World Cup

As I am hardly the first to observe, Americans are finally catching on, this World Cup season, to soccer. It's not only that the TV ratings are soaring -- it's that they (i.e., we) are finally developing the kind of passion for the game that everyone else in the world seems to have by genetic endowment . The fact that so many people are pissed off about the national team's miserable performance last Monday against the Czechs is, perhaps paradoxically, a sign of this; we played miserably in 1990 and 1998, too, but not only did few people in the country care, few even really understood how badly we had played, because few people really understood the difference between good play and bad play. [It's why US coverage always focused almost exclusively on stories about soccer hooligans and soccer riots -- sports reporters and correspondents never knew enough about the game itself to say anything intelligent about it. Listen to Brent Musberger on the ESPN pre-game show to hear what I mean; he hasn't the faintest idea what's going on on the field, and nothing to say about the games].

I watched Monday's in a filled-to-the-gills bar in Washington DC, and, having just come back from four months in Italy where I watched a lot of soccer and where, obviously, I was among some of the world's greatest and most knowledgeable soccer fans, I can tell you that we're finally becoming real soccer fans. Which means we will despair -- like the Ukrainians are now despairing, and the Poles, and the Costa Ricans, and the Swedes -- when our teams fail us.

And if you're looking for reasons that the World Cup is something special -- unique -- in the world, watch Costa Rica v. Poland next Tuesday. Both teams have lost their first two matches, and neither can progress into the tournament's second round; after Tuesday's game, they go home. It would seem to have the makings of a really lousy match -- Kansas City Royals v. Tampa Bay on a hot late-August afternoon: nothing to play for, nothing at stake. Worse, even; soccer is a game of will, of charging down the field over and over and over again even though the chances that any one charge produces a goal is cruelly small; where are the players going to find drive and desire for 90 minutes of intense effort with "nothing at stake"?

In fact, of course, there's lots at stake - that's what makes this the World Cup, and why I can virtually guarantee you that it will be a terrific match, full of passion and intensity, the stadium filled with supporters, each teams' last chance to show its fans and the world that it deserved to be here, that it's worthy of all the high hopes that had been bestowed on them. Go Ticos!

Ben Barros (mail):
I dunno. I was in a foul mood on Monday, but not many people in Harrisburg, PA, seemed to care. I watched the game at a sports bar, and almost no one was paying attention to the game. As usual, I think the Onion has it right.
6.15.2006 2:44pm
Abdul (mail):
The day America cares about the World Cup is the same day we pay 3 Euro for a liter of warm beer.
6.15.2006 3:00pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Granted that NYC is hardly representative, but I just got back from watching England (unconvincingly) beat T&T at a Times Sq. bar that was full of people of all colors and nationalities oooh-ing and aaah-ing at every missed chance.

It seems that in the city, it's hard to find a sports bar that isn't showing soccer right now. But more interestingly, I was for a wedding in Greenwich, CT on Sunday, and observed the same phenomenon. Everyone was watching soccer. One waitress was very passionate about it and somewhat knowledgeable - her two sons play college ball.
6.15.2006 3:13pm
AK (mail):
Northeast cosmopolitan elite types in New York and Greenwich (Greenwich! Why not mention Shaker Heights and Grosse Point, while you're at it?) look around, see other northeast cosmopolitan elite types enjoying soccer; announce national trend.

Spare me. No Americans will ever give a fig about the most awful sport.
6.15.2006 3:19pm
Stupid American:
Oh, you mean that one where eight fat guys stand around scratching themselves while one other fat guy trys to throw a tiny ball past yet another fat guy once every 15-20 seconds or so? That one? Where "players" occasionally (gasp!) have to run a whole 90 feet? Or maybe 180 feet, if they're really lucky? That one?
6.15.2006 3:22pm
I slipped out of work here in NYC at 12:05 Monday, only to find that the bar nearest my office was so crowded that I couldn't get in. I really never expected that for a USA soccer match.

What we might be seeing, though, is regional variation in viewership. Places like NYC and DC likely have a lot more people interested in the World Cup than places like Harrisburg, PA.

The one thing that has disappointed me is the lackluster performances by the teams casual fans want to watch. England has played badly. USA played their worst game in who-knows-how-long. Even Brazil played like crap. The teams that have played well so far - Spain, Czech Republic, Argentina - aren't the teams that capture the more casual fans' attention.
6.15.2006 3:24pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Re: AK.... Please don't feed the troll.
6.15.2006 3:25pm
o' connuh j.:
Not enjoying football - oops, soccer - is the worst kind of unilateralism. Pls get with the world.
6.15.2006 3:27pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
A.S., now we just wait for the casual fan to watch Italy sit on their back for 90 minutes, occasionally springing to a 2 man counter-attack, and whining about every bump and foul.
6.15.2006 3:27pm
Eh Nonymous (mail) (www):
Abdul: I don't know about that, but we certainly overpay for a pint (or 16 fl. oz.) of watery horse-piss, all too many of us.

The Australians, among many others, laugh at us for that.

Meanwhile, those of us in major cities are seeing an explosion of awareness, at all levels and in all quarters. From the guys behind the counter at the local pizza place, to the wide-screen t.v. area at the buffet and sandwich shop, to the bar area at McCormick &Schmick's, everyone's avidly watching the games.
6.15.2006 3:28pm
Sammimo (mail):
Oh, you mean that one where eight fat guys . . . . That one?
Sure. That one. What's your point?
6.15.2006 3:28pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Soccer may be a great sport and all, but the whole Yellow Card thing is so gay. I watch alot of baseball, and I haven't seen too many fat guys actually playing the game, especially the pitchers. I admit the coaches,fans, and umpires tend to be on the portly side. I've given almost every sport a fair shot, including curling,team handball,cricket, and squash rackets,and I've gone to some german soccer games in person, but it still leaves me cold.
6.15.2006 3:32pm
Hube (mail) (www):
David: I wonder just how many people know what "Ticos" are! :-)
6.15.2006 3:46pm
AK (mail):
There is a direct relationship between the amount you care about soccer and the number of times you have posted on the Daily Kos. If I hated America and wanted Karl Rove dead, I'd probably like soccer, too, but that's not in the cards.

Soccer is a great game for uncoordinated kids to play because no one else out there appears to be doing it right, either. It's impossible to be humiliated while you're playing. You can't strike out, get sacked, or shoot an air ball. You can't even fight, like in hockey.

Soccer is the ideal sport for countries that don't have any other source of national pride remaining. England doesn't rule the world anymore, so they have to get worked up about soccer. Germany lost its will to fight, so they have to get worked up about soccer. And all those Latin countries are absolutely indistinguishable, so they have to set themselves apart with soccer victories. Here in America, we have a lot to be proud of, and our Army can totally pwn the rest of the world. Let the Euro-weenies, banana republic denizens, Islamizoids, liberals, and Screw-You Libertarians have their soccer. I'll pass.
6.15.2006 3:46pm
Abdul (mail):
"those of us in major cities are seeing an explosion of awareness"

Is this like a riot of acknowledgment? An outburst of passing interest?

Let's face it, Roethlisberger getting out of the hospital registered higher on our national radar then the World Cup. More Americans can name Barbaro's veterniarian than our World Cup striker, or stroker, or whatever it is they're called. And we only took interest in the Tour De France because a lanky Texan humiliated the French.

That may be the whole key to making metric football popular--work some national embarassment for France into it.
6.15.2006 3:48pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
I believe you'll find a direct correlation between the mass popularity of football/soccer in the US and the advent of sports-only cable channels.

Terrestrial TV never could get its mind (and format) around a game that's played in two, uninterrupted, 45-minute periods, and that those 45-minutes could be stretched a bit due to injury time.

How can you put commercials in every 7.3 minutes? You can't. Ergo, the game must suck. And the networks are sure as hell not going to give any more than "highlights" coverage.

But it's a pleasure to hear the final rales of the "not invented here; can't be good" crowd. They're already in the minority and that minority is shrinking fast.

There's nothing bizarre in the rules or play of soccer. Different elements are found in American football and even ice hockey. The lack of times-out is different, but that's a feature, not a bug.

The World Cup is, excepting the Olympics, the only global athletic event in the world. Most of the world stops for it. Even some Americans have agreed as the US has long had an international team (that's consistently performed below par).
6.15.2006 3:54pm
RK (mail):
"Awareness" of soccer has been "exploding" since I played AYSO in 2nd grade. The great thing about it is that it can only explode once every four years -- do any of you serious soccer fans watch MLS? No, you watch Arsenal or Real Madrid (or Bayern-Muenchen if you're cool) because that's where all the high-profile players go between cups.

I do love the "soccer football is a superior game" arguments, though. Those have about as much substance (and logic) as star trek v. star wars. Who cares what sports everyone else is watching if you enjoy one or another?
6.15.2006 4:02pm
gab (mail):
My daughter is home now, out of school for the summer, and she calls me here at work to ask if I saw England's goal off a fabulous cross by Beckham. She's been playing all her life, well, 10 years of it, but she's knowledgeable and into it, as are many of today's kids.

And when we go to State Cup, it's not unusual to see 50-60 teams of her age group (U-14) there - all girls. Clearly, soccer is the biggest sport for kids in the US today, and also as clearly, many of them will carry that interest into adulthood.
6.15.2006 4:07pm
Eric Anondson (mail):
[i]Soccer is a great game for uncoordinated kids to play because no one else out there appears to be doing it right, either.[/i]
I've never seen a better place for the uncoordinated that as a lineman in American football. They get to spend half of the game time laying flat on their belly, and the other half just standing up.

[i]It's impossible to be humiliated while you're playing. You can't strike out, get sacked, or shoot an air ball.[/i]
Never heard of an "own goal"? Happens in hockey and happens in soccer too. Talk about humiliation, when England played Paraguay this WC, England won 1-0 because of Paraguay's own goal. Both teams were humiliated. England because they couldn't score, and Paraguay because they gave England the point.

Then again the anti-soccer type might quip that it is humiliation alone to simply be out on the field playing soccer to begin with! ;)
6.15.2006 4:08pm
Anonymousss (mail):
Are "Americans" catching on, or are "members of the subset of Americans who move in the social circles Orin Kerr frequents" catching on? How much are the viewership numbers up?
6.15.2006 4:08pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
RK, one reason why people don't watch MLS is that the league is just terrible. Has-been geriatrics like Carlos Valderrama and Roberto Donadoni were dominant players in the MLS long after they passed their sell-by date for even 2nd tier European leagues.
6.15.2006 4:12pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
I hate soccer but Bend It Like Beckham was a good movie. I only wish everyone who played the game was as hot as Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Keira Knightley, and Parminder Nagra, though I must add that soccer players in general are far more attractive than those oafs who play American pro sports.
6.15.2006 4:31pm
Those who deride soccer as an unAmerican and utterly boring game are almost as annoying as soccer snobs who preach its complete athletic superiority. For God's sake, it's just a game. Some people prefer to watch "The Hand of God," and some people prefer to watch "Sweetness;" there's no problem with that.

I don't think growing interest in soccer is anywhere near as interesting a trend as growing disinterest in prize-fighting - a decline that could be much more easily remedied in the United States market. Cut down the number of weight classes, cut down the number of championships, and quit showing the biggest fights solely on pay-per-view.
6.15.2006 4:34pm
Houston Lawyer:
Once we see soccer fields built with stadiums here, it will have caught on. I know lots of people who watch the game, as it is played by their children. I don't know any who watch the game played by adults.

I remember some professional woman gushing about women's soccer back when the US team won the gold medal. The look she received back from the other woman she was talking to was priceless. It captured all of the "what is that crazy white lady smoking?" you could imagine.
6.15.2006 4:37pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
They get to spend half of the game time laying flat on their belly, and the other half just standing up.

Try it sometime.

I have to paraphrase Jim Rome here: i'm not a big soccer fan, but i have to say i was very excited going into this world cup series and now i have already come away pretty bitter and disapointed. Mainly its the terrible television coverage. One of the great traditions in all of sport seems to keep getting cut away from: when the game is done and all the moms pull up their Astrovans to distribute Capris Sun and orange slices before packing the players in for the trip to Chucky Cheese.

Come on folks, soccer stops being exciting when you turn 12. I actually think soccer was invented by time travelers from the near future who brought back the sport the safety Nazis will replace hockey with- its basically the same game except slow and boring with a giant nerf ball replacing the puck.
6.15.2006 4:38pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):

I don't think growing interest in soccer is anywhere near as interesting a trend as growing disinterest in prize-fighting - a decline that could be much more easily remedied in the United States market.

To what do you attribute that decline? My guess is that boxing has become too artificial - too sporting - reflecting little of the animal f-ing violence that made it popular in the first place. Pride and K1 are the way to go.
6.15.2006 4:47pm
Joe7 (mail):
I just laughed at this post. Soccer is still a very marginal sport in the United States. I find it deathly boring, but during World Cup season and the Olympics, I'll watch a game or two late in the matches largely because what I'll be watching is a step or two above the average game in skill.

Try watching an average American soccer league (or whatever its called) game and you'll likely wish you were doing ANYTHING else.

When Americans riot in the stands, kill people and set cars on fire after victories, then it will be as popular as it is in the most fanatical places in the world.

(But to those few American Soccer fanatics, any sign of increased popularity is a sign of absolute popularity, like so many other things.)
6.15.2006 4:54pm
I think a huge part of boxing's decline in popularity is the fact that its biggest matches are on pay-per-view. Another thing is that there are way too many weight classes and way too many different championships. Also, there really aren't currently any well-known heavyweights, and John Q. Public doesn't pay as much attention to the sweet science as he does the back-and-forth blows trading of the big boys.
6.15.2006 4:59pm
Joe7 (mail):
Just had to add that my brother once commented that soccer was like World War I made into game form.

I've never understood the point of having a field so wide and having no substitutions--it's like the sport was designed so nobody would actually score. I do like the lack of timeouts, something that would serve well in many American sports.
6.15.2006 5:01pm
I concur with the Eric's post. It's a game, much like many others. If you think it's easy, or doesn't require co-ordination or effort of skill then all you're doing is proving you've never tried to play it. Much like someone who thinks NFL linemen are just big slow fat guys has never tried to push Reggie White around.
6.15.2006 5:04pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Has anybody ever met or heard of anyone ever liking Brent Musburger?

Also, gab, your 10-year-old daughter's a moron-- England's goal did came off a Beckham cross, but, more directly, off a Paraguayan head. Hopefully he'll fare better than the poor guy from Colombia who got murdered over that 12 yrs ago.

(I'm kidding-- it's great that your daughter knows and cares so much about the sport, and great that she thought to call you as soon as the goal happened. It's just rare you get a chance to say "your 10-year-old daughter's a moron," so I figured I'd better do it before Sydney Carton beat me to it).
6.15.2006 5:08pm
Cricket is an upper-class game in which nothing ever happens. Soccer is a working-class game in which the action never stops. America is a middle-class country and all our sports, from baseball to football to drag racing, proceed in fits and spurts. I suspect soccer will never be that big here because it doesn't suit our preferred tempo, and that its current 'fans' are just aping the latest trend.
6.15.2006 5:09pm
Unnamed Co-Conspirator:
Mike BUSL07, you've nailed it. MLS is indeed terrible. Especially when compared to World Cup play, which will spoil a fan for anything else -- not even European or English pro soccer comes close. And the MLS probably won't get much better -- it's destined to be a minor league, kind of like European pro basketball. We'll continue to send our best futbol players overseas, and the Euros will continue to send their best hoops players here.
6.15.2006 5:39pm
TC (mail):
Soccer is the sport of the future.

And always will be...

(And I say this as someone who has a passing interest in soccer, is paying attention to the World Cup, and has seen a handful of professional matches in Europe.)
6.15.2006 5:40pm
TC (mail):

Also, gab, your 10-year-old daughter's a moron-- England's goal did came off a Beckham cross, but, more directly, off a Paraguayan head. Hopefully he'll fare better than the poor guy from Colombia who got murdered over that 12 yrs ago.

Speaking of morons...

It's kind of hard for the goal to come off of a Paraguayan head when they played Trinidad &Tobago today.
6.15.2006 5:43pm
PeteRR (mail):
I gave the game another chance, I watched the match between the Germany and the Poles. Nothing happened until the very end. By that time I was so drowsy that I missed it. I'd take curling or cricket over "football" any day of the week.
6.15.2006 5:46pm
BobH (mail):
It's also interesting (at least to me) that rugby hasn't caught on more than it has in the USA. Rugby seems to have pretty much everything Americans like in a spectator sport: it's fast, there's a lot of scoring, the rules are pretty easy to understand, the players get dirty, it's a contact sport, and there's lots of violence. What's not to like?
6.15.2006 5:47pm
It's not only that the TV ratings are soaring...

And you base this on what source? I found an article that stated that World Cup Soccer on ABC got a 2.7 rating over the weekend. On the other hand, that dreadful Deal or No Deal got a 11.2 rating. WWE Raw wrestling consistently gets a 3.6 rating (and it is on cable tv).*

Soaring I tell ya!

Bottom line: David Post is delusional.

*I got these numbers from Nielsen Media Research.
6.15.2006 5:49pm
Gonerill (mail):
Rugby ... What's not to like?

It has none of the body armor or committee meetings that Americans care so much about in Football.
6.15.2006 6:01pm
Doug Sundseth (mail):
The best soccer is really very good. (See the 1982 World Cup semi-final game between West Germany and France, for instance -- utterly captivating. And yes, I did watch that game's broadcast live.) The worst soccer is unwatchable.

This is in no way different from most other sports.

The real issues arise with the average games. Regrettably, the average soccer game is just not very interesting. Too many low-probability things have to happen in a row for a legitimate scoring chance; you're lucky if you see more than six in a game, and they don't last long. In this way, soccer is somewhat akin to baseball, though baseball is a bit better.

FWIW, I'd not put soccer in the top ten of interesting team sports to watch. The other footballs (American, American Indoor, Australian, Rugby League, and Rugby Union), hockey (ice, field, and roller), team handball, lacrosse (indoor and outdoor), basketball, and probably both one-day cricket and baseball, are all better.

And that's without even considering the pervasive poor sportsmanship in top-tier soccer leagues.
6.15.2006 6:07pm
The United States plays Italy this Saturday. The really important questions are:

Which US player has to bring snack and which US player has to bring juice boxes?
6.15.2006 6:11pm
Joshua (www):
If soccer ever does take off in the U.S., my guess is that we'll likely have immigrants from a Certain Other Country to our south to thank for that. (Indeed, MLS has marketed heavily to that particular demographic ever since they started up. They've even added a second team in L.A. that's basically a farm team for one based in that Certain Other Country.)
6.15.2006 6:12pm
nick (mail):
Excellent post!
6.15.2006 6:16pm
Tom M (mail):
So far I've watched 3 World Cup games on ESPN2. A 4-to-nil shellacking and 2 0-to-0 ties. I give FIFA credit for reducing the number of offsides from previous years. Still, the number of dives and so-called athletes who are carried off on a stretcher only to reappear in a matter of minutes is a disgrace.

But fundamentally, come on, how can anyone get excited about spending hours watching a 0-to-0 tie?
6.15.2006 6:17pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):
This link was recommended elsewhere; haven't tried it.

gab, if you were talking about today's game and not the one vs Paraguay, then I am an even bigger jerk than it first appeared. It would probably be best that way.
6.15.2006 6:43pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
I hadn't realized that so many Americans suffered from short attention spans... Imagine having to watch a whole 90-minutes game without a score! Oh, the pain...

Boxing lost its appeal due to four factors: 1) the good fights going pay-per-view; 2) too many competing "authorities"; 3) corruption; 4) a general aversion to bloodshed on TV, at least close-up, one-to-one violence.

I find basketball utterly boring and hockey a poor excuse for a sport but a pretty good excuse for unmitigated mahem. All that proves, though, is that I don't like those sports.

And what's that sudden whiff of xenophobia that crossed the thread? We can't like soccer because illegal immigrants like soccer? I didn't get the memo....
6.15.2006 6:48pm
gab (mail):
Yeah I was talking about today's game. And of course, my bigger point was that with so many kids playing soccer today, it's bound to increase in popularity.

And to those whose idea of soccer is uncoordinated kids running around with their moms waiting on the sidelines with juice boxes and orange slices - you've got another think coming.

The game is, without a doubt, the most competitive sport in the country today. Club soccer is a year-round endeavor, with 100's of thousands of kids playing. The sheer number of players guarantees its competitiveness.
6.15.2006 7:11pm
Tibor (mail):
First of all, I totally agree that soccer on tv can be rather boring, at least if it is a weak game. Yet I would argue that if you are actually at the game, even a weak soccer game is more thrilling than, lets say, your average baseball game (and I really like baseball--no need to discuss which sport is "better" than the other).

The reason I would choose a live soccer match over a baseball game is the audience. Your average soccer fan is more active, creating choreographies, chanting and singing almost constantly, without being prompted by a mascot, cheerleaders, let alone some announcement on the score board. I have been to a couple of Premier League games in England and was simply stunned by the atmosphere. Right now I am in Germany--and people from all over the world are having one big party, it's great! The excitement, the drama, wow!

Quite contrary to some of the comments here, the game unites the world. Even Poles and Germans (the few notorious hooligans notwithstanding) celebrated together--and put into a historical perspecgtive, that's quite something.
6.15.2006 7:16pm
o' connuh j.:
Good grief, American insularity at its worst. You lot who hate football - it's probably because you've never PLAYED the game. Same reason why I couldn't give a rat's ass about lacrosse. But that's not insularity - that's just because lacrosse isn't very popular _anywhere_.

The football-playing kids of today will be the football watchers of tomorrow, because they've played the game, appreciate its dynamics, remember the thrill of scoring their first goal, dribbling past their opponents, and making that first crunching tackle. It's inevitable: America will be co-opted.
6.15.2006 7:33pm
gr (www):

Soccer may be a great sport and all, but the whole Yellow Card thing is so gay.

Are you high school or something?
6.15.2006 7:50pm
gab wrote:

And of course, my bigger point was that with so many kids playing soccer today, it's bound to increase in popularity.

And to those whose idea of soccer is uncoordinated kids running around with their moms waiting on the sidelines with juice boxes and orange slices - you've got another think coming.

But most younger kids playing soccer play swarm ball and their moms are waiting with juice boxes after the game. Many kids end their soccer careers around 5th grade and your numbers dramatically drop off there. They don't get a chance to appreciate well-played soccer and by that time they are caught up in Ameican football or baseball or softball(girls). Even for those that have played soccer on a higher level the enthusiasm for watching soccer just isn't there in comparison to American football or baseball, and basketball. I base this observation on my working in law schools (on the East Coast, Pacific NW and the Mid-West) for the past 12 years. Over the years, I have known many law students and undergrads who played soccer and grew up playing soccer (several were very good at it) yet they just don't get into soccer on television as compared to college football, the NFL or March Madness.

There is no question that soccer is a great participatory sport in the United States, it has been for many years and that will continue; however, to many Americans (including those kids who have played soccer and are currently playing soccer) it is a very boring spectator's sport. That may be unfair but that is simply the case in America because Americans love American football from the NFL to college to high school football. They also like baseball, basketball and NASCAR. Throw in golf, hockey and tennis.

One of my daughters and I like fishing but we don't like watching it on television.
6.15.2006 7:53pm
KeithK (mail):

I hadn't realized that so many Americans suffered from short attention spans... Imagine having to watch a whole 90-minutes game without a score! Oh, the pain...

It's no so much the fact that there can be a 90 minute scorless game that I object to. I love watching a great pitcher's duel in baseball or two hot goalies in hockey. It's the fact that a 0-0 tie is so common as to be almost expected. If the typical game were 5-3, then an occasional 0-0 game would be cool.
6.15.2006 7:59pm
o' connuh j.:
KeithK, nonsense. On any given weekend in the English Premier League a 0-0 result is the exception, not the norm.
6.15.2006 8:16pm
Spoons (mail):
If any son of mine ever shows an interest in metric football, I'll disown her.
6.15.2006 8:18pm
o' connuh j.:
Your son is transgendered? Pwned.

Go play some metric football and be a real man.
6.15.2006 8:21pm
I played soccer exclusively since I was six, and played year round in high school. Since high school, I've played in intramurals, clubs, the military, and pick up games. Quoting O'Connoh j: I have "played the game, appreciate its dynamics, remember the thrill of scoring their first goal, dribbling past their opponents, and making that first crunching tackle." I like soccer, but it is much more fun to play than to watch. I'll probably watch the final round of the US Open more than I'll watch whatever World Cup game is opposite. Soccer will never be more than a third tier sport in this country.
6.15.2006 8:36pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
I went to several German Bundesliga games in 1999,2002, and 2004, and the games ARE much better in person,the teams don't seem to play it as safe in the league games so its a little more wide open. Its not really a family setting though, unless you like constant brawls and chants that would make David Duke blush.
6.15.2006 9:05pm
patrick (mail):
You soccer people sound like a bunch of bitter MacIntosh users in a Windows world. Lighten up and learn how to take a joke. Although I don't like Jim Rome, the paraphrased comment attributed to him is funny.

Soccer will become a popular spectator's sport (meaning a television sport) when America's best athletes are playing it. The best athletes in America are playing football and basketball. I don't think that will happen anytime soon because football and basketball is currently an American cultural thing.
6.15.2006 9:13pm
CLR alum (mail):
Unnamed Co-Conspirator said: "Especially when compared to World Cup play, which will spoil a fan for anything else -- not even European or English pro soccer comes close."

I'm curious about this point. At one time, when league teams tended to have players from their own country, perhaps it was true. But I doubt that the national sides these days are much better than the best club teams -- and I'd take my chances with Barca or Chelsea over pretty much any team in this World Cup. The top-spending teams don't play anyone but international players, anyway, and the players are typically selected because they work well together. If the national teams work well together, it is by and large happenstance. (Take Crouch and Owen in the last two England matches -- just pitiful.) Any other thoughts?
6.15.2006 9:53pm
That which distinguishes humans from animals is our opposable thumb, and the higher brain function that reveals it as unnecessary to bash a ball with one's forehead. Soccer is a good sport for children as it requires only gross muscle-movement. But I don't understand the lasting charm of a game that penalizes an adult for using the most dextrous appendages on his body. Soccer's certainly not a graceful game, as people run around, stutter-stepping to avoid tripping over the ball they're forced to push around with their feet. It's not powerful--in fact, former soccer players in the NFL always end up in the least manly positions conceivable, punters and kickers. It's not fast--on that giant pitch, they seem down-right lethargic. I can't help but think that the original rules committee was populated by either handcuffed convicts or double amputees.

Sure, some people, accepting blindly the restriction that they cannot use their perfectly healthy and unbound hands, do get remarkably accomplished at this skill of kicking and headbutting a little ball into a barn-sized goal (yet not so accomplished that the feat can be achieved more than three times in any sixty minute period). I wonder, would basketball be a more beautiful, civilized, cultural game if they made the hoop the size of a kiddy pool and only counted baskets that went in off your face or hips? No surprise that rugby and ultimately, American football, evolved when some smart chap got sick of this artificial restriction on mobility and had the bright idea to pick the damn ball up and actually run fast with it. It's true--soccer is simply unevolved American football.
6.15.2006 10:46pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Americans with short attention spans? The average major league baseball game is nearly 3 hours, football is even longer, I actually like the uninterupted play of soccer. The added time at the end is not handled well,its like no one knows exactly when the games going to end.
6.15.2006 11:08pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
There is another way to think about all of this. It's not that soccer is so vastly different from, say, football. They are in fact much more similar than not - sort of like Italian and Romanian - different, but a long way from Chinese, or, umm, fencing. The cultural pissing contests that have ensued really just use soccer as a vantage point for broad attacks, e.g., "europeans are slow and uncompetitive," or, "americans can't grasp the dynamic of a game if it's not reflected in a scoreline." (That second one might be true). At the end of the day, it's pretty damn remarkable that so many cultures developed sports that are so similar to each other.And no matter what the sport, the referee is an asshole. Or, (Google it), Sudyu na mylo!
6.15.2006 11:48pm
AK (mail):
Soccer is effeminate.

(I don't mean that as a pejorative. If I were looking for an accurate pejorative for soccer, I would probably choose "gaytarded," as in "soccer is totally gaytarded." But since I'm striving for class in this post, I'm not going to call soccer gaytarded.)

No, I mean it literally: soccer is a sport for women and girlie-men. Besides the wang, the physical attribute that most clearly separates men from women is upper-body strength. The most masculine of our sports exploit that strength. Baseball, basketball, football, hockey, golf, and even the weenie sport of tennis all require well-developed arms and chests. That's why very few heterosexual women excel at any of the female equivalents of these sports after puberty.

For soccer you don't need arms, and if it wasn't necessary for housing vital organs and supporing the head, you wouldn't even need a chest. That's why non-lesbian girls play soccer. If they played anything else, they'd suck at it.

And don't give me any jive about the Williams sisters. Any Division I college tennis player could totally destroy both of of those wildebeasts. Total pwn4g3.

If you play or care about soccer and you call yourself a man, you are a liar. It's a sport that requires men to cast aside what makes them men. Of course, if you live in Washington, New York, or (snicker) Greenwich, and you make your living as a law professor or in some other occupation that doesn't require you to lift anything heavier than a salad fork, well, then soccer is perfect for you, twig-boy. You won't look any more ridiculous doing it than any of the nancies competing in the World Cup, or a girls JV team.

Want to know why the rest of the world loves soccer? The rest of the world isn't filled with men anymore. It's filled with appeasers and fruits. Have you ever met a foreigner whom you didn't suspect of being gay? I rest my case.
6.16.2006 12:04am
srp (mail):
My main beef with soccer is that the team that played better in that game often doesn't win. In popular American sports this almost never happens. Even when there's an upset in basketball or American football, the winning team almost always outplayed the loser in that particular game. And the ability of an inferior-playing team to force a tie is almost non-existent.

In soccer, by contrast, you often see a team dominate play, show better skills, athleticism, and organization, and still tie or lose. It creates an air of futitlity that is not consonant with American culture, where we like to believe that virtue is rewarded, in contrast to our more pessimistic and cynical overseas friends.
6.16.2006 12:20am
Laura (mail):
AK, if I hadn't already snatched me up a funny, right-wing dude that I found on the Internet a few years ago, I'd be asking you out right now. You are the MAN.

And "gaytarded" had just become a household word round these parts.
6.16.2006 1:15am
I think I have a man-crush on AK too.
6.16.2006 1:54am
DJ (mail):
Funny, Europeans think that baseball is a sport for girls. Because there it, you know, is. Just like soccer (for grown-up athletes, at least) is here. Case closed.

For the record, exactly zero people I know in Washington State are talking about the World Cup. But my brother in California is crazy for the Mannschaft!
6.16.2006 2:53am
AK (mail):
Awww, thanks Laura &ss. It warms my heart to read that you approve of my posts. Truth be told, in reading over these comments (especially yours, ss), I laughed harder than I've laughed in a long time. This is just a great thread.

And to think I was initially branded a troll! My crime? Pointing out an undeniable truth: the only Americans who like soccer are the same people who spend every Sunday with the Style section of the Washington Post, pretend to like jazz, and pronounce "Chile" as "CHEE-lay."

America's soccer voluptuaries are a thin-skinnded bunch. For whatever reason, they cannot accept that Americans will never embrace soccer any more than they will embrace the other sacraments of northeast post-Christian urban elitism, like beer snobbery, giving the one kid you had at 39 a ludicrous name like "Tanner," or voting for John Kerry. If you do not like soccer with the passion of a drunken semi-literate Manchester yob, then you're a philistine. Wrap your head around that paradox, if you dare.

Look, if you want to enjoy soccer, fine. I think it's bad parenting to expose your children to it, but I'm not going to call Child Protective Services if you do. But enough with the insisting that more Americans should be or are enjoying soccer. It's like listening to Al Gore lecture us about driving hybrids, or sitting through a diversity training seminar.

For all I know they may be right: global warming might be dooming us to flooding, famine, or worse, and maybe we shouldn't be judgmental about the sexual orientations of others. And maybe soccer is the greatest sport in the history of man. But then again, I like my truck, and no amount of brainwashing is going to convince me that using the butt as an in-hole is normal. And I will always dislike soccer.
6.16.2006 3:04am
AK (mail):
DJ wrote:

"But my brother in California is crazy for the Mannschaft!"

If he's in San Francisco, I have little doubt that he's crazy for the man-shaft.
6.16.2006 3:09am
juris_imprudent (mail):

But I don't understand the lasting charm of a game that penalizes an adult for using the most dextrous appendages on his body.

Splendid, you should look into Australian Rules Football or Irish Rules (Gaelic) Football.

The two even have a "compromise" rules series between two national sides.

Aussie footy has enough scoring for an American football/basketball fan. Gaelic has almost as much violence as hockey and by virtue of Irish gab - 10 times as much complaining about the referee as ALL other sports combined.

Lovely games for real men.
6.16.2006 3:18am
The Divagator (mail) (www):

best post on the board. i noted that, too, esp in watching the Germany-Poland match. The whole damn game was played near the Polish goal; Germany completely dominated play. Final Score: Germany 1, Poland 0 (at least they won). It's not that the better-playing team sometimes loses in USA, it's rather a matter of degree.

A comparable example from US football, meant to be analogous to the Germany-Poland match: Imagine Team A accruing 500 yards of offense and has the ball for 2/3 of the game; Team B gains 150 yards and only 20 min of possession...there is a very large probability Team A will knock the snot out of Team B (like 56-7). In soccer, though, Team A just as likely barely scrapes by with a 1-0 or 2-1 win. Maddening it is. I like close contests as much as the next guy, but I also appreciate the superior team getting its just desserts.
6.16.2006 5:34am
The Divagator (mail) (www):
Having a sidebar on boxing in this soccer thread also seems apropos for another reason. In boxing, typically the boxer who throws and lands more punches will win the match, unless, of course, one microsecond of inattention produces a's kinda like that. I just don't enjoy watching it because I didn't play as a kid and have other sports that I like, and I doubt soccer will ever be anything more than a quadrennial distraction for Americans.
6.16.2006 5:40am
goldsmith (mail):
AK, as a card-carrying, man-loving homosexual (who's also a northeastern "elite"), I must say that your thoughts on the subject of soccer are hilarious. Soccer is the United Nations of sports, the hybrid-car of sports, the organic food of sports, the John Kerry of sports.

I hate sports, but I'd rather watch football or baseball than soccer for the simple reason that the men who play football and baseball are (generally) actual MEN: big, brawny, burly, muscly, meaty men. I don't put up with the hassle of being a homosexual to get the vapours over long-haired 140 pound (that's 63.5 kg for you soccer fans) men in shorts.

If I'm forced to watch sports, give me tight uniforms, big biceps and a crew cut for God's sake.
6.16.2006 6:10am
Frank Drackmann (mail):
The one sport Europe does do right is Womens high jumping(Womens pole vaulting is almost as good also). All of the women have that fashion model physique and most are from eastern europe or Russia. They almost all do the Fosbury flop style where they arch their back over the bar which is an incredibly sensuous position. Its on TV all the time in europe, but its not on for more than 10 minutes during the American olympic coverage.
6.16.2006 7:56am
OK Lawyer:
I don't understand the virulent hatred by some Americans of soccer. Any other sport, people can peacefully disagree on it. But, you mention soccer and people freak out. I happen to enjoy soccer. I won't bother to defend my "manhood" here, because it won't do any good. I never understood how someone could not like baseball and that be the end of it, but if someone likes soccer they are some sort of lunatic nancy boy.

The homophobia evidenced by some of the posts above reminds me of a story. In college, I knew a guy who would absolutely go nuts whenever the topic of homosexuality came up. Regardless of the situation, he would scream and shout about how that was nasty and they should all be shot. Turns out, he was a homosexual. Sometimes the people who shout the loudest are simply trying to quiet the voices in their own minds.
6.16.2006 11:25am
In any sport if one team were forced to play man down for an entire game the game would end up exceptionally lopsided because there is a reasonable balance between offense and defense. In soccer if a team got a red card in the first minute and a player were ejected, the man down team would still have a reasonable chance to salvage a tie. The offsides rule is too constricting and gives the defense too much of an advantage. TO me thats why soccer is most enjoyable when one team utterly dominates the time of possession and the other side is reduced to counterpunches. The offsides rule is largely nullified on both sides and the offense actually the room to work.

To me Soccer would improve immesurably if offsides did not start to be enforced until the 1/3 marks of the field (as opposed to the midline as it is now). It would jsut give the offense a legitimate chance to stretch the defense and would restore so much needed balance to the rules. Of course soccer fans hate it when Americans start talking about which rules need to be changed in soccer but I can't help it if they all follow a flawed game.
6.16.2006 11:26am
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):

Sometimes the people who shout the loudest are simply trying to quiet the voices in their own minds.

Hmmmm. I think AK is a closet Chelsea fan.
6.16.2006 11:41am
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Ratings are not soaring. They are up sharply from 2002 But in 2002, the games were from Asia and were on tape delay. Tape delay games almost always have lower ratings. The proper comparison is from 1998. Ratings were up 12% from 1998. Hardly soaring. (Query--what was the population increase in the US from 1998 to present?)

As someone stated above, soccer is the sport of the future.....and always will be.
6.16.2006 11:48am

Hmmmm. I think AK is a closet Chelsea fan.

That certainly could make him ashamed of the game of soccer. And the bizarre chest-beating and homophobia is hilarious.
6.16.2006 12:02pm
JosephSlater (mail):
I agree with everything that Mike BUSL07 has said on this thread.
6.16.2006 1:49pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Terrific anti-soccer interview here.

I think he's deliberately being a jerk, which is of course a funny and good thing to do. For example: "It's very nice for soccer-loving countries to have their little tournament, but to call it the World Cup is rather arrogant and overblown." This comes just after praising US fans for our love of baseball...
6.16.2006 2:12pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Aw, thanks Prof. Slater
6.16.2006 2:52pm
jallgor (mail):
In the northeast, soccer and football are the same season. For the most part, the kids who played soccer were the ones whose mom's wouldn't let them play football because they were afraid they'd get hurt. Personally, I never enjoyed a sport where I wasn't smashing into someone. I played football and wrestled. I payed baseball for a little while but I could only tolerate that because I was a catcher and would occassionally get to smash into someone at the plate. I am terrible at basketball, a little better at soccer and when I play those games I spend most of the time fighting the urge to tackle the guy I am guarding.
I like the quote about soccer being sport of the future and always will be. I remember when Pele came to play for the Cosmos and everyone talked about how soccer was really going to take off and how so many kids were playing it. It was the "fastest growing sport" in the country. That was about 30 years ago.
I want to defend offensive linemen here too (I was an undersized one in HS). I had a European friend who was athletic and outweighed me by about 20 pounds mocking linemen once. I drew a box in the sand at the beach and said "ok if it's just about size then push me out of this box." It didn't happen and after about 6 tries he gave up. There is a lot of skill and coordination involved in being an offensive linemen (much as there is in being a sumo wrestler) there's also alot more running than most people think. It's not all about size.
6.16.2006 3:47pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Soccers a good game and all, but Iran-USA in baseball would be so much better. I'd love you see Roger Clemons nail Muhammed Al Jibber Jabber with a 95 mph fastball then strike out the side.
6.16.2006 4:44pm
Kev (mail) (www):
Once we see soccer fields built with stadiums here, it will have caught on.

Houston Lawyer, come up I-45 to Dallas sometime; our northern suburb of Frisco is now home to Pizza Hut Park, a new stadium built primarily for soccer (and a few concerts here and there). I'm not sure what kind of numbers the MLS team (FC Dallas) is drawing in its new home, but they claim to have had 2000 people a day out there to watch the World Cup on the big screen.
6.17.2006 3:13pm
I like soccer. I've been following (more or less) the World Cup, and in 2002 I even woke up at dawn to see the US-Germany Game.

Having said that, here's my problem with Soccer and the WC.

Every four years, we Americans are confronted with the same routine: the bashing, the using the game to attack us (either personally, or politically or sportly. You name it). If we dont care for the game, we're called indifferent, uniteralist, etc. If we care or even qualify for it,then we're source of mockery and protest and stuff. If our fans were the flag, then the contemptment "those flag-waving americans", never mind that the Rest of the World brings in all their political stuff (from flags to grudges against other countries, to display of racism, whatever).

Then the never ending issue that we call it soccer instead of football, or that we call our baseball game "World Series". Im really sick and tired of this same rethoric. I dont care why the brits call an insect name to a game (like in Cricket); it's their choice so should be respected.

As for the "liberal" cities in the US, more than "passion" for the game, is more the showing "look how multiculturalist and international I am" type of thing. Just like eating sushi or discussing foreign politics in a Starbucks coffee shop, is more a display of "hipness" rather than actual love for soccer. Once the party is over (or even before, as in: US is out of the game), New Yorkers will go back to their Yankees and Mets and Giants and NBA playoffs.

I know this for a fact, as I am a New Yorker myself.
6.22.2006 12:02am
Ian MacPherson (mail):
It's pretty funny how americans are so quick to call a sport boring and pointless when they're not good at it. The reason we don't like soccer is because it's so similar to real life. Chances are you'll get one or two opportunities and then it's done. It doesn't matter if your the best, anybody can beat on any given day. The ref can end the match when he wants to and send you off whenever he feels like it. People in other countries enjoy 90 minutes of tension and near misses. We prefer 10 seconds of action and 45 of planning. We like our athletes to be superhuman specimens who don't look like real people and think soccer players are lame because they look like the rest of us. It doesn't matter if we don't like soccer, everybody has the right to watch what they want to. We don't have the right, however, to ridicule the world's sport just because we don't get it. It's time to grow up and admit that we're not as great as we think we are. We're not the best at anything execpt being arrogant and american football. The day when we realize we're just another country and start acting accordingly is the day when we'll start to make some progress.
6.23.2006 6:01am
"It's pretty funny how americans are so quick to call a sport boring and pointless when they're not good at it. "
It could well be the other way around: we're not good at it because we dont like it.

Although the similarities between "soccer" and "real life" may hold some truth, that's just your opinion. It's true however, we americans enjoy games for entertainment, not to see a reflection of life. As for what would be the point?

We like heroes, role-models, because as simplistic as it may sound, reflects a lot of American Idiosincracy. The search for the best; it's that what took Americans to the moon and the Gates and Jobs go from nerdy kids to be among the most succesful folks on earth.

The day we become all pessimistic, realistic and smear and sneer at everything, kind of like the Europeans have become, that'd be the day America will lose it's charm, its enthusiasm, its joviality and it's love for the future.

You take that away from America, you take America's soul.
6.23.2006 3:19pm