Why Don't Americans Like Soccer?

Why Don't Americans Like Soccer?

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

Now that the World Cup soccer championship is underway, I'm starting to realize which of my friends like soccer, and which of them are change-hating xenophobes who automatically mistrust anything invented outside the United States.

Not that I'm bitter or anything.

The World Cup is a magical time for us soccer players, both current and former. I played soccer for 14 years, but I haven't played for nearly 17, but I still love watching "The Beautiful Game."

No other team sport has athletes who play with the speed and the grace of soccer players. When you see a top-notch player launch himself into the air, without regard for his own safety, connect with a ball traveling through the air at 50 miles an hour, and rocket it into the back of the net, you know you've just seen one of the most impressive athletic feats in all of sports. And there are only a few people in all the world who can do it with any regularity.

Anybody can throw an orange ball through a hoop. Anybody can tackle someone carrying an odd-shaped ball. But not everyone can do what professional soccer players do.

I'll admit it takes amazing skills to be a professional basketball or football player; I'm not discounting what they do. But I'm tired of the grumbling by soccer haters who watch a game with their arms folded, muttering that nothing's happening, and rolling their eyes any time there's a shot on goal that doesn't hit the mark. But when a team does score a goal, the soccer hater will throw his hands in the air, and half-shout "finally," as if the 22 players finally figured out the point of the game.

"Why do they call it 'football?'" the haters grumble, forgetting that the game is played with one's feet.

We call it soccer here in the United States, as does Canada, Australia, and South Africa. The rest of the world calls it "football."

When the game was first organized in the late 1890s, it was called "association football" both here and in Europe. However, around the turn of the century, America had a new game they called football. So they took the "soc" out of association, and called the old game by the nickname "soccer."

"But they don't DO anything?" whine the soccer-haters. "A game can end up with a 1-0 score, or even a 0-0 tie! That's not exciting!" Then they turn on professional wrasslin', hoping to see some feller get a can of whup-ass opened up on him, lemme tell you whut.

We've been spoiled in this country. We're the microwave society — we want things fast and hot. Our games are fast, and the scores are dramatically, almost artificially high. We watch sports like we've got a cheat code, and we're using it to create meteoric scores.

In football, a single touchdown is worth six points, a field goal is worth three.

In basketball, a basket can get you two, or even three points.

And in tennis, your first two points are worth 15 each, and your last one is worth 10. Talk about crazy scoring. Why can't you just get 4 points to win a round? Or 10 points for each scored point? Why 15, 15, and 10?

This seems to be lost on the soccer haters. Instead, they think that since a bunch of foreigners like the game, it must be stupid.

During the first day of the World Cup, I was sitting in a restaurant watching the game, and some muscle head and his girlfriend came in for lunch, and to play video golf.

"I don't see why it's even on. Nobody likes soccer," the guy whined to his girlfriend.

"Actually, I like it," I said to the guy. "So does the rest of the world."

"Just because 10 percent of this country watches soccer doesn't mean everyone likes it."

"I know. That's what 10 percent means," I said. "But the World Cup has more viewers than any other sport in the world. In 2006, there were 1 billion viewers of the World Cup final, but there were 106 million people around the world who watched this year's Super Bowl."

The guy stared uncertainly for a second. Never argue soccer with a guy who's got his laptop and a wifi connection.

"Yeah, well, that still doesn't mean it's popular."

"Actually, that's exactly what it means," I said.

The doofus turned back to his girlfriend, who was looking at him like he was some kind of idiot. "What? I just don't like soccer." Then he returned to his video golf game, not realizing he was playing a video game of a sport played by 16 million — that's 6.7% — people in this country, compared to 18 million soccer players.

Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Photo credit: CatMurray (Flickr)
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  1. The average player in the NBA is a better athlete than the vast majority of soccer players, i.e. faster, stronger, more agile, etc. It's not even really close. Regardless, the top athletes in the NFL (not talking about the 350+ pounders or kickers) almost always dominate the inner-sport competitions involving athletes from football, basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey, etc.

    I've tried to watch soccer and, aside from the highlights you see on TV, there isn't a whole lot else going on in the game to keep my interest. It isn't just about the lack of scoring but the lack of much meaningful competition at all.

    Here's a link to a good article from a former player who also thinks it's a good sport to play but boring to watch. He effectively counters most of your points...


  2. I really don't understand these soccer wars. It's one thing to not be interested in watching a sport, but it's another to hate it so passionately like so many Americans do.

    Personally, as a viewer, I find basketball and american football boring. So all my friends are surprised when they find out how much I love watching soccer. I love the simplicity of it. I like how 90 minutes is 90 minutes and that the clock doesn't stop. The rules are pretty easy, get the ball in the goal, don't use your hands, and don't beat up other players (and then there's the offsides rule, but compared to american football's rules, I find offsides easier to understand). I like that there's a limited number of fouls; if a player doesn't play by the rules, they don't get to play for the rest of the game. The players on the field stay on the field, there's no switching players between offense and defense. And like you mentioned, a goal is 1 point. That's it.

    I find the game itself to be engaging too. I'm always on the edge of my seat while watching, because a goal could happen at any moment. And when a goal is made, it's a big deal. Making a goal is an accomplishment, those players have to work hard for that one point.

    I think soccer is team sport and competition in a raw form. The game itself is simple, which makes it so intriguing to watch.

    And that's my essay on why I love soccer. Do I get an A?

  3. Basketball is simple, too. :-)

    One could argue that since a goal in soccer is only worth one point that it's not "progressive". Wouldn't that make soccer a "conservative" sport and football a "liberal" one? ;-D

  4. The poster who said that the best athletes in America play other sports if exactly right, but that strengthens Erik's point. Couldn't you see Lebron James as a goalie? How about Adrian Peterson streaking down the pitch, beating a defender to a ball for the winning goal? I think it is undeniable that if soccer were as important in this country as it is in others, that we would be a major power rather than a perennial bottom feeder.

  5. Anybody can throw an orange ball through a hoop? Come on. 4YOs kick soccer balls into nets every weekend across the country. All sports are great and at the professional level, the participants are all amazing athletes.

    The challenge with soccer is that it's not well-suited for TV. The majority of sports that Americans prefer (basketball, baseball, football and supposedly hockey) are.

  6. As far as the "former player" who wrote the Huffington Post article goes, 9 years of children's soccer does not a "former player" make.

    Soccer is athleticism in its purest form. Nothing but running and jumping for 90 minutes, with one 15 minute break. When you consider that the average midfielder sprints 4 miles in 90 minutes, I haven't found another sport that takes so much energy and effort to play it.

    Chuck, I think soccer is equally suited for television. The thing it's not "suited" for is advertising. Advertisers and sports producers hate soccer, because they can't interrupt it with commercials. They have to be satisfied with logo placement on the screen, sponsorship announcements, and logo placement on the billboards surrounding the field.

    But as someone who watches a lot of sports, I can tell you that soccer is great viewing, because the game is not interrupted by constant commercials. (I was at a Colts game once where we had to take a break in the game for a TV timeout. They had to stop the game so the TV station could squeeze in one more set of commercials.)

  7. Soccer is boring argument is so old.

    The reason most people hate soccer is because they are taught to be prejudiced against it. Every 4 years, all the sports writers who cover mainstream sports tell everyone that it is boring. They call themselves sports fans, yet they have not really taken the time to learn and understand the sport they are covering.

    There was a book written that answers the question. It is the simple, it was not invented here therefore it is boring.

    When the Super Bowl is played, the winner is called the World Champions. Yet, they only play teams from the United States.

    The athlete argument is a dumb one. Soccer players are athletic. They have to be - grace of dancer, speed of a sprinter, stamina of a long distance runner, strength of a wrestler. They are well rounded athletes.

    Even Kobe Bryant respects the athleticism of soccer players and vice versa. Real athletes respect each other. Fans are the idiots making arguments.

    Sorry..soccer is growing in this country. It is time for the US to try to win the most truly global sport in the world. If you want to piss the rest of the world off, support the US National Soccer team to a final. That will piss everybody in the rest of the world off.


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