A Defense of Indifference to Soccer

I enjoy soccer live, though I admit I follow it only intermittently. But the burning question is: why don’t Americans like soccer? [who gives a f*ck? — ed.] A Brit named Duleep Allirajah does, you dyspeptic twit.

Here is Allirajah’s spirited attack on football-ignoring Americans (thesis), and his spirited defense of same (antithesis):

It is an undisputed fact that most Americans don’t really like football. This failure to ‘get’ football is often interpreted by Brits as a sign of American insularity and philistinism. Exhibit A, m’lud, is that the Yanks don’t like draws. They want to see a winner. They want shoot-outs to settle games. Exhibit B is that Americans don’t like low-scoring games. The only thing that Americans hate more than 0-0 draws is Osama bin Laden. So short is the average American’s concentration span that, unless there’s a goal every two minutes, they’re trotting off to the catering stall to buy another chilli dog. Exhibit C is the fact that they insist on calling it ‘soccer’. M’lud, I rest my case.

If we look beyond this kind of crude anti-Americanism we find a rich and sophisticated sporting culture in the US. American sports fans are every bit as knowledgeable and passionate about the sports they follow as European or Latin American football fans….

This week … a ‘personal invitation’ from Alan Hansen appeared in my email inbox to subscribe to the Daily Telegraph’s fantasy football league. These leagues, which have turned a generation of British football enthusiasts into stats-obsessed nerds, were originally invented by US baseball fans. Americans are also ahead of the curve when it comes to writing about sport. Long before Nick Hornby penned Fever Pitch, American writers such as Philip Roth, Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer and Don DeLillo showed that serious writers could ‘do’ sport. Americans also make far better sports films than the Brits. They can produce works of cinematic splendour like Raging Bull while we just make rubbish like When Saturday Comes.

For the synthesis, go read the whole thing. You will, in fact, be rewarded by Hegelian sentences such as "The fact is that a football culture cannot be mechanistically transplanted or imposed on to other societies; it has to develop organically."

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4 thoughts on “A Defense of Indifference to Soccer

  1. All over the world, it’s called “football” (even in weird spelling, such as futebol in Portuguese). It makes sense, because it’s about kicking a ball with your feet. American Football is not played with a ball, and the thing is only rarely kicked with the feet.

  2. American football is rooted in rugby rather than international futbol. In earlier times kicking was a much more integral part of american futbol, with kicks used to advance the ball down the field and put the opposing side in a poor position.

    In many ways the american version of football is more of a coaches game than the international version is. The interval between plays and limitless substitutions and resubstitutions allow coaches to react to the specific circumstances of the game with preplanned strategems. It is therefore a more strategic game than rugby is.

    The difference between American baseball and it’s nearest European counterpart (cricket) are also partly strategic. In one sense cricket is more strategis, with the cricket captain allowed to vary bowlers at will. The baseball manager can have only one pitcher at a time, and if he substitutes for the pitcher he cannot bring him back.

    On the batting side the difference is that baseball batters get 4 or 5 opportunities to bat per game – a cricket batter gets only one or two opportunities depending on what kind of match it is. Batters can be substituted in baseball but almost never in cricket – I believe this occurs only in cases of injury, if then.

    One rarely sees a great player in US football dominate the way that a George Best did in the Premiership.

  3. The more goals the more boring the game.

    Let me explain. To make the match interesting the outcome must be open. As long as the opportunities to score a limited chance will play an important role. The more opportunities to score, however, the more the game will be ruled by statistics. And the more likely it becomes that the team that is better *on average* will will any *particular* game.

    Consequence: You only need to study the statistics of the teams to predict the outcome. There is no need to actually go and watch the game. Stay at home, have sex with your girlfriend, a highly enjoyable kind of sports where a draw is the most desirable outcome.

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