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Soccer: America Just Doesn't Get It

Aug 18, 2007
There is a question that every mother finds herself asking her child at some point in their lives. "If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?" The answer of course is "no" but the question serves to illustrate our potential as human beings for enacting popular behavior. If you ask a citizen of the United States, "If everyone in the world watched a certain sport, would you?" The answer, if the sport were soccer, would be "no". Popular or not, Americans simply don't get soccer.

Low scores

One of the major complaints Americans have about professional soccer, or football as it's known in the rest of the world, is that it is so low-scoring. It is not uncommon for a game to go through an entire course of play and end up with a score of 2 to 1. To the American mindset, fed by basketball, football and even hockey a score of 2 to 1 means nothing happened for an hour. The reason for the low scores is the slow play, another minus to the American productivity mindset. Passing the ball back and forth from the wing to the fullback seems less like strategy and more like repetition. The final scoring issue for Americans offends the national sense of capitalism and achievement -- ending in a tie. American professional sports go to great lengths to find ways to break ties and ensure at the end of the game, someone will win. Ending in a tie is simply un-American.

Unknown names

While soccer enjoys the largest worldwide audience of any international sport, the stars and players of this amazing game are relatively unknown in America. Part of the reason Americans have a hard time investing in soccer, is the international specter of the game. Athletes with unpronounceable foreign names are hard to talk about in sound bites and at the water cooler. While a few foreign players have made it in the American sports they are generally the exception and not the rule, and you'll find the American media has given them nicknames to help the country manage the challenge of different languages. The national tendency towards isolationism works against Americans ever becoming a part of the global soccer movement.

No history

While there are some fans, largely people who played soccer in college, within the United States the country as a whole has no real history with the sport or its concepts. While some may argue that human beings have been kicking the ball as a form of sport since time began, soccer's progress as an organized game has simply not permeated American history or consciousness. Americans grow up with baseball, spend every fall watching football -- the kind played with the oval brown ball -- and have developed a burgeoning interest in basketball. All three sports play to America's strengths as an individualistic, capitalistic society. Entering into any professional sport as a fan requires a certain amount of desire an effort to learn players, rules, and standards. For soccer to become a part of the American mindset would require too much effort for too little gain.

The good news for professional soccer is it doesn't need America. Soccer is statistically unchallenged in its dominance over the rest of the world. With a viewing audience twice the size of the Olympics, soccer will continue to forge ahead without the help of that big country in the west.
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