working-class phenomenon. This could explain attributions (entirely unwarranted!) of femininity, etc.

    I, personally, find this to be tragic, because there is a reason soccer/football is known as the “beautiful game,” and its athletes truly rank amongst the most talented, skilled, and artistic in the world–in any sport. And it involves an unparalleled combination of teamwork and real individual decision-making on the field (no timeouts, no coaches call soccer’s plays).

    Another reason for soccer’s unpopularity in America may be rooted in our commercial, ADD culture: with no timeouts or pauses, there isn’t much room in soccer for a perpetual bombardment of advertising, and Americans, who value victory, are dissatisfied by the extremely low-scoring nature in soccer and by the fact that, after ninety uninterrupted minutes of play, a draw is entirely possible and acceptable.

    In any case, I, for one, will be following the World Cup, and against some (not all) odds, I will be rooting for America against England. But really, how can one not love a sport in which money doesn’t buy victories, and in which the Third World can and does often win?

  • Cincinnatus

    One of the problems (aside from those already mentioned here) is that modern, professionalized sports are a product of the industrial revolution. Notice that all of them–basketball, baseball, football, soccer–were all popularized in their respective domains around the same period: the last decades of the nineteenth and the first decades of the twentieth centuries. As industrial innovations permitted greater leisure time, the working classes found outlets for their time in sports (as opposed to the more classical/legitimate, aristocratic uses of leisure, such as reading, writing, hunting, etc.). By the time the industrial revolution had ended, soccer had not emigrated to America’s rather insular (at the time) culture.

    The chief obstacle for soccer in America now is that the sport is currently an (upper) middle class hobby, not a genuinely popular, mass, working-class phenomenon. This could explain attributions (entirely unwarranted!) of femininity, etc.

    I, personally, find this to be tragic, because there is a reason soccer/football is known as the “beautiful game,” and its athletes truly rank amongst the most talented, skilled, and artistic in the world–in any sport. And it involves an unparalleled combination of teamwork and real individual decision-making on the field (no timeouts, no coaches call soccer’s plays).

    Another reason for soccer’s unpopularity in America may be rooted in our commercial, ADD culture: with no timeouts or pauses, there isn’t much room in soccer for a perpetual bombardment of advertising, and Americans, who value victory, are dissatisfied by the extremely low-scoring nature in soccer and by the fact that, after ninety uninterrupted minutes of play, a draw is entirely possible and acceptable.

    In any case, I, for one, will be following the World Cup, and against some (not all) odds, I will be rooting for America against England. But really, how can one not love a sport in which money doesn’t buy victories, and in which the Third World can and does often win?

  • Random Lutheran

    Soccer is dull in comparison, and not because of scoring. Much of the game is kicking the ball back and and forth while looking for a hole in defense. A team could conceivably score a goal, and then play keep-away for the rest of the game. Basketball had to put in a shot clock to beat the “Four Corners” strategy; Soccer needs something to impel the teams forward. Perhaps an over-and-back rule, as in basketball, or replace the weird card system with a penalty box. Imagine an 11-on-8 power play…

    Americans, in general, like more structured sports that lend themselves to much more complex strategies and actions — football is a form of live-action chess, while baseball has (for those who know the game) something very interesting going on with every single pitch. Soccer appears formless and filled with pointless pauses to someone who has been trained by such sports. The sport also pales in comparison to hockey, which which it shares much in terms of gameplay: hockey players don’t generally flop like fish, and when they do they don’t spring up once the penalty is assessed as if they’ve suddenly been reborn.

  • Random Lutheran

    Soccer is dull in comparison, and not because of scoring. Much of the game is kicking the ball back and and forth while looking for a hole in defense. A team could conceivably score a goal, and then play keep-away for the rest of the game. Basketball had to put in a shot clock to beat the “Four Corners” strategy; Soccer needs something to impel the teams forward. Perhaps an over-and-back rule, as in basketball, or replace the weird card system with a penalty box. Imagine an 11-on-8 power play…

    Americans, in general, like more structured sports that lend themselves to much more complex strategies and actions — football is a form of live-action chess, while baseball has (for those who know the game) something very interesting going on with every single pitch. Soccer appears formless and filled with pointless pauses to someone who has been trained by such sports. The sport also pales in comparison to hockey, which which it shares much in terms of gameplay: hockey players don’t generally flop like fish, and when they do they don’t spring up once the penalty is assessed as if they’ve suddenly been reborn.

  • Cincinnatus

    @10: Those criticisms can only arise from someone who hasn’t studied the game, from someone who doesn’t “know the game,” to borrow your own phrase (pomposity?). I could, if I didn’t “know the game,” say precisely the same thing about baseball, with its endless pauses, spitting, and sparse action (to the untrained viewer), or perhaps even football, with its interminable and innumerable timeouts and clock-stops, and its apparent status as a sport in which big, over-armored men hurl themselves into each other in order to move a couple feet down the field.

    Neither of those assessments, of course, is fair, and neither captures the essence of their respective sports. Nor does your assessment of soccer account for the strategy, pace, and artistry inherent in soccer.

    /i’ll easily grant the absurdity of the post-penalty resurrection, though

  • Cincinnatus

    @10: Those criticisms can only arise from someone who hasn’t studied the game, from someone who doesn’t “know the game,” to borrow your own phrase (pomposity?). I could, if I didn’t “know the game,” say precisely the same thing about baseball, with its endless pauses, spitting, and sparse action (to the untrained viewer), or perhaps even football, with its interminable and innumerable timeouts and clock-stops, and its apparent status as a sport in which big, over-armored men hurl themselves into each other in order to move a couple feet down the field.

    Neither of those assessments, of course, is fair, and neither captures the essence of their respective sports. Nor does your assessment of soccer account for the strategy, pace, and artistry inherent in soccer.

    /i’ll easily grant the absurdity of the post-penalty resurrection, though

  • nqb

    People simply don’t understand the mechanics of the game. There’s a nice interactive explanation of the game provided by The Onion. The game is a lot more interesting than I ever expected.

  • nqb

    People simply don’t understand the mechanics of the game. There’s a nice interactive explanation of the game provided by The Onion. The game is a lot more interesting than I ever expected.

  • Tressa

    Long time lurker coming out to say that I don’t know why Americans are ho-hum about soccer, but I was in Germany in 1990 when they won the World Cup. It was insane. One could say that a US city goes a little crazy when they win the Superbowl, but this was different. It was every house, every child, every store front. It was on the bus, at school, down the street. Flags were everywhere. Draped from the house, painted on their faces, worn as clothing. The celebration didn’t last just a few hours but a few days. The morning after the win is probably one of my most memorable days of my stay in Germany.

  • Tressa

    Long time lurker coming out to say that I don’t know why Americans are ho-hum about soccer, but I was in Germany in 1990 when they won the World Cup. It was insane. One could say that a US city goes a little crazy when they win the Superbowl, but this was different. It was every house, every child, every store front. It was on the bus, at school, down the street. Flags were everywhere. Draped from the house, painted on their faces, worn as clothing. The celebration didn’t last just a few hours but a few days. The morning after the win is probably one of my most memorable days of my stay in Germany.

  • http://www.christaucentre.com Tim C.

    I have to agree with #11′s response. I come from France (totally immersed in the soccer culture, and after watching games of football or baseball, I was completely lost as why these sports were so popular. They seem so pointless (for the uninitiated).
    As for the beauty of soccer (this is for #10), just watch a big game with a hyped crowd, and you’ll get a sense of what’s behind.
    I agree with much of what Smith said (#1), and as the US haven’t distinguished themselves in soccer, it’s much easier to have a nation motivated by events they’re likely to win. Lastly, since baseball, basketball and football have been a long tradition, perhaps there’s only so much sports you can get people to love (even though I’m not sure about this one, which doesn’t explain nascar, or other mysterious cultural rendez-vous…)

  • http://www.christaucentre.com Tim C.

    I have to agree with #11′s response. I come from France (totally immersed in the soccer culture, and after watching games of football or baseball, I was completely lost as why these sports were so popular. They seem so pointless (for the uninitiated).
    As for the beauty of soccer (this is for #10), just watch a big game with a hyped crowd, and you’ll get a sense of what’s behind.
    I agree with much of what Smith said (#1), and as the US haven’t distinguished themselves in soccer, it’s much easier to have a nation motivated by events they’re likely to win. Lastly, since baseball, basketball and football have been a long tradition, perhaps there’s only so much sports you can get people to love (even though I’m not sure about this one, which doesn’t explain nascar, or other mysterious cultural rendez-vous…)

  • scots

    >>Why is the United States so apathetic when it comes to soccer?<<

    Because we already have the perfect game. You may have heard of it. It's called BASEBALL…

  • scots

    >>Why is the United States so apathetic when it comes to soccer?<<

    Because we already have the perfect game. You may have heard of it. It's called BASEBALL…

  • E-Raj

    The only cup that matters is Lord Stanley’s…and finally it’s ours! Go Blackhawks! I’m not going downtown to the parade today, because the crowds are already insane and my eight-year-old son wouldn’t be able to see anything. We’re just going to watch it on TV…the best seat in the house, right?

    As for the USA’s apathy to soccer, I think it comes down to American isolationism. We were essentially an isolated nation while baseball, football, basketball, and hockey were developing into popular professional sports. Canada isn’t that crazy about soccer, either. We’re the only two nations on the planet that seem to have at least two or three other sports that are more popular than soccer. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think sports that allow you to use all your appendages are indicative of the free societies from which they developed! ;)

  • E-Raj

    The only cup that matters is Lord Stanley’s…and finally it’s ours! Go Blackhawks! I’m not going downtown to the parade today, because the crowds are already insane and my eight-year-old son wouldn’t be able to see anything. We’re just going to watch it on TV…the best seat in the house, right?

    As for the USA’s apathy to soccer, I think it comes down to American isolationism. We were essentially an isolated nation while baseball, football, basketball, and hockey were developing into popular professional sports. Canada isn’t that crazy about soccer, either. We’re the only two nations on the planet that seem to have at least two or three other sports that are more popular than soccer. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think sports that allow you to use all your appendages are indicative of the free societies from which they developed! ;)

  • Random Lutheran

    #14: I hear this point, about how awesome a soccer crowd is, made all the time, with little to no defense made of the game itself. Perhaps the truth of things is that the actual soccer game is only an excuse for individuals to lose themselves in the mob for a couple hours on a weekend.

  • Random Lutheran

    #14: I hear this point, about how awesome a soccer crowd is, made all the time, with little to no defense made of the game itself. Perhaps the truth of things is that the actual soccer game is only an excuse for individuals to lose themselves in the mob for a couple hours on a weekend.

  • Cincinnatus

    Again, Random Lutheran, I could say the exact same thing about the average football tailgating crowd. None of your critiques thus far have been valid criticisms of the game itself but have been targeted either at sports in general (which is another discussion entirely) or at a highly mistaken conception of the game.

    Feel free to assert that football or baseball is better than soccer (though that sort of potentially chauvinistic, inherently subjective discussion isn’t the one we’re having), but at least do so for valid, thoughtful reasons. For my part, I’m inclined to disagree with the idea that soccer isn’t popular in America because football, baseball, and hockey are “better” than soccer. There are other socioeconomic and philosophical reasons for the disparity, some forgivable (we can’t help the insular nature of our culture in the late nineteenth century) and some valid, but unfortunate (I think some of the commenters are correct to note that Americans are less disposed to prefer a sport in which they could actually and legitimately lose to El Salvador, regardless of how much money and glamor they throw at the sport).

  • Cincinnatus

    Again, Random Lutheran, I could say the exact same thing about the average football tailgating crowd. None of your critiques thus far have been valid criticisms of the game itself but have been targeted either at sports in general (which is another discussion entirely) or at a highly mistaken conception of the game.

    Feel free to assert that football or baseball is better than soccer (though that sort of potentially chauvinistic, inherently subjective discussion isn’t the one we’re having), but at least do so for valid, thoughtful reasons. For my part, I’m inclined to disagree with the idea that soccer isn’t popular in America because football, baseball, and hockey are “better” than soccer. There are other socioeconomic and philosophical reasons for the disparity, some forgivable (we can’t help the insular nature of our culture in the late nineteenth century) and some valid, but unfortunate (I think some of the commenters are correct to note that Americans are less disposed to prefer a sport in which they could actually and legitimately lose to El Salvador, regardless of how much money and glamor they throw at the sport).

  • Random Lutheran

    Perhaps, O Dictator, you might pay a bit more attention: my only criticism of Soccer has been that it is dull (and given a couple of ideas to make it more attractive than watching grass grow); I then go on to suggest that Americans dislike soccer because a) it is dull (at the very least for them), and b) they are trained to prefer more structured / strategically-oriented games.

    As for the crowds, I have never heard anyone say something similar to the following: “Football is awesome because tailgating is so sweet”, as #14 seems to say in this quote: “just watch a big game with a hyped crowd, and you’ll get a sense of what’s behind”. What is it about the game itself that makes it so beautiful? What is an outsider — albeit one who has watched his share of soccer — missing?

    I am also stunned by the accusations of bigotry: “Americans would love soccer if it weren’t for all those poor foreigners who play it.” We’ve had soccer shoved down our throats for years (I remember the horrors of 70s well), and have chosen to spend our money on sports which we find much more appealing. If soccer is so great, why would Americans punish themselves by keeping away from it just because “them ferners” play it? That makes no sense.

  • Random Lutheran

    Perhaps, O Dictator, you might pay a bit more attention: my only criticism of Soccer has been that it is dull (and given a couple of ideas to make it more attractive than watching grass grow); I then go on to suggest that Americans dislike soccer because a) it is dull (at the very least for them), and b) they are trained to prefer more structured / strategically-oriented games.

    As for the crowds, I have never heard anyone say something similar to the following: “Football is awesome because tailgating is so sweet”, as #14 seems to say in this quote: “just watch a big game with a hyped crowd, and you’ll get a sense of what’s behind”. What is it about the game itself that makes it so beautiful? What is an outsider — albeit one who has watched his share of soccer — missing?

    I am also stunned by the accusations of bigotry: “Americans would love soccer if it weren’t for all those poor foreigners who play it.” We’ve had soccer shoved down our throats for years (I remember the horrors of 70s well), and have chosen to spend our money on sports which we find much more appealing. If soccer is so great, why would Americans punish themselves by keeping away from it just because “them ferners” play it? That makes no sense.

  • scots

    >>Americans dislike soccer because a) it is dull (at the very least for them), and b) they are trained to prefer more structured / strategically-oriented games.<<

    Americans are trained for high reward games like football and bastketball (to a lesser extent baseball and hockey) – soccer is the ulitmate no reward game – play for 90 minutes to get a 0-0 draw and then have a shootout to decide the game?? That's similar to a woman laboring 28 hours and then ending up getting a c-section …

  • scots

    >>Americans dislike soccer because a) it is dull (at the very least for them), and b) they are trained to prefer more structured / strategically-oriented games.<<

    Americans are trained for high reward games like football and bastketball (to a lesser extent baseball and hockey) – soccer is the ulitmate no reward game – play for 90 minutes to get a 0-0 draw and then have a shootout to decide the game?? That's similar to a woman laboring 28 hours and then ending up getting a c-section …

  • http://www.christaucentre.com Tim C.

    @19:
    If soccer is so great, why would Americans punish themselves by keeping away from it just because “them ferners” play it? That makes no sense.
    With the same logic:
    If soccer is so dull and deprived of strategy, why is it that the whole world save the US love it so much? Unless only Americans can appreciate the beauty of a sport, your argument is as valid as your lack of other cultural experiences.

  • http://www.christaucentre.com Tim C.

    @19:
    If soccer is so great, why would Americans punish themselves by keeping away from it just because “them ferners” play it? That makes no sense.
    With the same logic:
    If soccer is so dull and deprived of strategy, why is it that the whole world save the US love it so much? Unless only Americans can appreciate the beauty of a sport, your argument is as valid as your lack of other cultural experiences.

  • Random Lutheran

    #21: Training. They’ve not, for the most part, been exposed to baseball or football, or other, similarly structured sports. Places which have been exposed to and used to baseball — Central and parts of South America, East Asia — have taken to it like fish to water. Basketball is sweeping through China. Do they still like soccer? Sure. But let’s be careful when appealing to popularity or # of participants as a sign of quality: a goodly percentage of the world’s population lives in squalor, but that is no argument for living in such a way. A goodly percentage of the world lacks political representation within their countries, but that is no recommendation for dictatorship or oppression.

    Also, please watch the personal attacks.

    And one more thing…there’s evidence that soccer causes brain damage.

  • Random Lutheran

    #21: Training. They’ve not, for the most part, been exposed to baseball or football, or other, similarly structured sports. Places which have been exposed to and used to baseball — Central and parts of South America, East Asia — have taken to it like fish to water. Basketball is sweeping through China. Do they still like soccer? Sure. But let’s be careful when appealing to popularity or # of participants as a sign of quality: a goodly percentage of the world’s population lives in squalor, but that is no argument for living in such a way. A goodly percentage of the world lacks political representation within their countries, but that is no recommendation for dictatorship or oppression.

    Also, please watch the personal attacks.

    And one more thing…there’s evidence that soccer causes brain damage.

  • http://www.christaucentre.com Tim C.

    If I may add, if what you need is value to the game itself and not only to the “soccer culture”, players have tremendous skills, learned through years of playing and training, and the game do have a lot of strategy, even if you’re not aware or familiar with them.
    As for the they are trained to prefer more structured / strategically-oriented games. comment, that is very chauvinistic. The rest of the world is uneducated, and only Americans can appreciate finer games, leaving others with the raw stuff, easier to watch but with no subtleties. Fortunately, not all Americans share your ideas.

  • http://www.christaucentre.com Tim C.

    If I may add, if what you need is value to the game itself and not only to the “soccer culture”, players have tremendous skills, learned through years of playing and training, and the game do have a lot of strategy, even if you’re not aware or familiar with them.
    As for the they are trained to prefer more structured / strategically-oriented games. comment, that is very chauvinistic. The rest of the world is uneducated, and only Americans can appreciate finer games, leaving others with the raw stuff, easier to watch but with no subtleties. Fortunately, not all Americans share your ideas.

  • http://www.christaucentre.com Tim C.

    I don’t agree with your comparison.
    Squalor and dictatorship isn’t a choice. Passion for a sport is. Number does indicate something, especially when it is world wide, and not only a large percentage of a small area. The start of the conversation was popularity, or lack thereof.
    Plus there’s not much anyone hasn’t been exposed to in our digital age. I could watch a baseball game pretty much as easily from my couch in France or in North America.

  • Random Lutheran

    #23: The point about the type of sports Americans are trained to know/live wasn’t a value-judgement against soccer, and is scarcely chauvinistic, but rather an attempt to describe the central differences between the types of sport, and the different things the sets of fans are able to see because of their education in those sports/types of sports. Where did the word “finer” come from? Or “raw stuff”? Or “no subtleties”? Someone raised on classical music will have difficulties sussing out the nuances of jazz, and vice versa. To say that is not to say that one is superior to the other, or that those who appreciate one form of music are less educated than those who appreciate another.

    I asked in an above post what it is a soccer outsider is missing in the game — saying that “players have tremendous skills, learned through years of playing and training, and the game do have a lot of strategy” is true of any sport. What is special about soccer other than the players’ lung capacity? I’m not denying that soccer lacks subtleties or strategies; I’m saying that Americans aren’t trained to see them, if they’re there. Defend your beloved sport rather than suggest that those who don’t appreciate it are just ignorant, chauvinistic hicks.

  • http://www.christaucentre.com Tim C.

    I don’t agree with your comparison.
    Squalor and dictatorship isn’t a choice. Passion for a sport is. Number does indicate something, especially when it is world wide, and not only a large percentage of a small area. The start of the conversation was popularity, or lack thereof.
    Plus there’s not much anyone hasn’t been exposed to in our digital age. I could watch a baseball game pretty much as easily from my couch in France or in North America.

  • Random Lutheran

    #23: The point about the type of sports Americans are trained to know/live wasn’t a value-judgement against soccer, and is scarcely chauvinistic, but rather an attempt to describe the central differences between the types of sport, and the different things the sets of fans are able to see because of their education in those sports/types of sports. Where did the word “finer” come from? Or “raw stuff”? Or “no subtleties”? Someone raised on classical music will have difficulties sussing out the nuances of jazz, and vice versa. To say that is not to say that one is superior to the other, or that those who appreciate one form of music are less educated than those who appreciate another.

    I asked in an above post what it is a soccer outsider is missing in the game — saying that “players have tremendous skills, learned through years of playing and training, and the game do have a lot of strategy” is true of any sport. What is special about soccer other than the players’ lung capacity? I’m not denying that soccer lacks subtleties or strategies; I’m saying that Americans aren’t trained to see them, if they’re there. Defend your beloved sport rather than suggest that those who don’t appreciate it are just ignorant, chauvinistic hicks.

  • Joe

    I honestly believe that the real reason soccer is popular in so many places because it is cheap to play it. Anyone with access a relatively flat chunk of land and a generally round object can play it. Inflate a goat stomach and off you go.

    Soccer’s problem in the US is that it has to compete with other sports for our dollars. I like soccer but not enough to invest my money (or much of my time). It is just not violent enough for me. If I have to watch something other than football or hockey, I’ll take lacrosse.

  • Joe

    I honestly believe that the real reason soccer is popular in so many places because it is cheap to play it. Anyone with access a relatively flat chunk of land and a generally round object can play it. Inflate a goat stomach and off you go.

    Soccer’s problem in the US is that it has to compete with other sports for our dollars. I like soccer but not enough to invest my money (or much of my time). It is just not violent enough for me. If I have to watch something other than football or hockey, I’ll take lacrosse.

  • http://www.christaucentre.com Tim C.

    Actually, you didn’t imply that soccer had a real appeal, only not seen by Americans. You said : Americans dislike soccer because a) it is dull (at the very least for them).
    You clearly didn’t put basketball and soccer on the same level in your previous comments, suggesting that it was only a matter of education. You said Americans prefer other sports BECAUSE they were trained to appreciate more elaborated games.

    All I can say is : learn some more about soccer than what you first saw watching a game. If I said Baseball is boring because I didn’t like watching a game, you wouldn’t agree with me if I said “this game is dull, why the fuss?” That may be because I didn’t grasp the subtleties of the game (which I certainly didn’t), and not because it was indeed dull.
    You believe soccer isn’t as interesting as those other sports, unless proven otherwise. Too bad.

  • http://www.christaucentre.com Tim C.

    Actually, you didn’t imply that soccer had a real appeal, only not seen by Americans. You said : Americans dislike soccer because a) it is dull (at the very least for them).
    You clearly didn’t put basketball and soccer on the same level in your previous comments, suggesting that it was only a matter of education. You said Americans prefer other sports BECAUSE they were trained to appreciate more elaborated games.

    All I can say is : learn some more about soccer than what you first saw watching a game. If I said Baseball is boring because I didn’t like watching a game, you wouldn’t agree with me if I said “this game is dull, why the fuss?” That may be because I didn’t grasp the subtleties of the game (which I certainly didn’t), and not because it was indeed dull.
    You believe soccer isn’t as interesting as those other sports, unless proven otherwise. Too bad.

  • Booklover

    I think perhaps soccer will catch on here in the U.S. because our children are playing it. When I was a child, no one played it. My generation knows nothing about it, so that’s probably why we don’t watch it. That seems to be changing. (I have piano students who sometimes forget to come to piano lessons, but I don’t think they’ve ever forgotten to show up at their soccer practices.) :-)

    I always thought my baseball-playing sons would have done better in soccer as little tykes because soccer players are constantly moving around, and my boys thrived on moving around. At least I don’t think a soccer player would have the time to swat at a bee.

    However, my husband is a 3-time city Little Guy Football champion coach as well as baseball lover and former Little League coach; and my four sons all love baseball, football, and basketball; and I think they all despise soccer. They are all either at work or in bed. When one of them appears, I will ask them why and later report.

  • Booklover

    I think perhaps soccer will catch on here in the U.S. because our children are playing it. When I was a child, no one played it. My generation knows nothing about it, so that’s probably why we don’t watch it. That seems to be changing. (I have piano students who sometimes forget to come to piano lessons, but I don’t think they’ve ever forgotten to show up at their soccer practices.) :-)

    I always thought my baseball-playing sons would have done better in soccer as little tykes because soccer players are constantly moving around, and my boys thrived on moving around. At least I don’t think a soccer player would have the time to swat at a bee.

    However, my husband is a 3-time city Little Guy Football champion coach as well as baseball lover and former Little League coach; and my four sons all love baseball, football, and basketball; and I think they all despise soccer. They are all either at work or in bed. When one of them appears, I will ask them why and later report.

  • E-Raj

    The problem with a lot of you here is that you’re trying to sustain an intellectual argument about something which is basically pure emotion. My hockey mom beat up your soccer mom.

  • E-Raj

    The problem with a lot of you here is that you’re trying to sustain an intellectual argument about something which is basically pure emotion. My hockey mom beat up your soccer mom.

  • Joe

    Tim C. I think you are missing RL’s point. I think the word that gets emphasis is TRAINED not “because.” The training is not better schools, but cultural training that values games like football where you create a very detailed play for each possession as opposed to a culture that values a fluid game like soccer where strategy exists at a broader level and is necessarily implemented on the fly. You can make an argument about which is better but you don’t need to understand RL’s point.

  • Joe

    Tim C. I think you are missing RL’s point. I think the word that gets emphasis is TRAINED not “because.” The training is not better schools, but cultural training that values games like football where you create a very detailed play for each possession as opposed to a culture that values a fluid game like soccer where strategy exists at a broader level and is necessarily implemented on the fly. You can make an argument about which is better but you don’t need to understand RL’s point.

  • Joe

    Booklover – people have been making that this generation will stick with it and will become fans because some many play it as kids argument for about 25 years now. It does not happen. Kids play soccer and then they grow up and watch football. My son has zero interest in the World Cup and he is playing soccer. I have taken him to the website and explained what it is but he really just doesn’t care.

  • Joe

    Booklover – people have been making that this generation will stick with it and will become fans because some many play it as kids argument for about 25 years now. It does not happen. Kids play soccer and then they grow up and watch football. My son has zero interest in the World Cup and he is playing soccer. I have taken him to the website and explained what it is but he really just doesn’t care.

  • Random Lutheran

    #27 writes: “You said Americans prefer other sports BECAUSE they were trained to appreciate more elaborated games.”

    Argh. This is exactly my point except that — and how can I say it more clearly — they are DIFFERENT sorts of sports, with different sets of expectations/things the fan is looking for. This is as true for soccer fans as it is for baseball fans. THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH “BETTER”; IT IS ABOUT TYPE.

    I have not heard one thing from the soccer-lovers who have posed about what makes soccer such a great sport except that it, like every other sport, has well-trained athletes who are skilled, and that it is great because the crowds rock. I have asked what I’m missing about the game, and have simply been told “learn more”. I’m beginning to think that the emperor has no clothes.

  • Random Lutheran

    #27 writes: “You said Americans prefer other sports BECAUSE they were trained to appreciate more elaborated games.”

    Argh. This is exactly my point except that — and how can I say it more clearly — they are DIFFERENT sorts of sports, with different sets of expectations/things the fan is looking for. This is as true for soccer fans as it is for baseball fans. THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH “BETTER”; IT IS ABOUT TYPE.

    I have not heard one thing from the soccer-lovers who have posed about what makes soccer such a great sport except that it, like every other sport, has well-trained athletes who are skilled, and that it is great because the crowds rock. I have asked what I’m missing about the game, and have simply been told “learn more”. I’m beginning to think that the emperor has no clothes.

  • Louis
  • Louis
  • Cincinnatus

    Let’s clear up a few things. First, thanks to Random Lutheran for “differentiating” his original point, which was along the lines of “soccer is dull and inferior to American sports,” to a more nuanced, value-neutral position of “Americans simply don’t understand soccer.”

    1. Soccer is extraordinarily strategic, probably ascending to the level of football in that respect. We can elaborate later. It is also an extremely fast, fluid game–which sets it apart from all other American sports. Its best players are not only the best at soccer, but could be classified as some of the best athletes in the world, period.

    2. There are several reasons for soccer’s relative unpopularity in America. The primary reason has nothing whatsoever to do with cultural snobbery or America’s enculterated preferences for “strategy.” The primary reason is quite simply that soccer, an Anglophone invention, was not imported, due to obvious, oceanic reasons, to the American continent during the industrial revolution, when team sports generally became an occupation of the working classes.

    3. There are secondary reasons, which, again, have nothing to do with whether soccer is better or worse than American sports: it’s non-stop, 90-minute format is not amenable to the literally constant punctuations by advertisements in the United States market. It’s tendency to be exceptionally low-scoring, sometimes without a victor, does not appeal to the American taste for high-reward, high-stakes, undeniable victory. It has only caught on so far as a limited and very recent import to the upper middle classes, rather than the lower classes, from whence any sport’s lasting popularity must derive. On the one hand, give it time: perhaps we’re catching on. On the other hand, we’re long past the historical point in America when major sports can enter the public culture and consciousness.

    4. Why is soccer popular everywhere else? Not because the rest of the world is “untrained” to appreciate the subtleties of American sports. It is primarily because when soccer was popularized, England owned literally one-quarter of the globe, and the porous borders of Europe permitted the game to spread quickly on that continent as well (if Kansas invented a cool sport, no doubt Nebraska would catch on fairly quickly). It’s the same reason baseball has caught on in Japan and Iraq: because America had an army of baseball-playing, blue-collar soldiers parked in those countries for years.

    Furthermore, soccer is inexpensive and offers a simple entry point: something round and a a square piece of ground. The poorest child can become very, very good at soccer. Meanwhile, try popularizing American football in the African bush; you’d need to establish a new foreign aid program just so people could afford the full body armor required in that sport, not to speak of hockey, which requires, you know, ice. Not that those are bad things, but American sports are, by nature, comparatively expensive to play, learn, and popularize.

  • Cincinnatus

    Let’s clear up a few things. First, thanks to Random Lutheran for “differentiating” his original point, which was along the lines of “soccer is dull and inferior to American sports,” to a more nuanced, value-neutral position of “Americans simply don’t understand soccer.”

    1. Soccer is extraordinarily strategic, probably ascending to the level of football in that respect. We can elaborate later. It is also an extremely fast, fluid game–which sets it apart from all other American sports. Its best players are not only the best at soccer, but could be classified as some of the best athletes in the world, period.

    2. There are several reasons for soccer’s relative unpopularity in America. The primary reason has nothing whatsoever to do with cultural snobbery or America’s enculterated preferences for “strategy.” The primary reason is quite simply that soccer, an Anglophone invention, was not imported, due to obvious, oceanic reasons, to the American continent during the industrial revolution, when team sports generally became an occupation of the working classes.

    3. There are secondary reasons, which, again, have nothing to do with whether soccer is better or worse than American sports: it’s non-stop, 90-minute format is not amenable to the literally constant punctuations by advertisements in the United States market. It’s tendency to be exceptionally low-scoring, sometimes without a victor, does not appeal to the American taste for high-reward, high-stakes, undeniable victory. It has only caught on so far as a limited and very recent import to the upper middle classes, rather than the lower classes, from whence any sport’s lasting popularity must derive. On the one hand, give it time: perhaps we’re catching on. On the other hand, we’re long past the historical point in America when major sports can enter the public culture and consciousness.

    4. Why is soccer popular everywhere else? Not because the rest of the world is “untrained” to appreciate the subtleties of American sports. It is primarily because when soccer was popularized, England owned literally one-quarter of the globe, and the porous borders of Europe permitted the game to spread quickly on that continent as well (if Kansas invented a cool sport, no doubt Nebraska would catch on fairly quickly). It’s the same reason baseball has caught on in Japan and Iraq: because America had an army of baseball-playing, blue-collar soldiers parked in those countries for years.

    Furthermore, soccer is inexpensive and offers a simple entry point: something round and a a square piece of ground. The poorest child can become very, very good at soccer. Meanwhile, try popularizing American football in the African bush; you’d need to establish a new foreign aid program just so people could afford the full body armor required in that sport, not to speak of hockey, which requires, you know, ice. Not that those are bad things, but American sports are, by nature, comparatively expensive to play, learn, and popularize.

  • Random Lutheran

    A couple notes on #34:

    1. I would suggest basketball would be a better candidate for best athletes. Not only do they really have to move the whole game, or the part of the game in which they play (you must admit that soccer players do a ton of walking/waiting/standing if the ball is on the other end of the field), they must play both offense and defense, and they must all have a varied skill-set — defense, shooting, jumping, passing, dribbling — and have to be able to not just run around but actually use their hands while running/jumping/etc. Also, don’t discount the athletic abilities of football and baseball players. Hitting a baseball is the (or one of the) hardest thing(s) to do in sports, while throwing a baseball at as small a target as umpires demand (unlike the rulebook!) while keeping up extraordinary velocity is wildly difficult. Football players don’t have to run as much, to be sure, but they must have amazing burst speed and strength, and the ability to use that speed and strength over and over and over again over the course of a game. NFL linemen are crazy freaks of nature — many are well over 300 lbs, but can run a 4.8 40, while they are often able to jump 30+ inches (see here). It’s a whole different skill-set than is required in soccer, to be sure, but you’re privileging an activity that suits small, slight men.

    2. A fair point concerning advertising. And victory does make a difference — I think this exactly why the 70s craze for winnerless sports has dropped off the map (Earth Ball!). There’s also things like this (and I know it’s not confined to soccer; it’s sadly spreading through kids’ sports via the efforts of do-gooders who were probably bad at sports when they were kids), which kids hate (as they all know who won; every kid keeps score).

    4. (see #2 as well). You make my point here: the populations of Japan and Iraq were/are being trained to appreciate baseball. We’ve had Mexico next door for quite some time and, amazingly, soccer still hasn’t caught on here.

    You’re entirely right about the entry cost, yet I don’t see that making soccer better than more expensive sports. If you have a choice between rice and beans and just rice I bet you’ll choose rice and beans nearly every time.

  • Random Lutheran

    A couple notes on #34:

    1. I would suggest basketball would be a better candidate for best athletes. Not only do they really have to move the whole game, or the part of the game in which they play (you must admit that soccer players do a ton of walking/waiting/standing if the ball is on the other end of the field), they must play both offense and defense, and they must all have a varied skill-set — defense, shooting, jumping, passing, dribbling — and have to be able to not just run around but actually use their hands while running/jumping/etc. Also, don’t discount the athletic abilities of football and baseball players. Hitting a baseball is the (or one of the) hardest thing(s) to do in sports, while throwing a baseball at as small a target as umpires demand (unlike the rulebook!) while keeping up extraordinary velocity is wildly difficult. Football players don’t have to run as much, to be sure, but they must have amazing burst speed and strength, and the ability to use that speed and strength over and over and over again over the course of a game. NFL linemen are crazy freaks of nature — many are well over 300 lbs, but can run a 4.8 40, while they are often able to jump 30+ inches (see here). It’s a whole different skill-set than is required in soccer, to be sure, but you’re privileging an activity that suits small, slight men.

    2. A fair point concerning advertising. And victory does make a difference — I think this exactly why the 70s craze for winnerless sports has dropped off the map (Earth Ball!). There’s also things like this (and I know it’s not confined to soccer; it’s sadly spreading through kids’ sports via the efforts of do-gooders who were probably bad at sports when they were kids), which kids hate (as they all know who won; every kid keeps score).

    4. (see #2 as well). You make my point here: the populations of Japan and Iraq were/are being trained to appreciate baseball. We’ve had Mexico next door for quite some time and, amazingly, soccer still hasn’t caught on here.

    You’re entirely right about the entry cost, yet I don’t see that making soccer better than more expensive sports. If you have a choice between rice and beans and just rice I bet you’ll choose rice and beans nearly every time.

  • Booklover

    The 21-year-old sweet sports-loving son doesn’t care for soccer because it is a “slow game with no contact and hardly any scoring.”

  • Booklover

    The 21-year-old sweet sports-loving son doesn’t care for soccer because it is a “slow game with no contact and hardly any scoring.”

  • Louis

    RL: Look, it is quite obvious that you prefer US sports, and that is fine. But, if it comes to physique, you need to check out Rugby players – big & strong(as NFL guys), fast (ast NFL/soccer guys) & fit (as soccer guys). I’ve heard from guys who played both – and rugby was much more demanding in their view.
    This doesn’t make rugby superior though. And debating the superiority of one sport against another is a totally fruitless exercise. What is debatable is the way each sport is being played today – ie the over-commercialisation as Cincinnatus points out.

    Personally, i’d like to return to the addless days of the Amateur. But I accept that it is not going to happen. Sigh….

  • Louis

    RL: Look, it is quite obvious that you prefer US sports, and that is fine. But, if it comes to physique, you need to check out Rugby players – big & strong(as NFL guys), fast (ast NFL/soccer guys) & fit (as soccer guys). I’ve heard from guys who played both – and rugby was much more demanding in their view.
    This doesn’t make rugby superior though. And debating the superiority of one sport against another is a totally fruitless exercise. What is debatable is the way each sport is being played today – ie the over-commercialisation as Cincinnatus points out.

    Personally, i’d like to return to the addless days of the Amateur. But I accept that it is not going to happen. Sigh….

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I don’t think it’s entirely correct to say that America doesn’t care about the World Cup or soccer. I think it depends on demographics. And, for whatever reason, the demographics in Portland, Oregon, collude to create a city that is probably more interested in the World Cup than wherever the rest of you live.

    I think part of it is the young, liberal (maybe even “creative”) demographic. We certainly have plenty of that in this town. For those in their 20s and 30s, soccer might be sort of a rebellion against (or alternative to) the more institutionalized ‘Merican sports embraced by earlier generations. And the same thing that causes a liberal to be interested in and even appreciate the way other countries do things could just as easily make them interested in the sport of those countries. (On the other hand, if you only care about the U.S., then football is definitely your sport.)

    Whatever, there were plenty of bars (though typically either sports bars or self-styled English or Irish pubs) crammed with people at some ridiculously early hour this morning. If I didn’t have a 14-month-old son who wanted to read I am a Bunny with me, I might have been there with those people, perhaps enjoying an artery-clogging “full British breakfast” before trudging into work. My wife and I did that back in 2006. There’s a kind of camaraderie that comes from being together with other people in a pub at 7am.

    Maybe that’s why Americans aren’t as interested in this game, though. It’s always played at ridiculous hours in the U.S. Usually way too early in the morning (or in the middle of the work day). Or, as in 2002, a bit too late for the average worker.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I don’t think it’s entirely correct to say that America doesn’t care about the World Cup or soccer. I think it depends on demographics. And, for whatever reason, the demographics in Portland, Oregon, collude to create a city that is probably more interested in the World Cup than wherever the rest of you live.

    I think part of it is the young, liberal (maybe even “creative”) demographic. We certainly have plenty of that in this town. For those in their 20s and 30s, soccer might be sort of a rebellion against (or alternative to) the more institutionalized ‘Merican sports embraced by earlier generations. And the same thing that causes a liberal to be interested in and even appreciate the way other countries do things could just as easily make them interested in the sport of those countries. (On the other hand, if you only care about the U.S., then football is definitely your sport.)

    Whatever, there were plenty of bars (though typically either sports bars or self-styled English or Irish pubs) crammed with people at some ridiculously early hour this morning. If I didn’t have a 14-month-old son who wanted to read I am a Bunny with me, I might have been there with those people, perhaps enjoying an artery-clogging “full British breakfast” before trudging into work. My wife and I did that back in 2006. There’s a kind of camaraderie that comes from being together with other people in a pub at 7am.

    Maybe that’s why Americans aren’t as interested in this game, though. It’s always played at ridiculous hours in the U.S. Usually way too early in the morning (or in the middle of the work day). Or, as in 2002, a bit too late for the average worker.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Random (@36), I really don’t have a dog in this fight, per se, because I’m not much of a sports fan, though I have appreciated games in nearly all sports, if I find reason enough to be interested (usually some championship game involving a team associated with a place I’ve lived).

    But I don’t think you’re really making the case for basketball players being the “best athletes”. First of all, basketball players also do not spend the whole time running around. Secondly, there are no time-outs in soccer. Thirdly, how often do basketball players sub out, compared to soccer players? Soccer players may literally spend 90+ minutes on their feet, perhaps most or all of that running around (and occasionally diving, of course).

    Also, how can you honestly write that basketball players are more athletic than soccer players because they “must play both offense and defense, and they must all have a varied skill-set — defense, shooting, jumping, passing, dribbling”. Um. Are you just not familiar with soccer? Plus, if anything, the fact that soccer players shoot, pass, and dribble using only their feet makes me inclined to think them more athletic, since using your hands is easier. There’s a reason nearly all of our tools are hand-oriented.

    Also, this comes down to a definition of “athleticism”, I suppose, but the abilities you praise in baseball players are more about skill than what I think of as athletics. Similarly, I don’t think football players fit anybody’s classical definition of what an athlete might look like, though the linebackers are certainly far more athletic than most people who weigh that much. To me, soccer players just seem the most well-rounded (though this is also true of basketball). Football and baseball tend to produce niche athletes that do one thing well. I guess that doesn’t seem very athletic to me.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Random (@36), I really don’t have a dog in this fight, per se, because I’m not much of a sports fan, though I have appreciated games in nearly all sports, if I find reason enough to be interested (usually some championship game involving a team associated with a place I’ve lived).

    But I don’t think you’re really making the case for basketball players being the “best athletes”. First of all, basketball players also do not spend the whole time running around. Secondly, there are no time-outs in soccer. Thirdly, how often do basketball players sub out, compared to soccer players? Soccer players may literally spend 90+ minutes on their feet, perhaps most or all of that running around (and occasionally diving, of course).

    Also, how can you honestly write that basketball players are more athletic than soccer players because they “must play both offense and defense, and they must all have a varied skill-set — defense, shooting, jumping, passing, dribbling”. Um. Are you just not familiar with soccer? Plus, if anything, the fact that soccer players shoot, pass, and dribble using only their feet makes me inclined to think them more athletic, since using your hands is easier. There’s a reason nearly all of our tools are hand-oriented.

    Also, this comes down to a definition of “athleticism”, I suppose, but the abilities you praise in baseball players are more about skill than what I think of as athletics. Similarly, I don’t think football players fit anybody’s classical definition of what an athlete might look like, though the linebackers are certainly far more athletic than most people who weigh that much. To me, soccer players just seem the most well-rounded (though this is also true of basketball). Football and baseball tend to produce niche athletes that do one thing well. I guess that doesn’t seem very athletic to me.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Maybe there is some connection, though, between a country’s sports predilections and the body types typically found there. I mean, is it any surprise that basketball and football are popular in America, home of the “big and tall” store? Conversely, soccer is popular in parts of the world where men tend to be less tall and less big, and such is not a detriment in that sport. And, of course, hockey is popular in parts of the world where bad hair predominates.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Maybe there is some connection, though, between a country’s sports predilections and the body types typically found there. I mean, is it any surprise that basketball and football are popular in America, home of the “big and tall” store? Conversely, soccer is popular in parts of the world where men tend to be less tall and less big, and such is not a detriment in that sport. And, of course, hockey is popular in parts of the world where bad hair predominates.

  • http://prschroeder.wordpress.com/page/2/ Mark

    Two of our three children play soccer, yet they do not not watch it on TV. And I think that’s the problem with soccer’s popularity: visually it does not do well on TV, compared to football and baseball. Both football and baseball have well-defined and clearly demarcated fields that are visually comprehensible on a TV screen. (Well, you might say, why isn’t ice hockey popular on TV because it too has well defined playing surface? Answer: try following the puck on TV! Some time ago they tried highlighting the puck’s movement, looking like laser beamm but it did not take) Further, the action of football and baseball is centered on a small portion of baseball field (the batter, the bases etc) or a football field with two teams in close formation facing each other for most of the play time: the runner, the pass etc. In fact, I think football is better to see on TV! Whereas, visually, soccer is this big sea of green on a TV screen, with the camera at a distance to get the action of several players kicking a ball back and forth. And so the soccer visuals on TV are more amorphous. It’s hard for the camera to focus on one player for any length of time.

    And in our nation, TV is important for a sport because of either the distance from going to see a game (as where we live) or the $$$ to go see one! Whereas, if not mistaken, soccer is a rather local affair in England, (local clubs) and so more accessible and maybe not the need for the telly to watch it. And so I think soccer is great to watch live and in person rather than on TV.

  • http://prschroeder.wordpress.com/page/2/ Mark

    Two of our three children play soccer, yet they do not not watch it on TV. And I think that’s the problem with soccer’s popularity: visually it does not do well on TV, compared to football and baseball. Both football and baseball have well-defined and clearly demarcated fields that are visually comprehensible on a TV screen. (Well, you might say, why isn’t ice hockey popular on TV because it too has well defined playing surface? Answer: try following the puck on TV! Some time ago they tried highlighting the puck’s movement, looking like laser beamm but it did not take) Further, the action of football and baseball is centered on a small portion of baseball field (the batter, the bases etc) or a football field with two teams in close formation facing each other for most of the play time: the runner, the pass etc. In fact, I think football is better to see on TV! Whereas, visually, soccer is this big sea of green on a TV screen, with the camera at a distance to get the action of several players kicking a ball back and forth. And so the soccer visuals on TV are more amorphous. It’s hard for the camera to focus on one player for any length of time.

    And in our nation, TV is important for a sport because of either the distance from going to see a game (as where we live) or the $$$ to go see one! Whereas, if not mistaken, soccer is a rather local affair in England, (local clubs) and so more accessible and maybe not the need for the telly to watch it. And so I think soccer is great to watch live and in person rather than on TV.

  • http://simonpotamos.wordpress.com Tapani Simojoki

    Anyone knocking soccer for being “dull” and “slow” who also confesses to liking baseball needs to have a long, hard look in the mirror for signs of double standards at best, hypocrisy at worst.

  • http://simonpotamos.wordpress.com Tapani Simojoki

    Anyone knocking soccer for being “dull” and “slow” who also confesses to liking baseball needs to have a long, hard look in the mirror for signs of double standards at best, hypocrisy at worst.

  • Kandyce

    I had to check, because I knew that I had read an article about the world’s best athletes, and a decathlete won, so stop quibbling about team sports, track and field produces the best athletes in the world. (in case you are wondering, I jest, it is extremely subjective)
    I grew up in the fine state of Wisconsin, so most people know right away that I must be a football fan, and I am. Sports are community driven and it takes a lot to uproot the sport of choice from a community and supplant it with another one. That’s not to say that one person can’t follow more than one sport, they certainly can, but real sporting passion grows in communities. By-the-by, I’ve grown less fond of sporting as I age, and it’s not because I value the intricacies of sport less, it’s that I’ve grown much less tolerant of people creating things to fight over.

  • Kandyce

    I had to check, because I knew that I had read an article about the world’s best athletes, and a decathlete won, so stop quibbling about team sports, track and field produces the best athletes in the world. (in case you are wondering, I jest, it is extremely subjective)
    I grew up in the fine state of Wisconsin, so most people know right away that I must be a football fan, and I am. Sports are community driven and it takes a lot to uproot the sport of choice from a community and supplant it with another one. That’s not to say that one person can’t follow more than one sport, they certainly can, but real sporting passion grows in communities. By-the-by, I’ve grown less fond of sporting as I age, and it’s not because I value the intricacies of sport less, it’s that I’ve grown much less tolerant of people creating things to fight over.

  • Random Lutheran

    tODD, the point — which you seem to agree with, though you know it not — is that the defense of soccer players as superior athletes depends on the privileging of the ability to run and run and run as the mark of a great athlete. Are those who can do that great athletes? Sure. But to use that as the mark of a great athlete is to eliminate athletes from nearly every other sport. I think that the artificial elimination of hands from soccer makes it a decidedly inferior sport, as it cuts out those who may not have the best footwork but who have excellent hand-eye coordination. Basketball was the example I chose because someone who plays it very well must be an excellent all-around athlete, while that is not the case for a soccer player, who has, because of the sport they play, a narrower set of skills they must master. That a basketball player must use hands actually makes the game more difficult for, as noted in the previous post, they must be able to use hands and feet at the same time, in a coördinated fashion. If you set the bounds on being a great athlete so that only those who can run around a lot are great athletes, then soccer wins (though swimmers would have great grounds to argue that they are doing much, much more); I suggest that the bounds for being a great athlete are not so narrow, not so limited to certain body shapes and sizes, and should tend toward well-roundedness.

  • Random Lutheran

    tODD, the point — which you seem to agree with, though you know it not — is that the defense of soccer players as superior athletes depends on the privileging of the ability to run and run and run as the mark of a great athlete. Are those who can do that great athletes? Sure. But to use that as the mark of a great athlete is to eliminate athletes from nearly every other sport. I think that the artificial elimination of hands from soccer makes it a decidedly inferior sport, as it cuts out those who may not have the best footwork but who have excellent hand-eye coordination. Basketball was the example I chose because someone who plays it very well must be an excellent all-around athlete, while that is not the case for a soccer player, who has, because of the sport they play, a narrower set of skills they must master. That a basketball player must use hands actually makes the game more difficult for, as noted in the previous post, they must be able to use hands and feet at the same time, in a coördinated fashion. If you set the bounds on being a great athlete so that only those who can run around a lot are great athletes, then soccer wins (though swimmers would have great grounds to argue that they are doing much, much more); I suggest that the bounds for being a great athlete are not so narrow, not so limited to certain body shapes and sizes, and should tend toward well-roundedness.

  • Louis

    RL – actually, look at a rugby player: Strong and tall (like a football player), fast (like football / soccer players), with immense endurance (like soccer players) – on their feet all the time – with a lot of physical contact as well. Plus – passing (not throwing) as well as kicking skills required. Folks I’ve spoken to that have played both confirm that physically, rugby was more demanding.

    But – Kandyce is probably right. Those multiple item disciplines (also iron-man competitions) are gruelling….

    Mark: Given hockey’s polarity on Tv here in Canada, your statement is at best regionally bound…

    Again, I do say, while discussing the merits of one sport above another is fun, it is largely a matter of personal opinion/like/dislike.

  • Louis

    RL – actually, look at a rugby player: Strong and tall (like a football player), fast (like football / soccer players), with immense endurance (like soccer players) – on their feet all the time – with a lot of physical contact as well. Plus – passing (not throwing) as well as kicking skills required. Folks I’ve spoken to that have played both confirm that physically, rugby was more demanding.

    But – Kandyce is probably right. Those multiple item disciplines (also iron-man competitions) are gruelling….

    Mark: Given hockey’s polarity on Tv here in Canada, your statement is at best regionally bound…

    Again, I do say, while discussing the merits of one sport above another is fun, it is largely a matter of personal opinion/like/dislike.

  • Random Lutheran

    Louis: good example with rugby. All-around abilities. Same with the decathlon mentioned earlier.

  • Random Lutheran

    Louis: good example with rugby. All-around abilities. Same with the decathlon mentioned earlier.

  • Cincinnatus

    Random Lutheran: tODD’s point wasn’t that soccer players are definitively better athletes than everyone else, but that your arguments that everyone else are better athletes than soccer players is a silly argument to construct, and the “evidence” you supply causes us to wonder legitimately whether you’ve ever actually watched a game of soccer, much less played one.

    And given that, how would you know whether it is “more difficult” to play basketball than soccer? That would seem intuitively incorrect because eye/foot coordination is intrinsically more difficult than eye/hand coordination (which, interestingly enough, apparently indicates to you that soccer is thus less challenging and athletic). Furthermore, except for the goalkeeper, there is no standing around in soccer; I’m assuming you picked up this notion from watching eight-year-olds play (though I’m telling this to someone who thinks baseball, the classic “standing around in the outfield” game, is more exciting viewing than a World Cup game). But even if they were standing around occasionally, I’m sure we can avoid begrudging the typical midfielder, who is otherwise making constant 60+ yard runs up and down the field, a few moments to catch his breath. According to FIFA rules, after all, he isn’t likely to be selected as one of the three allowed substitutions in the entire game. And really, where did you get the idea that all soccer players merely run the whole time? Isn’t there a ball in there somewhere? And tactics of evasion, etc., similar to those employed in basketball? If you doubt, try looking up “soccer footwork” or something along those lines on YouTube. And finally, your insistence that soccer demands a certain body type is quite simply counterfactual. Soccer is the prototypical example of a sport whose preferred body type is merely “athletic” in the classic, well-rounded sense; you don’t have to be absurdly tall (basketball)–though you can be!–or exceptionally muscular and perhaps even overweight (football); though you won’t find many late-middle-aged, beer-bellied men playing soccer, to be fair (as you would, say, in baseball). My point is not to maintain an assertion that soccer players are superior athletes (though I think the case can be made), but only that your arguments as to their athletic inferiority are spurious, contradictory, and, again, evince a rather complete ignorance of the game. Which, again, is perfectly fine–you prefer football and basketball, I prefer soccer; to each his own–but it does kinda disqualify you from pontificating upon the merits of soccer and its participants.

    Which leads me back to my original thesis: soccer is not an “inferior” sport, and its alleged inferiority has nothing to do with its popularity in the states.

  • Cincinnatus

    Random Lutheran: tODD’s point wasn’t that soccer players are definitively better athletes than everyone else, but that your arguments that everyone else are better athletes than soccer players is a silly argument to construct, and the “evidence” you supply causes us to wonder legitimately whether you’ve ever actually watched a game of soccer, much less played one.

    And given that, how would you know whether it is “more difficult” to play basketball than soccer? That would seem intuitively incorrect because eye/foot coordination is intrinsically more difficult than eye/hand coordination (which, interestingly enough, apparently indicates to you that soccer is thus less challenging and athletic). Furthermore, except for the goalkeeper, there is no standing around in soccer; I’m assuming you picked up this notion from watching eight-year-olds play (though I’m telling this to someone who thinks baseball, the classic “standing around in the outfield” game, is more exciting viewing than a World Cup game). But even if they were standing around occasionally, I’m sure we can avoid begrudging the typical midfielder, who is otherwise making constant 60+ yard runs up and down the field, a few moments to catch his breath. According to FIFA rules, after all, he isn’t likely to be selected as one of the three allowed substitutions in the entire game. And really, where did you get the idea that all soccer players merely run the whole time? Isn’t there a ball in there somewhere? And tactics of evasion, etc., similar to those employed in basketball? If you doubt, try looking up “soccer footwork” or something along those lines on YouTube. And finally, your insistence that soccer demands a certain body type is quite simply counterfactual. Soccer is the prototypical example of a sport whose preferred body type is merely “athletic” in the classic, well-rounded sense; you don’t have to be absurdly tall (basketball)–though you can be!–or exceptionally muscular and perhaps even overweight (football); though you won’t find many late-middle-aged, beer-bellied men playing soccer, to be fair (as you would, say, in baseball). My point is not to maintain an assertion that soccer players are superior athletes (though I think the case can be made), but only that your arguments as to their athletic inferiority are spurious, contradictory, and, again, evince a rather complete ignorance of the game. Which, again, is perfectly fine–you prefer football and basketball, I prefer soccer; to each his own–but it does kinda disqualify you from pontificating upon the merits of soccer and its participants.

    Which leads me back to my original thesis: soccer is not an “inferior” sport, and its alleged inferiority has nothing to do with its popularity in the states.

  • MikeR

    To respond to the original post, the statement that soccer is not lower-scoring than hockey is simply false. This past season, there were 5.68 goals scored per NHL game. Last World Cup, 2.30 goals were scored per game. So hockey is more than twice as high-scoring as soccer.

  • MikeR

    To respond to the original post, the statement that soccer is not lower-scoring than hockey is simply false. This past season, there were 5.68 goals scored per NHL game. Last World Cup, 2.30 goals were scored per game. So hockey is more than twice as high-scoring as soccer.

  • Random Lutheran

    Wow, Mr. Dictator.

    Had you read my posts, you would have picked up a few other ideas.

    1. I have in no place argued that “everyone else are better athletes” than soccer players. Rather, I argued that soccer players were not the best athletes. That in no way says that they are inferior athletes, only limited in comparison with some other sports. What they do well they do very well;

    2. I argued for well-rounded athletes as being the best.

    3. I argued that pointing to soccer players as the best athletes makes no sense, as there are plenty of other definitions of “great athlete” which include room for including those with body types which you are biased against (large, strong).

    4. I never said it was “inferior”; merely dull. Your defensiveness betrays you.

  • Random Lutheran

    Wow, Mr. Dictator.

    Had you read my posts, you would have picked up a few other ideas.

    1. I have in no place argued that “everyone else are better athletes” than soccer players. Rather, I argued that soccer players were not the best athletes. That in no way says that they are inferior athletes, only limited in comparison with some other sports. What they do well they do very well;

    2. I argued for well-rounded athletes as being the best.

    3. I argued that pointing to soccer players as the best athletes makes no sense, as there are plenty of other definitions of “great athlete” which include room for including those with body types which you are biased against (large, strong).

    4. I never said it was “inferior”; merely dull. Your defensiveness betrays you.

  • Ryan

    I don’t like soccer, I find is boring, I don’t know why, probably because I don’t understand it. Here are a few other reasons for me:

    I don’t like everyone telling me how great it is, I will determine myself – even if I’m against the rest of the world.

    I really dislike like hooligans, mobs, and rude behavior. Its as if because I’m a fan I can act as obnoxious as I want, even to the point of harming my neighbor or his property. It happens in United States sports but much less so, there is some code of conduct. Shucks in Baseball the Umpire can toss you out, even in Little League. At least the way the game is reported from around the world there is little sportsmanship in the Soccer playing world.

    Go ahead blast away! :)

  • Ryan

    I don’t like soccer, I find is boring, I don’t know why, probably because I don’t understand it. Here are a few other reasons for me:

    I don’t like everyone telling me how great it is, I will determine myself – even if I’m against the rest of the world.

    I really dislike like hooligans, mobs, and rude behavior. Its as if because I’m a fan I can act as obnoxious as I want, even to the point of harming my neighbor or his property. It happens in United States sports but much less so, there is some code of conduct. Shucks in Baseball the Umpire can toss you out, even in Little League. At least the way the game is reported from around the world there is little sportsmanship in the Soccer playing world.

    Go ahead blast away! :)

  • Larry A.

    @50 Code of conduct among American fans? Check out an LA Dodger game sometime….lots there to disgust, even if it comes short of tearing down the stadium. And I’m sure such behavior isn’t limited to SOCAL.

    But I’m with you: soccer is boring.

  • Larry A.

    @50 Code of conduct among American fans? Check out an LA Dodger game sometime….lots there to disgust, even if it comes short of tearing down the stadium. And I’m sure such behavior isn’t limited to SOCAL.

    But I’m with you: soccer is boring.

  • MikeR

    I think the main obstacle to soccer gaining popularity in the US now is that the MLS is nowhere near the top soccer league in the world. I don’t think Americans are unable to root for foreign players (the influx of foreign talent in baseball and basketball hasn’t hurt their popularity any), but if you want to attend a soccer match, or watch the local team on TV, you aren’t watching soccer being played at its highest level. Aside from the World Cup, I don’t even know what the highest level of soccer is. The Premier League? La Liga? Serie A?

    I just can’t see the MLS ever becoming hugely popular when most of the world’s best players aren’t in it. Imagine what would happen to the NBA’s popularity if LeBron was playing in England, Dwyane Wade was playing in Italy, Kobe was playing in France, Dwight Howard was playing in Spain, and Tim Duncan was playing in Germany. And without a professional league to follow, I can’t see soccer being much more than a once-every-four-years novelty like the Olympics.

  • MikeR

    I think the main obstacle to soccer gaining popularity in the US now is that the MLS is nowhere near the top soccer league in the world. I don’t think Americans are unable to root for foreign players (the influx of foreign talent in baseball and basketball hasn’t hurt their popularity any), but if you want to attend a soccer match, or watch the local team on TV, you aren’t watching soccer being played at its highest level. Aside from the World Cup, I don’t even know what the highest level of soccer is. The Premier League? La Liga? Serie A?

    I just can’t see the MLS ever becoming hugely popular when most of the world’s best players aren’t in it. Imagine what would happen to the NBA’s popularity if LeBron was playing in England, Dwyane Wade was playing in Italy, Kobe was playing in France, Dwight Howard was playing in Spain, and Tim Duncan was playing in Germany. And without a professional league to follow, I can’t see soccer being much more than a once-every-four-years novelty like the Olympics.

  • Cincinnatus

    Well, Random Lutheran, this has been productive [/sarcasm]. At least you’ve amended your original argument to something moderately more coherent and useful. Notice that I nowhere argued that soccer players are the best athletes; I was merely calling into question your original, invalid arguments that soccer is boring, unstrategic, and generally inferior to American sports (yes, you did indeed claim that it is inferior, or at least qualitatively “dull”). Which is your prerogative, but most of your arguments were based on false propositions that displayed a genuine ignorance of the game. Arguments about which sports are “better” is inherently a game of “apples are better than oranges”–which is essentially the statement you are making. But then you support your argument with such claims as “apples are better than oranges because apples are purple, and besides, apples are more likely to have pesticide residue on their fuzzy skins than oranges.” Which of course leads me to conclude that you haven’t seen or eaten many apples, and some of your reasons for preferring apples are in fact negative attributes (soccer is not as athletic because it’s harder. wait, what?) But I think we’ve reached a point, finally, at which we can agree to disagree: soccer is different than other sports. It’s certainly no less athletic or strategic. I wish we could have agreed to something less banal, but so be it. Meanwhile, I’ll let you know when I come up with a confusing pejorative for you (what exactly is implied by “Mr. Dictator”?)

    MikeR@52: You raise a valid point. The MLS is not comparable to top European, or even Latin American leagues. It’s investing much money and talent in making it so, but the jury is still out. The MLS, started in 1999, has yet to make a solid profit, though it comes closer every year. On the other hand, I don’t think the presence of a professional league is determinative of a sport’s popularity. After all, some preexisting preference inspired the presence of professional leagues in other sports in the first place. Thus I would refer back to my original socioeconomic reasons for the relative unpopularity of soccer–although, you may be interested to note that attendance at MLS games exceeded attendance at both NHL and NBA games last season, and the disparity is increasing. So there is “hope,” if increased space for soccer in the United States is something for which you hope. (many of you obviously don’t)

  • Cincinnatus

    Well, Random Lutheran, this has been productive [/sarcasm]. At least you’ve amended your original argument to something moderately more coherent and useful. Notice that I nowhere argued that soccer players are the best athletes; I was merely calling into question your original, invalid arguments that soccer is boring, unstrategic, and generally inferior to American sports (yes, you did indeed claim that it is inferior, or at least qualitatively “dull”). Which is your prerogative, but most of your arguments were based on false propositions that displayed a genuine ignorance of the game. Arguments about which sports are “better” is inherently a game of “apples are better than oranges”–which is essentially the statement you are making. But then you support your argument with such claims as “apples are better than oranges because apples are purple, and besides, apples are more likely to have pesticide residue on their fuzzy skins than oranges.” Which of course leads me to conclude that you haven’t seen or eaten many apples, and some of your reasons for preferring apples are in fact negative attributes (soccer is not as athletic because it’s harder. wait, what?) But I think we’ve reached a point, finally, at which we can agree to disagree: soccer is different than other sports. It’s certainly no less athletic or strategic. I wish we could have agreed to something less banal, but so be it. Meanwhile, I’ll let you know when I come up with a confusing pejorative for you (what exactly is implied by “Mr. Dictator”?)

    MikeR@52: You raise a valid point. The MLS is not comparable to top European, or even Latin American leagues. It’s investing much money and talent in making it so, but the jury is still out. The MLS, started in 1999, has yet to make a solid profit, though it comes closer every year. On the other hand, I don’t think the presence of a professional league is determinative of a sport’s popularity. After all, some preexisting preference inspired the presence of professional leagues in other sports in the first place. Thus I would refer back to my original socioeconomic reasons for the relative unpopularity of soccer–although, you may be interested to note that attendance at MLS games exceeded attendance at both NHL and NBA games last season, and the disparity is increasing. So there is “hope,” if increased space for soccer in the United States is something for which you hope. (many of you obviously don’t)

  • Joe

    Soccer is not “different than other sports.” It is different than football and baseball. Soccer and lacrosse and hockey are extremely similar. In my opinion Basketball exists somewhere between football and soccer. What is my metric? The way strategy is employed. Soccer, lacrosse and hockey have what I think of as a high level strategy based an awful lot on spacing and movement to create opportunities to get the ball/puck in the net. The coach (typically) does not send in a particular set play. Instead, the players are called upon to use their skill to effectuate the strategy as the game unfolds at a very fast pace.

    Football and baseball also have a overall strategy but play stops all the time for the coach to send in a very specific set play that the players are called on to execute. In the case of baseball this happens as the catcher orders up the next pitch. The coach sends in a signal re: stealing a base or blitzing the QB. The coach sends in a signal to shift the infield or whether to play cover – 2 or straight man to man defense.

  • Joe

    Soccer is not “different than other sports.” It is different than football and baseball. Soccer and lacrosse and hockey are extremely similar. In my opinion Basketball exists somewhere between football and soccer. What is my metric? The way strategy is employed. Soccer, lacrosse and hockey have what I think of as a high level strategy based an awful lot on spacing and movement to create opportunities to get the ball/puck in the net. The coach (typically) does not send in a particular set play. Instead, the players are called upon to use their skill to effectuate the strategy as the game unfolds at a very fast pace.

    Football and baseball also have a overall strategy but play stops all the time for the coach to send in a very specific set play that the players are called on to execute. In the case of baseball this happens as the catcher orders up the next pitch. The coach sends in a signal re: stealing a base or blitzing the QB. The coach sends in a signal to shift the infield or whether to play cover – 2 or straight man to man defense.

  • MikeR

    Cincinnatus@53: I was merely stating that the MLS’s status as a second-tier league is an obstacle to soccer gaining popularity now. I agree the historical reasons for soccer’s lack of popularity in the US are different.

    As for attendance, that’s somewhat deceptive. Yes, the MLS has a higher per-game attendance than the NHL or NBA:
    MLS – 18,452 (2010 season, as of 04/11/2010)
    NBA – 17,110 (2009/10 season)
    NHL – 17,004 (2009/10 season)
    But the NBA and NHL have 30 teams playing 41 home games per season. The MLS has 16 teams playing 15 home games per season. Doing the math, the NHL and NBA had about 21 million fans attend games this past year, while the MLS is on pace for about 4.5 million fans. I’d like to see the MLS do well, for those who are soccer fans (I’m not), but it’s got a long way to go to reach the level of the NHL or the NBA.

  • MikeR

    Cincinnatus@53: I was merely stating that the MLS’s status as a second-tier league is an obstacle to soccer gaining popularity now. I agree the historical reasons for soccer’s lack of popularity in the US are different.

    As for attendance, that’s somewhat deceptive. Yes, the MLS has a higher per-game attendance than the NHL or NBA:
    MLS – 18,452 (2010 season, as of 04/11/2010)
    NBA – 17,110 (2009/10 season)
    NHL – 17,004 (2009/10 season)
    But the NBA and NHL have 30 teams playing 41 home games per season. The MLS has 16 teams playing 15 home games per season. Doing the math, the NHL and NBA had about 21 million fans attend games this past year, while the MLS is on pace for about 4.5 million fans. I’d like to see the MLS do well, for those who are soccer fans (I’m not), but it’s got a long way to go to reach the level of the NHL or the NBA.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@53), I believe you were called “Mr. Dictator” in reference to your handle here. I realize that you chose that handle merely because you live in Cincinnati (but are not currently in a relationship, thus the singular). However, for your information, there was another, more famous, historical Cincinnatus in the past. That Cincinnatus seized power from the ruling Plebiscians to become Dictator-For-Life. The Romans at the time referred to him as “Il Signore Dittatore”, or what you and I would refer to as “Mr. Dictator”. And though details of his tyranny are largely lost to the sands of time, he is remembered for two things: (1) the golden statue of himself that he set up on Palatine Hill that rotates to always face the sun, and (2) a dish that he invented which combined the beloved Roman pasta with shredded cheese, chili, and beans.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@53), I believe you were called “Mr. Dictator” in reference to your handle here. I realize that you chose that handle merely because you live in Cincinnati (but are not currently in a relationship, thus the singular). However, for your information, there was another, more famous, historical Cincinnatus in the past. That Cincinnatus seized power from the ruling Plebiscians to become Dictator-For-Life. The Romans at the time referred to him as “Il Signore Dittatore”, or what you and I would refer to as “Mr. Dictator”. And though details of his tyranny are largely lost to the sands of time, he is remembered for two things: (1) the golden statue of himself that he set up on Palatine Hill that rotates to always face the sun, and (2) a dish that he invented which combined the beloved Roman pasta with shredded cheese, chili, and beans.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD: Apparently, my synapses are not functioning properly today, which may explain why I’ve spent my time on a thread discussing which sport is “best”. Thanks for the reminder.

    Speaking of which, it’s probably time I start employing a more typical (i.e., “real”) name on this blog.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD: Apparently, my synapses are not functioning properly today, which may explain why I’ve spent my time on a thread discussing which sport is “best”. Thanks for the reminder.

    Speaking of which, it’s probably time I start employing a more typical (i.e., “real”) name on this blog.

  • Albert

    At the risk of over generalizing, I believe that what Joe @ 27 said is dead on: “It is just not violent enough for me.”

    Joe may well have said this tongue in cheek, but it captures the American cultural tastes quite well in both sports and entertainment in general!

  • Albert

    At the risk of over generalizing, I believe that what Joe @ 27 said is dead on: “It is just not violent enough for me.”

    Joe may well have said this tongue in cheek, but it captures the American cultural tastes quite well in both sports and entertainment in general!

  • Tickletext

    Many people are unaware that soccer nearly exploded in popularity in America. In the 1920′s US soccer leagues like the American Soccer League had thousands upon thousands of players and was luring much of the world’s top talent, who were drawn by the excellent wages (driven by the booming US industrial economy) and American soccer’s burgeoning reputation for high standards of competition. A real attraction for foreign players was the prospect of high paying factory jobs, which industrial teams like Bethlehem Steel could offer. Few leagues around the world could compete on those terms; after all, soccer players generally did not live on their soccer salary alone.

    Add it all together and for a time in the 20′s the ASL was the second largest professional sports association in the US (according to Wikipedia, anyway). And the ASL was not the only US soccer league at that time. Thanks to these leagues, soccer had such a presence that the US finished third in the 1930 World Cup–the best ever American Cup result.

    American soccer was strong enough to incur the jealousy of European countries, not least because of the ASL’s sometimes wanton disregard for international procedures. (Not too surprising when you consider that some of the ASL owners were Tammany Hall types.) In short, in the eyes of Europe, American soccer had gone rogue (to coin a phrase). The Scottish Football Association derided the “American menace.”

    Thus were sparked a series of quarrels, kerfuffles, and boycotts known as the Soccer Wars, which financially strained the ASL. The league was weakened such that it buckled with the Great Depression, and thus ended America’s great Golden Age of soccer. Americans turned to football and baseball and only in recent years has soccer really taken root again in a serious way.

    And so I would observe that whatever cultural indifference to soccer there may have been in America, such attitudes really only became prevalent in the aftermath of the series of historical events that killed the American leagues. This indifference would never have taken root if the ASL had not fallen. America could well have established itself as a world power. And maybe, just maybe, we might have been spared some of the tedious snobbery football-loving Americans have shown toward soccer-loving nations and vice versa.

    For more info see this piece on the lost history of American soccer, some of which I have paraphrased here.

  • Tickletext

    Many people are unaware that soccer nearly exploded in popularity in America. In the 1920′s US soccer leagues like the American Soccer League had thousands upon thousands of players and was luring much of the world’s top talent, who were drawn by the excellent wages (driven by the booming US industrial economy) and American soccer’s burgeoning reputation for high standards of competition. A real attraction for foreign players was the prospect of high paying factory jobs, which industrial teams like Bethlehem Steel could offer. Few leagues around the world could compete on those terms; after all, soccer players generally did not live on their soccer salary alone.

    Add it all together and for a time in the 20′s the ASL was the second largest professional sports association in the US (according to Wikipedia, anyway). And the ASL was not the only US soccer league at that time. Thanks to these leagues, soccer had such a presence that the US finished third in the 1930 World Cup–the best ever American Cup result.

    American soccer was strong enough to incur the jealousy of European countries, not least because of the ASL’s sometimes wanton disregard for international procedures. (Not too surprising when you consider that some of the ASL owners were Tammany Hall types.) In short, in the eyes of Europe, American soccer had gone rogue (to coin a phrase). The Scottish Football Association derided the “American menace.”

    Thus were sparked a series of quarrels, kerfuffles, and boycotts known as the Soccer Wars, which financially strained the ASL. The league was weakened such that it buckled with the Great Depression, and thus ended America’s great Golden Age of soccer. Americans turned to football and baseball and only in recent years has soccer really taken root again in a serious way.

    And so I would observe that whatever cultural indifference to soccer there may have been in America, such attitudes really only became prevalent in the aftermath of the series of historical events that killed the American leagues. This indifference would never have taken root if the ASL had not fallen. America could well have established itself as a world power. And maybe, just maybe, we might have been spared some of the tedious snobbery football-loving Americans have shown toward soccer-loving nations and vice versa.

    For more info see this piece on the lost history of American soccer, some of which I have paraphrased here.

  • Bill S

    And to @MikeR’s point (48) about scoring – not only is hockey higher scoring, but the number of shots on goal is far higher than in soccer. In the NHL, the per-game shots-on-goal average was around 30 for this past season. In European soccer, the shots-on-target per game number runs somewhere between 8-10, depending on the league. So there are far fewer legitimate scoring opportunities in soccer.

    Furthermore, I believe soccer just feels slower, due to the constant passing, the large field size, and the fact that a goalkeeper can simply clear the ball almost the entire length of the field. In hockey, that’s called “icing” and it’s penalized by a faceoff…that would be like requiring a corner every time the keeper put the ball all the way down the field.

    And – soccer is not much of a contact sport, although that doesn’t explain baseball and its popularity.

  • Bill S

    And to @MikeR’s point (48) about scoring – not only is hockey higher scoring, but the number of shots on goal is far higher than in soccer. In the NHL, the per-game shots-on-goal average was around 30 for this past season. In European soccer, the shots-on-target per game number runs somewhere between 8-10, depending on the league. So there are far fewer legitimate scoring opportunities in soccer.

    Furthermore, I believe soccer just feels slower, due to the constant passing, the large field size, and the fact that a goalkeeper can simply clear the ball almost the entire length of the field. In hockey, that’s called “icing” and it’s penalized by a faceoff…that would be like requiring a corner every time the keeper put the ball all the way down the field.

    And – soccer is not much of a contact sport, although that doesn’t explain baseball and its popularity.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    And if you go to the end of Tickletext’s article (@59), you’ll see a fairly humorous video on American soccer coverage.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    And if you go to the end of Tickletext’s article (@59), you’ll see a fairly humorous video on American soccer coverage.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    As to violence and football, I presume we are all familiar with the George Will quote: “Football combines the two worst things about America: it is violence punctuated by committee meetings.”

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    As to violence and football, I presume we are all familiar with the George Will quote: “Football combines the two worst things about America: it is violence punctuated by committee meetings.”

  • Pete

    Man, this has really generated some discussion!
    Couple of observations: Unless you’ve played soccer, it really does look like 22 guys kicking a ball around randomly and, very occasionally, a goal is scored. But, if you’ve played, you can appreciate some of the subtle things (low-percentage pass that succeeds, defensive or offensive risk taken, etc.) that are truly remarkable at the international level but difficult to appreciate if you’ve never played.
    For many years, too few Americans had ever played soccer and thus could not appreciate it. But I think that’s changing.

  • Pete

    Man, this has really generated some discussion!
    Couple of observations: Unless you’ve played soccer, it really does look like 22 guys kicking a ball around randomly and, very occasionally, a goal is scored. But, if you’ve played, you can appreciate some of the subtle things (low-percentage pass that succeeds, defensive or offensive risk taken, etc.) that are truly remarkable at the international level but difficult to appreciate if you’ve never played.
    For many years, too few Americans had ever played soccer and thus could not appreciate it. But I think that’s changing.

  • Pete

    And may I just add that, as much as I love soccer and the World Cup, there is no sporting event that comes close to a Stanley Cup Final Series. Most of the time – like for instance this most recent one. Sometimes it’s a sweep and a blowout, but if it goes to six or seven games, it’s invariably a treat.

  • Pete

    And may I just add that, as much as I love soccer and the World Cup, there is no sporting event that comes close to a Stanley Cup Final Series. Most of the time – like for instance this most recent one. Sometimes it’s a sweep and a blowout, but if it goes to six or seven games, it’s invariably a treat.

  • Pete

    And the “best athletes” in terms of highest energy expenditure per contest, are water polo players.

  • Pete

    And the “best athletes” in terms of highest energy expenditure per contest, are water polo players.

  • Bert Lloyd

    Soccer may seem to be lacking but the attendance figures are above NHL and the NBA

    Sunday, April 11, 2010
    MLS Attendance Moves Past NBA, NHL

    Fueled by rapid growth in soccer-crazed cities such as Toronto, Seattle and Philadelphia, Major League Soccer has now moved past the NBA and NHL in terms of average attendance, based on figures from each sport’s most recent full season. Have a look at the #’s below.

    1. NFL – 67,508.69 (2009 season)
    2. MLB – 30,213.37 (2009 season)
    3. MLS – 18,452.14 (2010 season, as of 04/11/2010)
    4. NBA – 17,149.61 (2009/10 season)
    5. NHL – 16,985.31 (2009/10 season

  • Bert Lloyd

    Soccer may seem to be lacking but the attendance figures are above NHL and the NBA

    Sunday, April 11, 2010
    MLS Attendance Moves Past NBA, NHL

    Fueled by rapid growth in soccer-crazed cities such as Toronto, Seattle and Philadelphia, Major League Soccer has now moved past the NBA and NHL in terms of average attendance, based on figures from each sport’s most recent full season. Have a look at the #’s below.

    1. NFL – 67,508.69 (2009 season)
    2. MLB – 30,213.37 (2009 season)
    3. MLS – 18,452.14 (2010 season, as of 04/11/2010)
    4. NBA – 17,149.61 (2009/10 season)
    5. NHL – 16,985.31 (2009/10 season

  • Dan Kempin

    I’m a little late to get to this discussion, but I think Ryan, #50′s comment well sums up the American perspective:

    “I don’t like everyone telling me how great it is, I will determine myself – even if I’m against the rest of the world.”

    America has a plethora of truly established sports, each with their own intense followers as well as casual fans. We are well acquainted with the perpetual debate that MY sport is a better sport, why YOUR sport stinks, and so on. For some reason (no disrespect to this entire thread) the argument for soccer comes off sounding insecure to the American ear: “Why don’t you like MY sport?”

    Hey, if you love soccer–great! If you want to tell me that football sucks or hockey is boring–all the better! Perhaps we can carry on the debate over a few beers while watching one of the games in question. I won’t be offended that you don’t like my sport of choice. Why should you be offended that I don’t like soccer?

    That, I think, is why many Americans–perhaps even obstinately–have not gotten on the bandwagon. We like to be won over, not nagged.

  • Dan Kempin

    I’m a little late to get to this discussion, but I think Ryan, #50′s comment well sums up the American perspective:

    “I don’t like everyone telling me how great it is, I will determine myself – even if I’m against the rest of the world.”

    America has a plethora of truly established sports, each with their own intense followers as well as casual fans. We are well acquainted with the perpetual debate that MY sport is a better sport, why YOUR sport stinks, and so on. For some reason (no disrespect to this entire thread) the argument for soccer comes off sounding insecure to the American ear: “Why don’t you like MY sport?”

    Hey, if you love soccer–great! If you want to tell me that football sucks or hockey is boring–all the better! Perhaps we can carry on the debate over a few beers while watching one of the games in question. I won’t be offended that you don’t like my sport of choice. Why should you be offended that I don’t like soccer?

    That, I think, is why many Americans–perhaps even obstinately–have not gotten on the bandwagon. We like to be won over, not nagged.

  • Nick Mackison

    I am Scottish and I bet there is a greater percentage of people in my country who passionately hope the USA beats the English!

  • Nick Mackison

    I am Scottish and I bet there is a greater percentage of people in my country who passionately hope the USA beats the English!

  • tODD

    Nick (@68), I watched England vs. France in an Edinburgh pub in 2006, and I am certain you’re right!

  • tODD

    Nick (@68), I watched England vs. France in an Edinburgh pub in 2006, and I am certain you’re right!

  • Nick Mackison

    tODD, that sounds like an experience and a half. The anglophobia in Scotland is almost visceral!

  • Nick Mackison

    tODD, that sounds like an experience and a half. The anglophobia in Scotland is almost visceral!

  • The Jones

    Getting a tie might be like kissing your sister, but after that USA-England match, I think we might have a hot sister.

  • The Jones

    Getting a tie might be like kissing your sister, but after that USA-England match, I think we might have a hot sister.

  • Cincinnatus

    Agreed, Jones. It was really a good game overall, though the USA defense looks a bit flabby. I hope they pick it up, as there are more difficult opponents to come (assuming we make it beyond Group play).

    On the other hand, having watched portions of some of the other games (South Africa v. Mexico, Korea v. Greece), I have to say that both the English and American teams appear strong in comparison.

  • Cincinnatus

    Agreed, Jones. It was really a good game overall, though the USA defense looks a bit flabby. I hope they pick it up, as there are more difficult opponents to come (assuming we make it beyond Group play).

    On the other hand, having watched portions of some of the other games (South Africa v. Mexico, Korea v. Greece), I have to say that both the English and American teams appear strong in comparison.

  • SAL

    I think in order for a sport to become entertainment you’ve got to have an indigenous spectator/fan culture.

    The entertainment niche that soccer probably would have filled in America is already filled by other sports.

  • SAL

    I think in order for a sport to become entertainment you’ve got to have an indigenous spectator/fan culture.

    The entertainment niche that soccer probably would have filled in America is already filled by other sports.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    This morning I was watching my sons’ t-ball games. They’re pretty young so its all about fundamentals – no scoring (yawn). But my oldest is really getting a good chance at working on his hitting, but in the end everybody wins (again yawn) – but I try to stay positive and cheer on the boys for working on their hitting and fielding (boy am I looking forward to bit more competitive league next year).

    This morning grandpa leans over and says, “About as exciting as the worldcup, eh?” I said, “What?” “They tied!?” he says. Yep, that’s a soccer selling point problem. In my opinion, when you get to something called the “worldcup”, someone should think of some rules to prevent such a culminating letdown from happening. You can leave a worldcup game and both teams win? or lose? Why did y’all play the game again? What does this sort of competition mean. For all I know it may actually be possible for everyone to win … or lose. I would rather watch golf.

    This has been a fun discussion though, sort of (yawn).

  • Bryan Lindemood

    This morning I was watching my sons’ t-ball games. They’re pretty young so its all about fundamentals – no scoring (yawn). But my oldest is really getting a good chance at working on his hitting, but in the end everybody wins (again yawn) – but I try to stay positive and cheer on the boys for working on their hitting and fielding (boy am I looking forward to bit more competitive league next year).

    This morning grandpa leans over and says, “About as exciting as the worldcup, eh?” I said, “What?” “They tied!?” he says. Yep, that’s a soccer selling point problem. In my opinion, when you get to something called the “worldcup”, someone should think of some rules to prevent such a culminating letdown from happening. You can leave a worldcup game and both teams win? or lose? Why did y’all play the game again? What does this sort of competition mean. For all I know it may actually be possible for everyone to win … or lose. I would rather watch golf.

    This has been a fun discussion though, sort of (yawn).

  • Pete

    Bryan (@75) I’m not sure that permitting ties is all that horrible a thing. Surely we’ve all witnessed athletic contests that were very evenly matched and where the feeling was expressed, “it’s too bad one team has to lose.” In fact there will be a winner (and 31 losers) of the World Cup of soccer – just not necessarily a winner of every game in the group phase of the tournament. In a way , the possibility of a tie sort of ups the level of strategic complexity.

  • Pete

    Bryan (@75) I’m not sure that permitting ties is all that horrible a thing. Surely we’ve all witnessed athletic contests that were very evenly matched and where the feeling was expressed, “it’s too bad one team has to lose.” In fact there will be a winner (and 31 losers) of the World Cup of soccer – just not necessarily a winner of every game in the group phase of the tournament. In a way , the possibility of a tie sort of ups the level of strategic complexity.

  • Tickletext

    Several points concerning draws (not necessarily in response to anyone here–this issue just comes up frequently in these kinds of discussions and I’ve given it some thought):

    1. When non soccer fans object to draws as boring, usually they are really only voicing another complaint against the sport itself, not its practice of scoring. In other words, were soccer to ban ties as a possible outcome for all of its games (and let’s remember the many soccer contests in which ties are NOT possible, as well as the fact that all Cups etc. do have losers and a winner), in all probability it would still be boring to them because it would still be soccer. In my experience arguments about whether a given sport is boring or not tend toward futility. Let’s say you ask a football fan, “Which is more tedious to watch, a sport in which play occurs in chunks of 45+ continuous minutes, or a sport in which, out of the 185 minutes each contest lasts on average, only eleven minutes of actual play occurs?” More than likely such a point would have no effect on the football fan, not necessarily because of anything inherent in being a football fan versus being a soccer fan, but because people operate on different assumptions about the nature of entertainment, engagement, and boredom. The football fan has learned to accept the endless commercials, instant replays, shots of players simply standing around (67 minutes worth in the average telecast!), etc. as part of the entertainment, the experience of football. The eleven minutes of actual athletic action are more engaging to them than the 90+ minutes of soccer because of what they think of as “action.” The faculties of attention adjust themselves to our desires accordingly. Draws are really a peripheral issue.

    2. Having said that, the idea that draws are an inherent detraction from the drama of sports seems mistaken. In the case of soccer, at least, the draw system grants underdogs a better chance of getting a result, and the success of underdogs is always compelling. Not to mention the possibility of comebacks. A team down 3-1 coming back in the second half to earn a 3-3 draw is no less dramatic in terms of pure sports drama than a comeback win in basketball or football.

    3. Draws are civilized and make wins and losses more meaningful. The “all-games-must-have-a-winner” mentality is allied with the model of sports as a form or mirror of war, a model which seems to have prevalence in American society. The purpose of war is to vanquish, to conquer, to be victorious. But surely there is a place in society for sports which are NOT warlike. And for sports which permit a gentlemanly exit from the field, granting formal recognition to what we all know, that on some (but not all) days there is equality on the field. In that light, the possibility of draws make victories all the more meaningful, since we are more certain they result from the players’ achievement on the field and not from a system which dichotomizes all outcomes into Wins and Losses.

    4. Finally, scoring systems are generally best when they proceed from the nature and logic of the sport itself, and not from our imposed notions of what is boring or dramatic. A draw system would be a little absurd in basketball or other sports where points are scored and ties are broken with relative ease. But where scoring is supremely difficult it makes sense to permit draws.

  • Tickletext

    Several points concerning draws (not necessarily in response to anyone here–this issue just comes up frequently in these kinds of discussions and I’ve given it some thought):

    1. When non soccer fans object to draws as boring, usually they are really only voicing another complaint against the sport itself, not its practice of scoring. In other words, were soccer to ban ties as a possible outcome for all of its games (and let’s remember the many soccer contests in which ties are NOT possible, as well as the fact that all Cups etc. do have losers and a winner), in all probability it would still be boring to them because it would still be soccer. In my experience arguments about whether a given sport is boring or not tend toward futility. Let’s say you ask a football fan, “Which is more tedious to watch, a sport in which play occurs in chunks of 45+ continuous minutes, or a sport in which, out of the 185 minutes each contest lasts on average, only eleven minutes of actual play occurs?” More than likely such a point would have no effect on the football fan, not necessarily because of anything inherent in being a football fan versus being a soccer fan, but because people operate on different assumptions about the nature of entertainment, engagement, and boredom. The football fan has learned to accept the endless commercials, instant replays, shots of players simply standing around (67 minutes worth in the average telecast!), etc. as part of the entertainment, the experience of football. The eleven minutes of actual athletic action are more engaging to them than the 90+ minutes of soccer because of what they think of as “action.” The faculties of attention adjust themselves to our desires accordingly. Draws are really a peripheral issue.

    2. Having said that, the idea that draws are an inherent detraction from the drama of sports seems mistaken. In the case of soccer, at least, the draw system grants underdogs a better chance of getting a result, and the success of underdogs is always compelling. Not to mention the possibility of comebacks. A team down 3-1 coming back in the second half to earn a 3-3 draw is no less dramatic in terms of pure sports drama than a comeback win in basketball or football.

    3. Draws are civilized and make wins and losses more meaningful. The “all-games-must-have-a-winner” mentality is allied with the model of sports as a form or mirror of war, a model which seems to have prevalence in American society. The purpose of war is to vanquish, to conquer, to be victorious. But surely there is a place in society for sports which are NOT warlike. And for sports which permit a gentlemanly exit from the field, granting formal recognition to what we all know, that on some (but not all) days there is equality on the field. In that light, the possibility of draws make victories all the more meaningful, since we are more certain they result from the players’ achievement on the field and not from a system which dichotomizes all outcomes into Wins and Losses.

    4. Finally, scoring systems are generally best when they proceed from the nature and logic of the sport itself, and not from our imposed notions of what is boring or dramatic. A draw system would be a little absurd in basketball or other sports where points are scored and ties are broken with relative ease. But where scoring is supremely difficult it makes sense to permit draws.

  • E-Raj

    I actually preferred when the NHL had tie games. It seemed appropriate to award a point in the standings to each team after a hard-fought draw. Now, the NHL awards a point to a team that loses! Granted, a point is only awarded to a team that loses in overtime, but it seems strange. Also, I hate the shootout system of deciding games. After 60 grueling minutes, it seems very flippant and unrewarding to decide a team sport contest by a series of one-on-one encounters, in my opinion.

  • E-Raj

    I actually preferred when the NHL had tie games. It seemed appropriate to award a point in the standings to each team after a hard-fought draw. Now, the NHL awards a point to a team that loses! Granted, a point is only awarded to a team that loses in overtime, but it seems strange. Also, I hate the shootout system of deciding games. After 60 grueling minutes, it seems very flippant and unrewarding to decide a team sport contest by a series of one-on-one encounters, in my opinion.

  • kerner

    I’m really late to this discussion, but I tink I see a few factors that have been missed.

    But first, I have to agree with those that have said that American isolation was a big factor. We evolved our sports customs independently of Europe.

    American football and Rugby are cousins. If you look at early versions of both games (say, when football was played without helmets, or before the forward pass was invented), they are very similar. The tackling allowed in rugby has to be arm tackling, because if you try to tackle as you do in football without pads on, you would break shoulders and collar bones and skulls every set of downs. So Americans armored their players and one of them thought up a play that no one on the British commonwealth did, and the game changed.

    The other thing is that we in America have a mental association between a season and a sport. Fall is football season. Spring/summer is baseball season. I’m not even sure when soccer season is, but recent attempts to popularize soccer will always have to compete with the sport that owns the season, as a foreign upstart.

    An unfortunate practice was associating soccer with girls sports. When I was a kid, the boys played flag football in gym class in the fall. But football was considered too rough a game for girls, so the girls played soccer in their fall gym classes. So I grew up thinking of soccer as a girl’s game, like field hockey.

    And those who have been saying that Football, basketball and baseball have all learned to adapt to the American commercial television system are correct. I remind you all that Europe, and most countries, do not have a similar system. Most (or at least the biggest) European television and radio stations are government run. So soccer has never developed the concept of the “official time out” for commercials.

    Another reason for soccer’s popularity world wide is that it is one of the least expensive games to play. All you really need is the ball and a mown field, and you can play soccer. So they developing world could adopt this game it learned from the European colonials and it would cost very little to do so. Can you imagine high schools and Universities in, say, Ethiopia incurring the cost of football programs when they have so many other needs? But the third world can afford to play soccer at a high level.

  • kerner

    I’m really late to this discussion, but I tink I see a few factors that have been missed.

    But first, I have to agree with those that have said that American isolation was a big factor. We evolved our sports customs independently of Europe.

    American football and Rugby are cousins. If you look at early versions of both games (say, when football was played without helmets, or before the forward pass was invented), they are very similar. The tackling allowed in rugby has to be arm tackling, because if you try to tackle as you do in football without pads on, you would break shoulders and collar bones and skulls every set of downs. So Americans armored their players and one of them thought up a play that no one on the British commonwealth did, and the game changed.

    The other thing is that we in America have a mental association between a season and a sport. Fall is football season. Spring/summer is baseball season. I’m not even sure when soccer season is, but recent attempts to popularize soccer will always have to compete with the sport that owns the season, as a foreign upstart.

    An unfortunate practice was associating soccer with girls sports. When I was a kid, the boys played flag football in gym class in the fall. But football was considered too rough a game for girls, so the girls played soccer in their fall gym classes. So I grew up thinking of soccer as a girl’s game, like field hockey.

    And those who have been saying that Football, basketball and baseball have all learned to adapt to the American commercial television system are correct. I remind you all that Europe, and most countries, do not have a similar system. Most (or at least the biggest) European television and radio stations are government run. So soccer has never developed the concept of the “official time out” for commercials.

    Another reason for soccer’s popularity world wide is that it is one of the least expensive games to play. All you really need is the ball and a mown field, and you can play soccer. So they developing world could adopt this game it learned from the European colonials and it would cost very little to do so. Can you imagine high schools and Universities in, say, Ethiopia incurring the cost of football programs when they have so many other needs? But the third world can afford to play soccer at a high level.

  • Aaron Root

    “We like to be won over, not nagged.”

    I’m VERY late to this discussion, but I believe Dan @ 68 nailed it here. Much of the pro-soccer argumentation I’ve encountered (including a few comments on this thread) has seemingly boiled down to how if Americans weren’t so dense and parochial we’d have converted already. Why not just let us watch it and let us make up our own minds?

    Several other points have been well made here about why soccer hasn’t caught on. Here, every sport has a season, for the most part, and soccer has the unfortunate role of interloper in this grand scheme. Its perception as a girls’ game and/or a suburban youth athletics incubator (to be replaced by something more interesting as soon as possible), doesn’t help either. Soccer is rather late to the American party, which perhaps helps to explain its fans’ frustrations with how we Just. Don’t. Get. It. Yet you get more flies with honey than with vinegar. Try to show us why you like it, while resisting the urge to nag us for our lack of sophistication.

  • Aaron Root

    “We like to be won over, not nagged.”

    I’m VERY late to this discussion, but I believe Dan @ 68 nailed it here. Much of the pro-soccer argumentation I’ve encountered (including a few comments on this thread) has seemingly boiled down to how if Americans weren’t so dense and parochial we’d have converted already. Why not just let us watch it and let us make up our own minds?

    Several other points have been well made here about why soccer hasn’t caught on. Here, every sport has a season, for the most part, and soccer has the unfortunate role of interloper in this grand scheme. Its perception as a girls’ game and/or a suburban youth athletics incubator (to be replaced by something more interesting as soon as possible), doesn’t help either. Soccer is rather late to the American party, which perhaps helps to explain its fans’ frustrations with how we Just. Don’t. Get. It. Yet you get more flies with honey than with vinegar. Try to show us why you like it, while resisting the urge to nag us for our lack of sophistication.

  • Joe

    Above I dismissed the idea of soccer finally catching on in the US because the argument is generally made based on the number kids who play it and history has been proving this argument wrong for 20 years or so. But I did not consider a very important factor: Cable TV. In today’s sports market you no longer have to get on of the 4 (I still want to say 3) networks to turn a profit. The market share required to convince sponsors to buy ad time has never been lower. The number of channels being sent into homes is so large that soccer might be able to get on a cable network and actually draw enough initial viewers to be able to grow its following over time. In the past, soccer had to be able to compete with the big boys for the limited network airtime. That limit is gone and the Cable TV’s endless channels may have created an environment that will allow soccer to generate TV revenue, which is the real mechanism that will allow US soccer to grow.

  • Joe

    Above I dismissed the idea of soccer finally catching on in the US because the argument is generally made based on the number kids who play it and history has been proving this argument wrong for 20 years or so. But I did not consider a very important factor: Cable TV. In today’s sports market you no longer have to get on of the 4 (I still want to say 3) networks to turn a profit. The market share required to convince sponsors to buy ad time has never been lower. The number of channels being sent into homes is so large that soccer might be able to get on a cable network and actually draw enough initial viewers to be able to grow its following over time. In the past, soccer had to be able to compete with the big boys for the limited network airtime. That limit is gone and the Cable TV’s endless channels may have created an environment that will allow soccer to generate TV revenue, which is the real mechanism that will allow US soccer to grow.

  • Louis

    kerner – no they are not cousins. Rugby is the ancestor, and football the illegitimate offspring :)

  • Louis

    kerner – no they are not cousins. Rugby is the ancestor, and football the illegitimate offspring :)

  • Tickletext

    I’d like to reiterate that by far the most important reason soccer has been so slow to catch on in the US was the fatal blow the Great Depression dealt to the industrial engines of the aforementioned American soccer leagues, along with the effects of the Soccer Wars. In the 1920′s the ASL was the second most popular professional American sports league. Many Americans were in fact won over by the sport. But the Depression wiped it off the map–soccer was dependent on business and industry in a way the other sports were not. Had the leagues survived, I see no reason whatsoever why soccer could not have coexisted here alongside football in the way it does with rugby in other countries. If there is some element in soccer which inherently repulses Americans, then why in the name of Archie Stark would the sport have caught fire in the way it did here in the 1920′s?

    While today our speculations about various cultural attitudes & dispositions, demographics, etc. may well have plenty of accuracy, from a historical perspective these developments are all ex post facto. Whatever American parochialism or whatever may have sprung up in subsequent decades (and accusations of such typically mark the end, not the beginning, of any fruitful discussion, as Aaron intimates above), certainly it would never have sprung up were it not for the sudden and astonishing demise of the leagues.

  • Tickletext

    I’d like to reiterate that by far the most important reason soccer has been so slow to catch on in the US was the fatal blow the Great Depression dealt to the industrial engines of the aforementioned American soccer leagues, along with the effects of the Soccer Wars. In the 1920′s the ASL was the second most popular professional American sports league. Many Americans were in fact won over by the sport. But the Depression wiped it off the map–soccer was dependent on business and industry in a way the other sports were not. Had the leagues survived, I see no reason whatsoever why soccer could not have coexisted here alongside football in the way it does with rugby in other countries. If there is some element in soccer which inherently repulses Americans, then why in the name of Archie Stark would the sport have caught fire in the way it did here in the 1920′s?

    While today our speculations about various cultural attitudes & dispositions, demographics, etc. may well have plenty of accuracy, from a historical perspective these developments are all ex post facto. Whatever American parochialism or whatever may have sprung up in subsequent decades (and accusations of such typically mark the end, not the beginning, of any fruitful discussion, as Aaron intimates above), certainly it would never have sprung up were it not for the sudden and astonishing demise of the leagues.

  • Tickletext

    Argh.

  • Tickletext

    Argh.

  • Kyralessa

    Maybe Americans are too lazy to play soccer? It involves a lot of running. Football is a lot of standing around, with occasional plays. So is baseball. Basketball…OK, never mind that theory.

  • Kyralessa

    Maybe Americans are too lazy to play soccer? It involves a lot of running. Football is a lot of standing around, with occasional plays. So is baseball. Basketball…OK, never mind that theory.


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