Americans don’t really like soccer; they like to WIN

June 29, 2014 • 4:23 pm

I’ve reverted to American terminology for this short post, for if I called it “Why Americans don’t really like football,” it would be confusing and, in the American vernacular, deeply wrong.

America is in the throes of a World Cup craze: every time the U.S. plays, people in the big cities forgather in bars, or in city parks with huge screens, and cheer on “Team USA.” Often their faces are painted red, white, and blue, and they wear the national colors.  That’s what they do in other countries, who also cheer on their teams. What’s so bad about that?

The bad thing is that many of these Americans, so it seems, care only about the USA winning an international competition, and couldn’t care less about the fact that this competition occurs once every four years, giving us the chance to see the world’s greatest national teams—and greatest players.

Evidence: I watch the NBC News every night (that and “60 Minutes” are pretty much the only television I watch), and lately I hope to see the World Cup highlights and scores. (I still haven’t looked up who won the Greece/Costa Rica game.) Tonight there was a substantial segment of the news devoted to the USA team, showing its practices, its fans (many of whom claim that we’ll “go all the way”), interviews with the coach, and previews of the game with Belgium on Tuesday.

Did they give the results of the two games played today? Nope. They didn’t involve the U.S., so who cares? Jebus!

Every reader who is a real soccer fan here knows that I love the game but don’t know much about it. I plan to learn, but it’s not easy when the games you watch have Spanish commentary (I speak German and some French, but that’s no help). But I still see soccer as the perfect sport for fans.  It’s fast-paced, you know when the game will end, and there are no annoying commercial breaks except at halftime. The athleticism is unparalleled, and a good goal is a thing of beauty, for, unlike a home run, it involves a complicated team choreography, like a dance.

Baseball and American football have their merits, of course, but they’re too damn slow (the baseball game I went to yesterday lasted 2.5 hours, and that was fast!). Football is brutal, and for some reason I just can’t get interested in basketball. And the World Cup, unlike the Superbowl or so-called “World” Series, is truly international. I love to see the strange names on the jerseys, and learn about the players, their peccadillos (like biting), and their performance on their regular teams.

One would think that many Americans share this feeling, and I hope they do. But watching Americans cheer for our national team, I think that foreigners’ feeling that we’re poised to join the soccer-loving countries of the world is premature. Yes, the kids play while Mom and Dad watch patiently from the sidelines, but by the time you get to the high school and college level, nobody cares. Who knows how Harvard’s soccer team does?

Maybe someday we’ll be as soccer-crazy as Brazil, France, or England, and that day can’t come too soon for me. But I wish we’d become a little less chauvinistic and a little more interested in how the rest of the world is doing. And I wish they’d report the damn scores on the national news. It takes all of 30 seconds to say that the Dutch beat Mexico 2-1 and Costa Rica beat Greece 5-3 in penalty kicks after a 1-1 tie in regular time and overtime (yes, I just looked up the scores). Instead, they had a four-minute report on Team USA, soon to be eliminated.  And you can bet that the omission of the two games’ scores was calculated. After all, they had to do an important segment on the manufacture of cast iron skillets.

 

176 thoughts on “Americans don’t really like soccer; they like to WIN

        1. Certainly possible. But even if she doesn’t believe what she spews that just makes her behavior that much more disgusting.

      1. Jerry:

        I actually found out about you first from that article, “Coultergeist”!

        As to why you can’t get interested in basketball, I’d think the reason is that it is boring.

        1. Is it boring because, for example, there is not as much frequent movement as there is, say, in baseball and football?

        2. My enjoyment in watching basketball has been nearly wiped out by the incessant commercials. The exciting ending of a close game is basically ruined by them.

          1. For a number of years my position was such that lots of vendors took efforts to schmooze me and one of the more common things I’d get would be tickets for sporting events.

            By that time of my life I was already pretty jaded about professional sports and didn’t really follow anything, but I figured I might as well try having fun going to these events. I went to see PGA events, NASCAR, Grand Prix, NBA, NFL, Arena Football (an odd US thing that didn’t last), NHL and more.

            The NBA games were the worst. They weren’t just boring, they actually pissed me off. For about 95% of a typical game the grossly overpayed, spoiled brat players couldn’t be bothered to put any effort into the game. The poor attitude was so blatant that it was offensive. There would occasionally be a flurry of effort that would last for 5 or ten seconds, perhaps. Turned me right off of NBA.

            For fun and action, and beautiful plays similar to what Jerry described for soccer, NHL hockey was the easy winner.

      2. I think that you are right on about being deliberately provocative – it really is a fairly easy way to get a mindless audience. Folks writing parody would be hard-pressed to top Coulter’s rants.

      3. I agree, Coulter knows the difference between reality and her fiction, and I think that makes her and those like her even more reprehensible for the damage they do to society.

        It’s one thing to be ignorant, even willfully ignorant, but it’s something else and far worse to know you are spreading lies.
        The two neo nazi white supremiscists who killed two police officers can be laid at the feet of those who spread propaganda of liberals who are deliberately destroying America, anti government federal tax is illegal crazies.

        I wonder how people like Coulter can sleep at night.

        1. I’m guessing that it’s quite easy: they just need to use the enormous piles of money they make pandering to peoples’ ignorance and xenophobia to buy themselves some really expensive and super-comfortable beds.

      4. I’d say her article is a deliberate troll to get her readers’ blood pressure going. So many of the points in are blatantly false. She even contradicts herself by claiming there’s no individual glory and then whining about David Beckham Soccer Superstar.

        There’s also scope for personal humiliation, ask Luis Suarez or (for a more “within the rules” humiliation) Rob Green’s career ending fumble against the USA in the 2010 World Cup.

        Plus, I don’t know much about that most American of games – baseball – but it seems to me that the scoring there in terms of points per minute is roughly equivalent to soccer and I think the same would apply to American Football if you divided by seven.

        The article has to be either a deliberate troll or Anne Coulter is deeply ignorant and refuse to accept that anybody as successful as she is can be that stupid.

        1. In my experience, not definitive of course, the incidence of stupid people among the wealthy is not significantly different than in any other wealth category.

      5. She knows exactly what she’s doing: Trolling for attention. I’m reminded of a story from when she was in university, where she’d wear a fur coat in the middle of summer to annoy animal-loving classmates.

      6. A bit like the comedian Stewart Lee’s routine about Top Gear, where he’s talking about Jeremy Clarkson’s “outrageous, politically incorrect opinions, which he has to a deadline in the Sunday Times… Almost as if they weren’t real!”

        A bit off topic I know, but well worth a watch on YouTube for those uninitiated with the genius of Lee.

    1. And it burns with the power of a thousand suns…
      Lo, I am become Teh Stoopid, the destroyer of worlds.

      🙁

    2. There is so much stupidity and ignorance there that it makes my brain hurt, but one thing needs to be commented on and it’s the point about the “soccer moms”.

      Soccer moms are a uniquely American phenomenon (in more recent times, British too), which does not exist in the test of the world. And they (not they themselves, but the factors that lead to their existence) are the reason why the US will never be a major force in this game.

      Because while it is true that the game is not nearly as popular in the US as it is in the rest of the world, due to the very large total population of the US it actually has a larger effective football population size (i.e. the number of people actively playing the sport and the talent pool from which to choose players) than many nations with strong traditions and currently strong teams. But the US has never produced even a single “genius” player (the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Pirlo, Neymar, etc.), and not only that, it can be argued that it has never produced a single truly world-class player either (where we defined world class as in being in the top 10 in the world in your position either), and you cannot be a major footballing force without such players. Sometimes team spirit and organization can get you very far (see Greece in 2004) but those are rare exceptions, and this is not a good strategy for achieving sustained success.

      This is despite the game being actually very well organized and young players being provided with all the equipment and high-quality facilities they need. And the reason is that this is pretty much all the interaction with the game that young players get. In the rest of the world, kids play on the street or on neighborhood pitches all day, from a very early age, without any soccer moms to drive them many miles to and from practice. And this is how “genius” develops – in the anarchy of the street game, in its confined spaces, which select for close ball controls and the ability to pull off the unexpected. The best kids then get picked up by youth teams and developed, and crucially this initially happens indoors or on small grass pitches, environments that again develop and select for skill and inventiveness.
      Admittedly, the prevalence of these practices is declining, thanks to computer games and the export of the social conditions that preclude it as a possibility in the US from the US to the rest of the world, but nevertheless, this has been historically the environment that produced almost all of the players in the pantheon of the game.

      You simply don’t get that development in the US, where kids get shipped to practice soccer, often without really having previously played the game outside of that system, then they get taught how pass, shoot and dribble (you don’t become a great player by being taught these things from scratch, first, it’s too late and second, it makes for bland, cookie-cutter players who – instead you develop your own style at an early age, and only then coaches help you correct whatever mistakes you might be making and develop your skills further), positioning, etc., and then they are sent to play 11-a-side on the big grass field, which selects for speed and power but not for imagination, skill and the proper use of space (of which there is a lot when you are a bunch of 10-year olds playing on the 105×68 field, but which is at big premium when 11 highly trained grown-ups play the game).

      Ironically, it is precisely the social policies promoted by the kinds of Ann Coulter that have locked in this state of affairs. Because there is simply no place for the player-development environment that exists in other countries (which is associated with high-density neighborhoods with playing spaces for community use) in the US suburbia, where neither the spaces, nor the population density exist (you need at least 10 kids to play a 5-a-side game of football but those 10 kids interested in doing that may be spread over s radius of a mile or more in suburban areas). And US society is so atomized and alienated that it is unthinkable for a parent to let their child play outside with other kids a whole day, which is how we end up with “soccer momns”

      1. I would rate Tim Howard as world class. I generally agree with your assessment, but keep in mind just how new the sport is in the U.S. in its current form. When I was playing in high school and college back in the 70s, Americans didn’t even understand the game, and tried to play it like they do American football—very physical with little passing (never backwards). There were few coaches who understood the game, and fewer refs who knew the rules. Its evolution since then is drastic and continuing.

      2. Note that while it’s the moms who often end up doing the driving, it’s the dads who usually are setting up the leagues and other structures you object to.

        Additionally, a lot of kids just aren’t home in the afternoons because both parents are working and the kids are in some kind of daycare.

      3. The general premise that more time spent developing skills is a major factor is absolutely correct. Most of the details, I have serious doubts.

        When enough people become passionate enough about the sport, and given enough time, the caliber of players will rise to be on par with the rest of the world.

        Someone said in an earlier thread that yeah, soccer is popular with parents and kids in the US, when they are kids. Even by the time you reach high school the popularity has plummeted. The level of interest in soccer in the US is still nothing remotely like in the rest of the world. That is the difference. I’ve lived it. I started playing in Europe. It is a way of life their practically. I played for years in the US. Here it is a prissy foreign sport. Much like US type football is considered contemptibly barbaric by many sports fans outside the US.

  1. It’s so sad that American jingoism even infects sports. From the outside it really looks like most Americans only want another opportunity to chant U-S-A, U-S-A.

    1. While I abhor the US chauvinism, my impression of European fans has been that they’re equally rabid for their own teams.

      1. Was about to say the same thing. I would even go as far to say that in many cases it is actually worse. I have not experienced this so much on the national level but on the level of local soccer clubs. And this is where it gets truly disgusting, with “fans” from different cities getting into fights.

        1. on a local level in Europe most people are only really interested in going to see their own teams, yes, unless there is a big derby/grudge match on. as far as watching on TV goes most fans will watch other teams from overseas. I am british but live in australia and will watch the EPL, the Serie A, the German and Spanish leagues if I get a chance. Internationally, you will find that fans, especially in a World Cup, will watch ANY game they can. I was in Germany for the 2006 comp and that’s how it was there for sure. I watched the Netherlands/Mexico game yesterday and was interested in the result of the Greece game. that’s the point of this post! As for the fighting I think you’ll find that, percentage-wise, it’s pretty small and getting smaller.

        2. Agreed, and not always from different cities. Think Liverpool & Everton, or Man. United & Man. City, or (when I were a lad) Sheffield Wednesday & Sheffield United – I saw a number of nasty confrontations.

          I could include Glasgow Rangers & Celtic, but that’s probably affected by the Protestant-Catholic dichotomy.

      2. I think SCOFFED said it nicely but let me add that, as Jerry said in the post, the difference is that European and South American fans are also interested in the game, and world cup, at large.

        So yes, on the one hand you might see me in a pub “rabidly” shouting HOLLAND HOLLAND while dressed up in Orange. But I was also in the pub with my English friend watching the England game, and tomorrow I will be supporting Belgium (neighbouring country, play nice football, watching it with a Belgian friend). Generally I watch most matches when possible on TV.

        That is something I think – with Jerry – that doesn’t happen in the USA (USA! USA!).

    2. I agree that club rivalries can be pretty nasty sometimes but I was strictly speaking about the World Cup.
      For a country to be so damn nationalist as to not report the scores of games that don’t involve their own team … I don’t think that’s happening anywhere in Europe (& probably the rest of the world). And I think that’s really sad.

  2. Coming from an American, that was a very refreshing perspective, Jerry. It seems that there is hope, after all!

  3. “Baseball and American football have their merits, of course but they’re too damn slow (the baseball game I went to yesterday lasted 2.5 hours, and that was fast!)”
    Two and a half hours? That’s nothing. Watch cricket. Games can last five days.

      1. Have a care, madam! That is the beauty of the game. It’s a civilised game played by gentlemen, with none of this unseemly aggression of other sports where grown men can’t seem to get together to play a game without biffing or biting one another. While a game can last five days and still end in a draw, that’s not to say that the balance of the game can’t swing wildly during that time.

  4. Here is what I like about American football (I played in high school) and basketball (played in junior high; played some pick up ball later):

    in these two sports, there is a place for different body types, especially at the lower levels. In high school, I was way too slow afoot to be a runner or a wide receiver. But I was relatively strong so I could play line.

    In basketball, there is a place for the shorter, quicker person and perhaps the “not as quick but taller” person.

    Of course, at the university levels and above, all players are excellent athletes. But at the lower levels, there is room for more diverse body types.

    1. Well, I disagree with that, in both those sports size and height are every advantage at any level. I played both as a kid but moved on to soccer when it became clear that at 5-foot 8 I would always be at a disadvantage.

      1. What I am saying is this: if you look at a US football team and, say, look at the weights of the players, you’ll have a higher variance than you will on a soccer team.

        You have people who look like track sprinters as well as people who look like shot putters. That doesn’t mean that every body type is represented (e. g. ectomorphs..e. g. distance running body types).

        1. You all may find this TED talk interesting.

          The talk shows statistically how body types have been selected for sports over time & how much specialization by body type has occurred.

          From the TED site:

          When you look at sporting achievements over the last decades, it seems like humans have gotten faster, better and stronger in nearly every way. Yet as David Epstein points out in this delightfully counter-intuitive talk, we might want to lay off the self-congratulation. Many factors are at play in shattering athletic records, and the development of our natural talents is just one of them.

    2. Excuse me, but this is utter BS.

      No basketball teams of average height of 6 feet or less has ever won anything major in the last 50 years or so. It’s just not possible, despite the occasional example of the odd successful point guard (who might be small in stature but has to make up for it with superhuman quickness)

      In contrast, Spain and Barcelona just dominated the WORLD (not the lower levels), for 6 years, with most of its core players being only 1.70 meters tall and not very fast either. That has now ended because those players declined, while the other teams now combine both skill and athleticism (because all else equal, athleticism is always a plus), but it does not change the overall point that ball control skills is the most important thing.

      Also, the athleticism required in association football is not something out of reach for regular people – players are generally of average height (in fact, very tall people are at disadvantage, because they are too slow and clumsy for the game) and can achieve it by training (and they don’t need to take steroids and growth hormons as many basketball and american football players do, because that’s of no advantage either – muscle mass can be of great advantage in american football when you have something like 10 minutes of real game time in total butcarrying around an extra 30kg of muscle for 90 minutes is actually very exhausting and hurts your game in real football).

      1. I think that at the international level, the top athletes are genetic freaks, regardless of sport.

        My comment was about the sports at the lower levels. Of course, university level athletes have to have superior natural athletic ability.

        See my comment about the variation of body sizes you see, say, on an American football roster, or the variation of heights on a basketball roster.

        1. The best midfielders of this generation have been Xavi and Iniesta. Look up pictures and videos of them playing and tell me whether you seriously consider them genetic freaks.

          And of the best players of all time only a handful have possessed truly outstanding physical qualities. There are probably genetic factors determining your success in association football, but they probably have more to do with the strength of your ankles and knees and your susceptibility to injuries (because if you are fragile, you simply don’t make it to the top, and many promising players have had their careers derailed by chronic injuries). But that’s more of a limiting factor.

          There is no equivalent to being Wilt Chamberlain in the 1960s NBA in football.

        2. I know what you’re saying and I agree with you, blueollie.

          Those who are disagreeing are completely ignoring your constant correction that you’re talking about lower school sports, not elite teams.

          1. But how is that different from soccer – or any other sport, for that matter?

            Literally every boy in western Europe plays soccer in the school yard and in the back garden. I have never heard of any body type being at a disadvantage (apart from the overweight type, although every team needs a goalkeeper…).

            OTOH I find it hard to believe that at lower level, it is not already an advantage in basketball to be tall.

  5. I sometimes think that if the cure for cancer was discovered in a country other than the USA, US TV news organizations wouldn’t bother to cover it.

    Definitely not Doctor Oz, unless he was selling it himself, he gets 5% off the top, or is a suppository and he gets to talk about fecal matter.

  6. I definitely disagree with the sentiment that soccer is the best sports for fans.

    That sentiment belongs to baseball, the perfect sport ever devised!

    I’m a number cruncher and nothing can top baseball in terms of stat crunching and scrutinizing!

    1. Baseball: 10 guys (not counting umps and base coaches) stand around in a field. Two of the guys toss a ball back and forth. Once in a while another guy hits the ball. Once in a greater while that guy hits it in the right direction and runs 90 feet, and stands around some more. Only a few times during the game does the guy run a total of 360 feet. Yeah, the excitement is almost too much to bear.

      1. Hehe…I’m with you. I guess baseball might be fairly entertaining if you’re at the ballpark, but telewise it is pretty boring.

      2. Soccer: 22 guys in short pants stand around. they kick the ball back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, all the while flopping on the ground pretending to be injured, while the fans, out of sheer boredom I guess, beat each other up. The game ends a 0-0 tie (or some times you get a 1-0 blowout!!)

    2. I reckon cricket could give baseball a run for its money in terms of stats, averages, scores etc.

      But I guess they are similar(ish) sports, so would attract a similar type of fan.

  7. U.S. soccer has made huge gains in the last 30 years, with MLS finally becoming established in the largest major metro areas in the country. But it’s very new here, and TV exposure is very limited, so most Americans don’t know about it.

    The irony of it is that it is a very egalitarian sport, one that should fit the American ideal. Anybody has a chance at it, unlike football and basketball, in which inherited characteristics are more important – you have to be either really big or really tall.

    Well, perhaps that reveals something about the true American psyche, I don’t know.

    1. It does reveal a lot indeed, but it is going to take a lot of writing to do the subject proper justice.

      There is one even stranger thing, though, and it is that US teams in sports in which the US does not dominate tend to display an amazing level of team spirit and willingness to sacrifice oneself for the team, soccer being a great example of that.

    1. Right. I think there’s a whole segment of the US population that believes that they play The Star Spangled Banner after each event, rather than just after the ones that NBC chooses to show.

  8. Many years ago I lived on Long Island, NY which was one of the few areas in the US that showed any interest in “soccer”. It was at that time in the 50s that I came to love the game. Then in the 70s I lived in the Nederlands when Nederland lost to Germany. What a wonderful fun time it was as everyone was out to cheer their teams. I hope someday the USA will come to love that real Football.

  9. LOL Americans are like this with the Olympics as well. As a Canadian, I think I have one of the best perspectives on this because I watch a lot of American media while still living in a slightly different culture. I think there was a Canadian comedy (I want to say This Hours Has 22 Minutes) where they parodied American news and said things like “This just in! There are other teams in the olympics”. 😀

    I can always count on hearing the soccer scores on CBC on my way home from work and the scores so far if the game is in progress.

    There is a lot of talk about Team USA though with Klinsmann being the coach. I always liked him as a player. There are few sports I can stand watching, but soccer is fast and it is pure athleticism. The players must be very fit – all that running! It’s almost cruel to go into overtime. Plus, they aren’t mutants! Hockey and football players are always big guys that can squish each other. Soccer players are normal sized people.

    1. I agree about the “mutants” thing. Football/soccer has a role for anyone who can meet the fitness requirements – tall, short, slender, stocky – anyone can play. Contrast that with basketball, which can only be played professionally by people who are freakishly tall. If you’re of average height, forget it.

      The other thing that kills basketball as a sporting spectacle for me is that it’s too damn easy to score. End to end, one basket after another, until the match ends at 75-63 or something like that. Yawn! Scoring goals in football is hard, so there’s a lot of drama involved in even a low-scoring game. High-scoring games are uncommon, and so all the more memorable for it.

      1. You are unfairly criticizing basketball. The curious observation is that basketball is the only “american” in origin and spirit sport that has caught on in the rest of the world without any other factors to impose its popularity (such as US military occupation and/or economic dominance imposing baseball as a highly popular or even dominant sport on countries like Japan, Nicaragua, Venezuela, etc.).

        And I think the reason is that basketball can be an art form, just as association football can be – it’s not the static, positional game that both baseball and american football are, and there is a lot of room for improvisation and creativity in it. Ironically, it is US players that are best at that, but those are players developed in conditions very similar to those that produce the great artists of association football.

              1. and Canadians beat the crap out of you guys in 1812….ans were the first on the pacific coast across the continent in 1793.

            1. Yes. We tried to fight the War of 1812 so incompetently Canada would have to conquer us, but something something Napoleon something kept that from happening. Sigh. 🙂

              1. You were really fighting the British then though as I like to point out to my government that keeps trying to insight nationalism in Canadians this way. Has my PM met other Canadians?

  10. NBC presents the national news, and so the focus is on the performance of American athletes, whether they’re skiers, golfers, tennis players, participating in the Olympics, or what. ESPN does a fairly good job–or has done recently–with the World Cup this time around, inviting foreign soccer experts to comment, in detail, on the achievements of each national team. NBC is not the place to find that sort of coverage.

    1. So NBC is even more narrowly focused than the official, state-run national news channel in my country? (Which is China, not exactly a paragon of objective media coverage.) To my mind this just reinforces Jerry’s point that most Americans aren’t really interested in football per se.

      1. No, we aren’t. While soccer has become a niche activity for some, for most Americans, rooting for the USA in the world cup is like rooting for the USA in the olympics. You do it because it’s fun and a change of pace, and you’d like to see your countrymen do well, but at the end of the day, just because you go mad for curling or decathalon or soccer for two weeks every few years doesn’t mean that you have any interest in watching it further. One fortnight ever few years is just about the right amount of soccer and then back to the real sports.

  11. I’m an american and lack of exposure is not what causes me to dislike soccer, it’s actual exposure to it. I find the game tedious beyond all measure. The Olympics are a great example. We will gather around the TV to watch water polo or curling or whatever other sport we would normally care less about as long as there is an American team to root for. Some see that as being chauvinistic regarding sports from other countries, I see it is giving me some reason, any reason, to care about the outcome of a sporting match I find boring.

    Personally I’m rooting against the US in the World Cup just so I won’t have to hear about it anymore 🙂

  12. I don’t think Americans are any more or less jingoistic in sports than any other nationality. It’s human nature. Our politics and the belief in American exceptionlism, however, is unique.

  13. I think basketball and (America) football are more popular because of higher scores. Football is slow as molasses but when there’s a score it’s multiple points. That’s a bigger pay-off.

    Watching failure after failure and maybe ending in a 0-0 tie just isn’t the American Way. We want to see success, even if it’s the other team being successful because we know our team could be successful in another game.

    That’s my theory. I haven’t read Ann Coulter because I refuse to reward her failure to be a true human being by giving her a click.

    1. I don’t see football (real football, not soccer) as slow at all. I think the fact that you’re more likely to get a 0-0 tie in soccer than, say, a 5-4 game is why. Defense is too easy, so the game is boring and pointless to most American sports fans.

  14. Soccer in the US is growing all the time, and in another generation, it will rival some of the other sports in popularity here. We are relatively new to the game though, compared to the rest of the world, so some people might think we are lacking or unsophisticated.

    Soccer is huge in Kansas City with rabid fans that pack Sporting KC’s stadium for every game. Two of Sporting’s best players (Besler & Zusi) are on the USA team so the interest is extremely high in KC in the World Cup. The entire city is caught up in it, and naturally are rooting for the USA – I am, too. I’m sure a lot of people are watching the other games with great interest, too.

    I don’t agree that soccer is only popular amongst little kids. Those little kids grow up and play for their school teams and with club teams in the off-season all the way through high school, and a few in college. My granddaughters were both excellent soccer players – they started as little tykes and as they got older, they played very competitive club soccer and both were starters on their high school teams. They have hung up their cleats now though for their college studies. They are still huge soccer fans though.

    1. That is true, but popularity does not mean the country will be a major power in the WC any time soon.

      Football is way more popular in England than it is in the US, and has always been, they invented it in is modern form after all, yet their team has been continuously rubbish for a very long time, with no signs of that trend reversing any time soon.

      Mexico is an even better example – 120 million population, it’s the dominant sport, yet all they have ever achieved is two quarter-finals, both when the WC was played on home soil.

      It’s not enough to just have a lot of people interested in the sport, how players are developed matters a lot too (note that the reasons why some countries are not successful while others are, are different in each case. In the case of England, it is a football culture that has traditionally placed more value in running, tackling, and fighting spirit, qualities that work well for you on a muddy, boggy pitch in December somewhere in the British isles, but are nowhere nearly sufficient against the best players in the world. Mexico is a bit of a mystery, as it has mostly the same conditions as the rest of Latin America, yet has consistently failed to produce world-class sides, most likely because it has to play within CONCACAF, as the big fish in a very small pond, playing against the likes of Belize, Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada, leaving it isolated and unable to develop to the highest level.

      1. Re your last point, only yesterday did I read how the North American/Caribbean/central American qualifier works.

        Turns out Mexico, being one of the 6 best nations, was seeded straight into the semifinals, so never faced anything like Belize.

        They also managed to come 4 th in the final round of 6 (behind the USA, Honduras and Costa Rica) and had to beat new Zealand in a play off to even be at the world cup.

        1. They don’t go the semifinals, they go to the 3rd round. Where they often do play some real minnows:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_FIFA_World_Cup_qualification_(CONCACAF)#Third_round

          And the format was different in the past

          But it’s not the WC qualifiers that matter that much for the development of good players – it’s also the Gold Cup, and most importantly, the CONCACAF Champions League, which is very weak (Mexican teams have only become regular participants in the Copa Libertadores in the last 10 years or so)

    2. With more publicity for concussions, football will certainly get some advantages from some people who will not go into American football.

      1. I wanted badly to play soccer when I was a kid but there was an article about a kid being paralyzed from heading the ball wrong so my mother wouldn’t let me. She also thought I’d get hurt and not be able to do ballet. What she didn’t know was that ballet was much harder on my body than soccer & I still have injuries from it.

        1. My sister tells me that woman’s soccer does cause lots of head injuries. Presumably men’s soccer does too, though I cannot imagine, systematically as much as American football would.

    3. I don’t think it will rival the other sports. I think it will never be more than a fourth sport (fifth in the hockey part of the north of the country.) It’s basically seen by and large as a kid’s game that adults overseas play.

  15. Yup, Amuricun Exceptionalism. But that’s not enough, as each state fancies itself The Greatest State in Thuh Land of thuh Free. Just read how major city paper editorialists toot their boosterism horns. (Re: NC’s “First in Flight” and OH’s “Birthplace of Aviation,” as if the Wrights’ accomplishment possibly had anything to do with North Carolina-ism or Ohio-ism.) Listen to how each delegation spokesperson bloviates and praises the state to high heaven before casting his/her state’s nominating votes at the quadrennial political conventions.

  16. Someone been reading Coulter again? Rarely wise.

    Soccer won’t be popular in the USA because it’s a cheater’s sport. The players make better dives than Greg Luganis; we see reports on fixing, which is rife; even the use of lasers, which many fans see as acceptable; clear evidence of discretionary overtime favouritism (sic, I am not American). This disinterest is a good reflection on Americans.

  17. I never watched or played soccer or knew much about it until the World Cup 4 years ago. I dont have cable TV, but some guy on the net was streaming all the games from his apartment so I was able to watch and it turned me into a fan. Soon I had organized soccer games after work (the gang still plays on Wednesday evenings), had spent money on soccer balls, shoes, a World Cup uniform, and gone to several pro games. In other words, the illegal feed that FIFA would have certainly shut down if they could have had turned me into a fan who spent money on the sport.

    I do get tired of the fake injuries, but otherwise, there is much to love about the sport. You have to be in darn good shape to play it well, thats for sure.

    1. I’ve seen people get red carded for those fake injuries. I love it when the refs do that!

      1. The behaviour that really pisses me off is when the player goes down & dramatically rolls over several times.

        It’s a LONG time since I played (purely as an amateur) but when I did go down after a tackle I basically hit the floor & that was it; there’s not enough momentum to keep on rolling.

        Were I the ref, I’d yellow-card anyone who did that immediately, no matter how blatant the foul.

        1. I recall one World Cup games years ago where that happened. The one team was so ridiculous the ref started with the carding. I loved that! I with they’d always card people for that behaviour because it makes the sport look wimpy when they don’t.

  18. I disagree, somewhat. I think a big problem is that you are usng the nightly news as a barometer for American sports fans. The age demographics for the nightly news skews fairly old compared to the average sports fan. Most nightly news viewers are probably unlikely to try to pick up a new sport. Watch ESPN or another all sports channel, listen to sports talk radio, or visit some popular American sports websites and you’ll see a very different situation than you find on the nightly news. The younger generation not only appreciates international play, but is as likely to follow the Premier League, La Liga, or Serie A as MLS, if not more likely. These kids grow up playing the FIFA video game and they know all about the international players and follow them closely. And they are watching all the games. Remember, there are more American spectators in Brazil than any other visiting country – and none of them are really expecting us to win. They are there to cheer on their team yes, but they are also there to watch great soccer.

    1. Also, I turned on ESPN radio in the car on the way home from work and instead of the usual discussion of regular season baseball, off season basketball, and World Cup soccer, they were broadcasting the Germany-Algeria game live. When a notoriously ratings obsessed station like ESPN is airing Germany-Algeria live during rush hour, you can be sure Americans are interested in more than just the US team winning.

  19. Soccer really is increasingly popular everywhere in the US–among boys and girls both. But, generally speaking, the most talented young athletes are drawn into other team sports well before they succumb to soccer’s appeal.

    Public and private schools here pay inordinate attention (in time and money) to athletic endeavors, to the detriment of their primary purposes. That’s not about to change. More to the point, no other country devotes so much attention as we do in the US to the three major team sports–football, basketball, and baseball. If soccer were the single major team sport in the US, as it is throughout most of Europe, Africa, and South and Central America, then American soccer would compete exceptionally will with the best world-wide. But the truth is the majority of our best young athletes are otherwise engaged.

    1. It wouldn’t – see my post above about how truly great players are developed in the rest of the world. Having the game organized in schools in the traditional US way will ensure the US will never produce such players and will remain an average side that always qualifies to the WC thanks to the fact that it plays in the second weakest confederation, but will never achieve much of significance once it gets there

      1. GM, your argument is not convincing. It is hard for me to believe that German, Spanish, French, and Italian youth soccer is not “organized” or that if it became more popular in the US there wouldn’t be loads of kids playing in the street in areas without good organized youth sports programs.

        1. It sure is organized in those countries.

          But that organization sits on top of a pyramid of street soccer, which does not exist in the US. In those countries the best kids are picked by the youth systems of clubs when they are 6-10 years old, at which point they have had YEARS of experience playing the game without any tactical constraints and coaching instructions, and they continue to play it that way even when they are in the systems (and in the cases when the youth systems are boarding school-kind of set ups, they play with each other in the hallways of the building all evening). Note that those pickup games usually happen in very confined spaces, which is EXTREMELY, EXTREMELY important for player development – that’s how you learn close control of the ball, utilization of space (as there isn’t much of it), improvisation, etc. And the youth systems in countries like Spain and Brazil have realized that and they have the kids play 5-a-side games until they are 13-14 and only then do they get sent to play on the big field.

          In contrast, the approach in in England is to collect a group of 8-year old kids and have the play 11-a-side on the big field, which selects for kids that can run fast, kick the ball hard and are generally physically stronger than the others, which is the main reason why they can’t produce truly genius players. Those actually tend to come from the ranks of the kids who are less physically developed for their age, because their physical disadvantage forces them to develop the skills and imagination needed to compensate for that, and when they eventually grow up to be full size and go through the training that everyone else does to become a professional athlete, they are the world-beaters, and not the kids that happened to grow faster and were able to outrun and outmuscle them when they were 12. This is why England’s NT is so weak relative to the traditions of the country and the strength of its league, it’s a fundamentally mistaken approach to player development.

          The same is the case in the US and even worse – because in the US kids that start training have often not played on the street prior to that at all. That’s a huge disadvantage that cannot be overcome easily, and what happens next does not help the situation at all – they are taught how to play from scratch by a coach, but do not play much outside of training, which in the end produces competent, physically well-prepared, tactically literate players, who, however, lack that spark of magic that separates the truly great from the merely good. And if you don’t have that little bit of genius in you, you generally do not get far in the WC – if you look at who has won it in the past, there are only a handful of teams which you can conceivably argue did not have at least one, and often multiple such players.

          Also, in the US, there simply isn’t a place to play the game on the street. We use the term “on the street” but it’s usually not literally the street but hard-surface neighborhood playground, typically in schools. Here’s an example from the Netherlands (a country with a very strong street soccer tradition and a youth system that takes advantage of it):

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7g58M_AGmRM

          As I pointed out above, US suburbia are a uniquely unsuitable environment for this kind of thing. You do have something very similar going on with basketball in inner cities, and it’s no surprise that the situation is exactly reversed when it comes to basketball – the rest of the world does what the US does with soccer and develops bland boring players from scratch, while the expressive talented ones often get their start on the street. But not with soccer, which is popular elsewhere. If you can get soccer popular in such areas, then the players might emerge, but basketball is already the top sport there and I don’t see that changing

  20. It’s a form of tribalism.

    Joe Sportsfan somehow thinks his reproductive fitness (to be perfectly frank) is increased when the “tribe he belongs to” i.e., the team he roots for, wins.

    Closely related forms of tribalism include nationalism and our pet bugaboo, religion.

    1. That’s ridiculous. Are you really saying that, for example, Jerry Coyne thinks he will get laid more when the Spanish national team is winning games? He is a soccer fan and that is the team he roots for. I don’t think you’ve thought this through very deeply.

      1. What I didn’t think through was my phrasing. There certainly should’ve been more qualifiers in there.

        Are some, even many, people into a given sport simply because they enjoy it and possibly know the ins-and-outs, which would probably cause them to favor better teams?

        Absolutely. I know that.

        But I would guess, admittedly based on my experience, that there are more “dudebros” who I pretty accurately pegged in my comment above.

        1. They even paint their faces to go to U.S. football games! Wearing your team colors is common even outside of season. You can buy almost anything with your team’s logo on it. I agree that it’s a type of tribal warfare, but I disagree about fitness. I think foot races and individual sports are more like that.

  21. It could be that Americans aren’t used to the fluid, continuous style of play in soccer. In theory, the game could go on uninterrupted for the entire halftime. Reading the game is more difficult. Few goals per game mean that a clearly losing team can turn it around quite suddenly.

    By contrast, other American sports appear almost turn-based where the teams also switch quite clearly defined roles, such as defending or attacking. In each of those “turns”, the attacking team has a relative high chance of scoring, which makes the whole style much more discrete and defined. This structure works well with commercials, as the state of the game is recorded in the score, and then effectively reset for the next turn.

    Game state and performance of teams is more explicit and easier to read in US sports, and more scoring is perhaps more “action-y”. Clearer patterns and roles may also provide more explicit variety. Of course all that plays to the stereotype American (sports fan) 😉

  22. It’s not too dissimilar in the land down under. Though thanks to a large migrant population, the game has enough of a status that it’s at least shown in the news. But a decade ago, it wasn’t much more than a footnote compared to the major three codes of football here. It’s taken a lot of work to make it pseudo-mainstream.

    But one thing that really bugged me about the coverage here, though, is that there’s a lot of people who question why we should get passionate about it considering our national side sucks. Somehow we’re not really meant to care about the results until we have a team capable of winning it – never mind that until 2006 we’d only even made it once. (It’s funny you never see those same complaints about the olympic games – especially the winter olympics here.) So there’s that same kind of mentality here, and it’s not helped by all those people who just focus on simulation and the lack of physicality.

    It’s improved in Australia in the last 15 years, but there’s still a long way to go. Still, this world cup has seen so many beautiful moments that it doesn’t matter that Australia’s contribution was a sole Tim Cahill wundergoal.

    1. I think you’re being too harsh on your national team. OK, Australia went out at the group stage but they went down fighting and showed a lot more spirit than the pathetic bunch of overpaid primadonnas my country (England) sent out. And yes, Tim Cahill’s goal was one to savour!

      1. I watched the first two England games, and I didn’t think England played that badly in either. Italy were more resolute in defence, but at least Sterling and Sturridge showed promise for the future. I get the impression that the English really think they should have a world-class side, then get upset every 4 years when that belief gets shattered.

        I’ll quickly add that I don’t think our national side sucks (though there is a gap in quality when compared with the best sides in the world), but that’s what the media coverage focused on. That we shouldn’t care because our team isn’t good enough to win it.

    2. If you think that your team sucks based on this world cup, you need some perspective. Australia played really well in the first two games.
      In the end Australia lost to the holding world champions; a team that beat the current world champions and held Brazil to a draw in the round of 16; and the finalists of last world cup who also beat the reigning world champions (and on course to another semi final by the looks of it).

      Like jerry’s observation from the USA Germany match was overly negative (“team USA is rubbish”) you can’t be too critical based on playing world class opposition.

      1. I don’t think my national team sucks based on this world cup. What I was highlighting was that our national side not being world-beaters was the criterion many in the media used to express bafflement why anyone in Australia cares about the world cup. i.e. that Australia ought to be the best in the world or we shouldn’t care.

        I watched every minute of every Socceroos game, and I was really happy with the performance against Netherlands and how we recovered against Chile. I’m not one who thinks the Socceroos are terrible – we’re just not world-beaters. And once Cahill retires, we are going to be left without a world-class attacking option. The game against Spain, for example, really showed the difference – we just couldn’t get a ball into the final third without the play breaking down horribly. Compare that with the two earlier games where the threat of Cahill gave Oar and Leckie attacking options and the room to cause havoc.

        1. Fair points, although I wouldn’t put so much emphasis on Cahill. Football is a team game – if having one superb player had that much influence, Wales and Portugal would be regulars in the semifinals.
          Conversely if you get a decent bunch together and have a lucky draw, anything is possible – see Costa Rica, Switzerland, and Algeria.

  23. My three kids all played soccer, and my university had successful teams. So I know something about the game. I think it is a very difficult sport to present well on TV in that things of importance are going on all over the field all the time.

    1. Running and swimming are really good examples of how TV is incapable of just how different these athletes are to ordinary people. Live, it is like watching human gazelles and human dolphins.

  24. Welcome to swimming. Americans care for swimming as much as they like winning, and only so. Phelps, to most Americans, is just a four year high for one week that goes away without any consideration to his extraordinary talent.

  25. Soccer is quite big around here (Santa Clara county, CA) but the US team is not the only team supported (I saw a car flying the Uruguay flag on Friday and I’m certain Mexico has a lot of local supporters). My guess is it is now the US and Costa Rican team who will be cheered on though Costa Rica has a big hurdle with the Netherlands next.

  26. Same thing here in Taiwan. Every four years the country goes soccer mad for the World Cup, even though we don’t have a team in it (I think we’re about 174th in the world),then promptly forgets it.

    OTOH, when Taiwanese player Chien-ming Wang was pitching for the Yankees, the sports channel showed every Yankee game three times a day, and repeated them all off-season. Now we gt the same with the Orioles,who have a Taiwanese pitcher- and off course the place went crazy during Linsanity; they still show every Rockets game as well (his father and mother are Taiwanese).

  27. Jerry, this is not meant as a slam or an insult, just an observation. I’ve long felt your TV news viewing is (dare I say it) a bit limited? If you want soccer scores, try watching the US broadcasts of BBC News. You can generally find these on local Public TV stations around the country on weekdays only. I think yours is WTTW-TV (haven’t checked this). They usually show some highlights as well.

    The Brits are not as smooth as NBC but you’ll (usually) get a lot more worldwide news. Plus, no commercials between stories. Just a suggestion, I know you’re a busy guy.

    1. Just to pipe up for another market, Al Jazeera shows (important) scores for all major sports in the world (NBA, MLB, NHL, NFL etc). So you could get your news and your sports on the same channel.

      I am not sure if watching Al Jazeera gets you on a watch list in the US or not…

  28. Sure, most Americans who are more interested than ever in the World Cup are, like me, largely intrigued by the possibility of the U.S. team going deep into the tournament and therefore qualifying as a “winner.” So? Almost every fan of a team in any sport gets their primary satisfaction from identifying with a winner, not from the supposed beauty of a game (and there’s a lot that’s beautiful about well-played baseball, basketball, and American football). I doubt that it’s any different anywhere else in the world. If England’s soccer team rarely made it to the World Cup knock-out round over the past 50 or 75 years, do you really think the sport would be as popular there as it is?

    1. Well, it would be, but that’s because the league there is huge so there are plenty of other teams besides the national team for people to get into.

      1. UK obsession with football is primarily based at club level. The national sides are followed avidly but require the temporary suspension of club based hostilities. This may also be down to the fact that the various leagues of football are all connected from the Premiership (top level) to the Mid-Sussex Football League Division 11 (level 24).(en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_football_league_system) Promotion and relegation (however unlikely for some sides) connects weekend warriors with their top level counterparts. Soccer in the UK is not reliant on a ‘successful’ national side.

  29. I don’t think, Jerry (if I may), you should apologise for using ‘American terminology’ and calling the game ‘soccer’. It was always called ‘soccer’ in my youth in England, and I suspect this insistence among the British now on calling it ‘football’is due largely to British chauvinism – to a desire to assert the primacy and superiority of British ‘football’ over American ‘football’, as well as to the satisfaction that derives from seeming to put Americans in their place and asserting that they are ignorant. I’d take no notice of those disingenuous pedants if I were you.

    1. And in fact soccer is a word that is labeled as British because it is constructed through rules of British slang.

    2. Sorry, but that’s nonsense. The British football league was started in 1888… As to chauvinism that’s hardly an exclusively British thing and when people talk about football it generally has nothing to do with ill feeling towards other nations.

      1. Sorry, it’s not nonsense at all. Soccer was commonly called ‘soccer’ as well as ‘football’ in my youth (in England – I am English), and this insistence on calling it ‘football’ is a recent phenomenon. ‘Soccer’ is a – very British – abbreviation of ‘Association Football’ and dates from the late 19th century, so that it is wrong to assert that it is an Americanism. As for ‘chauvinism’, I nowhere suggested that it was exclusively a British thing but was merely trying to make Jerry Coyne feel better about the American chauvinism he was criticising by saying that chauvinism – particularly where soccer is concerned – is not exclusively an American thing, and suggesting that he needn’t apologise for calling the sport ‘soccer’.

        1. I just dug through my files to find my great grandfather’s obituary titled, “Well Known Sport Figure Dies” with the purpose of disputing this claim (he died an his mid 80s in 1954 in Victoria, BC, and was from Scotland). My purpose was to dispute your claim, because I was certain they had referred to his “football” days. But upon re-reading it, they did indeed, 60 years ago, call it ‘soccer’.

          1. And very much less than 60 years ago, too, just as I am very much younger than your great grandfather had he lived until now.

        2. LOL – Well the only reference to soccer that I remember from my childhood was a table top game called “Subbuteo Soccer” (or something like that) presumably named for the elision… A truly dreadful game design that probably only sold because of the British obsession with football… errh soccer that is.

    3. My reading of the post is that JAC was not apologising at all, merely explaining his use of the terminology.

      In Britain, the game is almost universally referred to as “football”. Soccer is an acceptable alternative, but I think the “outrage” is more a reaction to the perceived chauvinism of Americans calling a different game “football”.

      There are many different games called football: American, Rugby (two kinds), Gaelic, Australian Rules, Association etc. In most of the World, the default kind is Association Football.

      1. Ah, the perceived chauvinism of the Americans… One can’t win, can one? It’s all in the eye of the beholder, and one can’t quarrel with that.

  30. While everyone will enjoy these sorts of things their own way, the vast majority of people, the world over, care only about their own team.

    This is true in soccer mad Brazil as much as anywhere else. The average Brazilian doesn’t care about Greece x Costa Rica, will predict Brazil to win regardless of the state of the team and couldn’t tell the difference between a 4-4-2 and a 4-3-3

    Yes the news will generally show the result of other games, but often as a side note unless it’s the sports news. The stadium for today’s 2nd match was full of empty seats and the news is full of features about stuff besides the games themselves – hottest women (typical latin “news”), TV bloopers of the Cup and so on.

    I don’t disagree with you about anything except this notion that somehow the focus on the home team is different than anywhere else.

    Maybe it’s different in nations that don’t qualify often, but in Brazil, and I imagine other traditional soccer powers, the focus is on the home team and the US should be no different just because they’re a 2nd round team that sometimes goes to quarters, sometimes gets knocked out in the group.

    1. I watch World Cup games, of course I cheer for Canada (last made it in 1986!) then England, then Germany…

      Someday I hope to not have to go through all my teams.

      1. I visited my uncle and his family in Canada in 1986. As a Brazilian kid (9 years old) I was immersed in the World Cup and our visit came a few weeks after. I asked my parents if it would be a good idea for me to reassure my cousins and family in Canada that it was ok they had lost their games, they might do better next time.

        Turns out I was the only one so strongly affected by it among us.

        1. If it had been hockey, it would have been different. Canadians take pride in our 1972 defeat of Russia. 🙂

      2. Canada is so bad at the World Cup. We need to find an ex-Canadian model for one of the team members to marry & move to Canada for 😉

  31. and there are no annoying commercial breaks except at halftime.

    I had been told that the rules of the US-ian “football” (the one with ends and downs and things like that) had actually been tweaked to allow for many more advertising breaks than previously. Though I’m wondering if that was for radio advertising or for TV advertising.
    On viewing habits : I hardly ever watch anything other than BBC news ‘live’ ; everything else is done through a PVR, with a fast-forward button for the adverts. It’s not as if there is anything useful or interesting in adverts anyway.

  32. Hi Jerry,

    if you speak German and you’re streaming the games, you could try schoener-fernsehen.com.

    Further down the list there also are a few channels from the UK; maybe they also have the Cup on those.

  33. Jerry: You live in a city with one of the best hockey teams in the NHL right now, do yourself a favor & go see the Black Hawks play!

    Also, the “World” in World Series refers to the original sponsor of the baseball championship, the “New York WORLD” newspaper. Used to aggravate me too until I found out the true origin….still think they should rename it though, the “Ruth Cup, Mantle Bowl, Cobb Trophy, Aaron Award …. “!!!

      1. Where the game matters it’s HOCKEY, in other outposts it may be “ice” hockey. Just as I refer to “field hockey” because it’s not a local sport of choice here where I am. (Ducks just drafted a great kid at #10 btw, will gel well with Getzlaf, Perry & crew!)

  34. Love it…and as part of your continuing education in the game, they are just ‘penalties’ not penalty ‘kicks’. And did you read the mad Ann Coulter on the game? Musta run out of ideas that day. from an Englishman based in Australia currently in London, watching as many games as possible!

    1. It seems to be fixed now, but the timestamp said “Haziran” and things like the reply buttons were in Turkish.

  35. I actually wish the US would stay the hell out of football (meaning soccer). The sport is neither respected nor appreciated but mostly ridiculed by their general public. The only reason FIFA is promoting it there is their endless greed of money. Which is ruining the sport already.

    As it is, football/soccer is the number one sport everywhere on the planet except in India and the USA. I don’t see need to promote it in India, so why then USA?

    But nevermind India, the US is a threat to the sport. The day USA really starts to put time, money and effort in “soccer”, that’s the day the beautiful game will start to die.

    The US is a huge country with lots of resources. If they so wish, they will ultimately find a way to become very successful, in their own particular way. Which means very physical, steroidic, even violent game. Less beauty and sportsmanship. No time for the skillful, artistic little guys, since the American spectators prefer muscular hulks, big powerhouses, the strong 7 foot giants which luckily are relegated to target players everywhere else.

    And pretty soon the US networks start demanding TV commercials every 3 minutes of play. Pouring more commercial money in, they will start pressuring FIFA for rule changes. Larger goals or less players in order to see more goals. The intelligent offside rule will be deemed too obscure, so they will probably demand a simple hockey-like offside line. Perhaps even the tackling rules will develop towards favoring the physical strength of the big American athletes at the cost of the resilient, skillful smaller geniuses like Messi. And then there will be pads, guards, protectors, all kinds of different technical gear making the game too expensive for the poor kids in Brazilian favelas or Ghanan villages to emulate.

    It is the basic trait of American culture that the USA never wants to be a part of something, it wants to lead it. It wants to make it its own. And I sincerely hope football could avoid being americanized.

    If the USA really becomes a world power in soccer, the game will lose its unique sense of internationality, varities of different cultures, equality of different social backgrounds. If you want to meet people from dozens of different countries and immediately find some common ground with them, go to the local football field. Every nation not successful in football wishes to be so, in order to join the cultural world community in this particular way. European kids know the top African, Asian and South American players, and they know those of ours. Could anyone really imagine an American kid ever learning the name of any sports figure playing outside the US?

    So, football, please stop wooing the USA. They don’t love you, so take a hint. Stop calling yourself soccer and settle for the love of the rest of the planet.

    1. The 7-foot steroid giants have no chance of ever dominating the game – they will be too exhausted to move by the 30th minute at most.

      That only works in basketball because of all the breaks every few minutes (and none of them can last the full 48 minutes anyway, with rare exceptions), and in american football because most of the game is spent just standing around not doing anything, with short bursts of a few seconds of action here and there.

      But the overall point about US culture posing a threat to the game is correct, although FIFA and UEFA have already done a lot to move things in that direction anyway

      1. That’s why commercial breaks would ruin the sport. And there would be such breaks, if the huge sports networks were to have their way.

    2. “Could anyone really imagine an American kid ever learning the name of any sports figure playing outside the US?”

      Yes, I can imagine it. But I don’t need to. It is a reality and always has been. I think your hatred for the US is inspiring you to go overboard.

      I do think your concerns regarding professional soccer are valid though. But I think your focus on the US is off base. To one degree or another the trends you fear will occur in soccer whether the US becomes a major influence or not. Look at other world class sports from cycling to your various Olympic and other World Cup sports. All the trends you fear can be seen from many other countries, even in sports that the US has no significant presence in. It has been that way for decades at least.

      1. Yeah, talk critically about some aspects of American culture, based on my own experience, and it’s “hating America” again. Why is this? I can bash complacent Frenchmen, rude Germans or conceited Swedes all I want, and nobody says I harbour “hatred” for those nations. (And if I praise NASA, I’m blindly promoting American exceptionalism. Fine, whatever.)

        Well, I actually have never encountered an American who is at all interested in foreign sports. But I frequently see American people & media ridiculing soccer or any other sport their general public has little interest in. Yes, there are Americans who are interested in certain details of certain foreign cultures (such as French films etc.), but they tend to dislike all sports in general.

        But if you say otherwise, I trust your deeper knowledge in this.

        The op was, however, about soccer and the Americans. Not the French or Swedes. Hence my emphasis on the US.

        True to its global nature and simple rules (the offside rule excepted), soccer has resisted introducing too much tech and radical rule changes. But I remember how the minute the 1994 World Cup was decided to be held in the US, they started talking about changing some elementary rules to indulge the viewing habits of the American spectators. No one else. And in no way, absolutely no way, would anyone ever, except the American networks, try to introduce commercial breaks to the 45-minute halftime.

    3. And as far as the US imperialism and unconcern for world sports, I think that’s mostly because we have such a huge sporting culture in the US. A kid into sports can choose between American football, basketball, hockey, and baseball, and each one of those has Majors, Minors, and College levels that you could learn about. All of which have players from other countries involved with them. Its just hard to get involved with other country’s sports when we have such an overwhelming number of them already here, that all your friends and neighbors are going to get into too.

      It should be no surprise that America doesn’t follow cricket or football abroad… there just aren’t enough hours in the day for it, and our sporting niche is already over filled already. It doesn’t mean we’re arrogant imperialists for liking our own sports better.

      1. You are correct. It is understandable that the US sport fans have little time for soccer. I accept that.

        But so should FIFA. I really dislike the fact that they are going out of their way to spread & market soccer in the reluctant USA. This energy would be better used building sport fields for African kids. It’s like imposing yourself on a person who keeps rejecting you. It’s embarrassing.

        1. I largely agree with Coldthinker, but would point to the way rugby football (otherwise known as ‘rugger’to the distress of some)and which I used to play, oh, hundreds of years ago, has been spoiled quite without American assistance. Despite remaining a fervent supporter of Wales, I never watch the game nowadays, and if I were given a choice I should much prefer to watch (with apologies to the pedants) soccer.

          1. I should add that every boy’s, and more than boys’, heroes in Wales in the days of my youth were Barry John (fly half) and Gareth Edwards (scrum half). To see those two working well together was to see something that genuinely was, at times, beautiful, and nothing like the ceaseless battering away that characterises rugby nowadays.

  36. “manufacture of cast iron skillets” – I take it that was competitive skillet making?! No other type is acceptable!

  37. Not surprised by Fox News’ take on the World Cup Football (Soccer)

    Caught on a snippet of Fox News today…
    1. “Growing interest in soccer is a sign of the nation’s moral decay.” –Ann Coulter, right-wing writer, blogger and “analyst” (to be kind)
    2. From a pshrink also on Fox, paraphrased, “The focus on the World Cup is just another way of deflecting the nation away from its problems. Just another example of ‘bread and circuses.'”
    Funny-strange on that last, since the World Cup only comes up every four years and its dates are well-known in advance. I guess the guy is accusing FIFA of being able to predict like twelve or so years into the future, that at a given time we (the U.S., but not the rest of the world) would be encountering political issues and thus choose a particular month’s span to schedule the Cup. That is, that FIFA would be coordinating with whichever Democratic administration would be in office at the time.
    Funny, but I don’t remember these thoughts being broached on Fox in 2002 (run-up to Iraq invasion) and 2006 during the George W. Bush administration or–heaven forfend!–twice during Ronald Reagan’s years as president…

  38. I’m going to disagree somewhat. In any sporting tournament, you’ll have fans that are only interested in watching their own team, and not the other games. That’s the only way you can really watch the NCAA basketball tournament, with the sheer number of games going on. I’ll watch my university’s team play, and maybe some of the other ones from my state, but I don’t really care about the teams that are playing from halfway across the country that will just be eliminated later by Florida, Uconn or Kansas. And I don’t really watch it after my team loses either.

    Maybe you think that makes me less of a fan, which could be fair. But its my time, and I think a lot of people only have so much time to watch TV in a given week, so it makes sense to focus in on the team you care about.

  39. Wow! Lots of comments, everybody has an opinion on sports. IMO the sport you like is likely to be the sport you grew up with, in my case baseball. I understand baseball in a way that only comes from actually having played it, and that makes it interesting to watch (for me). Granted that baseball games on TV are too long with too much time taken by batters and pitchers adjusting their equipment, but baseball is about the spectacle and experience of a ballpark, drinking a beer, and eating a hot dog. From that perspective the time wasted between pitches is not so important.

    I also like American football, though I find that I’m increasingly turned off by its veneration of extreme violence and big business greed.

    I’ve attempted to watch soccer a few times on TV but it has always seemed boring to me. Guys running up and down the field endlessly with few goals scored. Players not being able to use their hands and arms seems very unnatural to me. But I never played soccer as a kid so there you go…

  40. Forgive me, but you sound as if you’ve never heard of Major League Soccer (I hope I’m wrong about that). There’s even a team in (or at least for) Chicago. It isn’t as big a league as, say the Premier League or La Liga or the Bundesliga or Serie A, but still, it’s our, it’s been around since 1996, and it is growing rapidly and doing quite well. Sure, World Cup fever is only every 4 years, but you could say the same thing about, say, Curling fever or competitive swimming fever. Surely some of the every-four-years fans this year will stick around in between now and 2018. And if they don’t? Their loss.

    1. According to the MLS on TV page on Wikipedia the MLS Cup television ratings went from 1.4 in 1996 to 0.5 in 2013. How is that “growing”? Now, granted, in 1996 it was on ABC and now it is on ESPN but that still doesn’t seem like growing viewership. And the regular season ratings are pretty abysmal. The lowest rating for a World Series game in 2013 was a 7.4 (on Fox).

      The MLS has it’s rabid funs but I just don’t see the evidence that it is growing as a spectator sport.

  41. I’m a brazilian and during the brazil’s world cup matches, I can say safely that we stop during whatever we’re doing to watch it. Usually, everyone is release early from work to watch the match. During the match time, the streets are empty. Almost everyone is watching the game.
    And the match time does not matter. In 2002 Corea and Japan World Cup, Brazil and Inglaterra match started around 3 am in the morning here. And we all vibrate loud when Brazil scored.

    Although Brazil win against Chile, I’m not liking how Brazil’s team is playing. We have a big problem, which is the position of the players around the middlefield. Middlefield is the core in football. We are in the playoffs already and Brazil’s team tatics did not convinced me yet.

  42. One of the things I like a lot about soccer is tatical analysis.
    It’s very interesting to pay attention in the team’s tatics when they’re playing. I would say this is the intelectual part of soccer

  43. Interesting point there, Jerry.

    In England, I know a lot of people who, given the low expectations of their inexperienced team (unusually so, given the unmerited hyperbole normally surrounding England at major tournaments) were almost (*almost*!) glad when England went out early, as they could then enjoy the tournament as a spectacle, rather than working themselves up unnecessarily about England’s chances.

  44. In Canada, we’re fortunate that the CBC has live coverage of the World Cup in English every day.

    As for basketball, if you attend the first round of March Madness live games, you really get a sense of the excitement and urgency of basketball. The enthusiasm of the kids is infectious.

  45. I agree with Dr. Droid. If one grew up with baseball and understands its nuances (how the count on a batter affects the selection of the next pitch, why making the second out of an inning trying to get to third base is okay but not the first or third, etc.) then watching a baseball game is much more interesting than would otherwise be the case. I’m sure the same thing is true of soccer, which means that Americans may come to enjoy watching the sport more and more as they come to learn more about it. . .even if mainly because they expect the national team to win more and more.

  46. On these days of World Cup, I wanted to know why Brazilian people look like they care so much about Brazil’s team perfomance in World Cup.
    Talking to some brazilians, it became clear that some of them are really giving a damm about Brazil’s perfomance in world cup. What this people want is the interruptions: to be released from work or school, and to have another time to drink.

  47. I think that’s part of the American mindsight. They’ll cheer on anything that they can win (see the Olympics) and ignore the rest.

    Here in Canada, all of the games are televised on CBC (the public broadcaster), and repeated later in the evening. The coverage is quite impressive – and since we aren’t involved very non-partisan. I think Americans are very inward looking, whereas Canadians are outward looking. We probably know more about what is going on in the U.S. than Americans do.

  48. Don’t get me wrong, I love soccer, but my friend told me something that changed how I think of soccer, he said that he doesnt like watching people run around the field for like an hour and not score a goal.

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