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[William Birdthistle, guest-blogging, May 14, 2007 at 8:34pm] Trackbacks
The Universal Game:

One of the joys of soccer is its universality, both geographically and temporally. Throughout most of the world, players abide by the same rules, and aficionados savor the same trove of historic moments. This pair of connections allows fans from all over the world to recognize footballing genius when they see it and, like well-tutored lawyers, to situate such brilliance in its rightful historical genealogy.

So, for instance, when the 19-year-old Argentine Lionel Messi scored for Barcelona in a Spanish cup match against Getafe last month, spectators everywhere immediately appreciated both the goal's majesty and its startling similarity to the one Maradona scored for Argentina against England in the World Cup 21 years ago. (England fans will also clarify that we're talking about the legitimate Maradona goal as opposed to his "Hand of God" goal "scored" earlier in the same match.)

(A number of clips juxtaposing the two goals exist on YouTube, but I couldn't resist choosing the version with the original play-by-play call from Maradona's goal, which I translate to include such sentiments as "genius, genius, genius," "I want to cry," and "Holy God, long live football!")

This pair of classic goals also demonstrates another aspect of soccer's broad appeal: players from a wide range of statures can excel. Messi and Maradona are both around 5'7". Peter Crouch is 6'7". Thierry Henry is as thin as a baguette. Wayne Rooney is built like a couch.

So can this footballing universalism overcome American exceptionalism? I think so. Although professional soccer here will long struggle against the four dominant sports leagues, all those hordes of soccer moms must be chauffering around a massive young generation of soccer children. And America has produced very thoughtful writing on the game by such literati as Dave Eggers and Franklin Foer. Even America's favourite economist Steven Levitt has studied the game.

In light of this well-established uniformity across time and space, we need to be careful about attempting to change the rules. But we needn't be paralyzed, particularly when a sport so beloved is suffering. So here is an agenda for a discussion of related topics over the coming days:

Tomorrow, I intend to identify a few specific proposals for improving both the way in which the game is officiated and the rules by which it is played. Naturally, the ensuing discussion will be extremely contentious, as I expect reformers to focus inordinately on rules that address ways in which their favorite teams were most recently betrayed, while purists will deny the need for any such discussion with objections such as "we simply need to enforce the existing rules" and "some rules are new so we just need to give them time to work." In sum, I'm looking forward to the classic legislative sausage factory.

On Wednesday, I thought we could turn to a broader, cultural discussion of why certain countries and regions play the game --- and perhaps game the play --- in certain styles. Here, I anticipate gross nationalistic caricatures that impugn large groups of people. Nevertheless, I hope the topic will still manage to be a fruitful one as well as a way to ask the larger question whether soccer would benefit from a greater degree of federalism than it enjoys under the current monotheism of FIFA.

On Thursday, I hope to expand the discussion of rulemaking and adjudication from soccer to additional areas, such as corporate law and securities regulation.

Finally, on Friday, we might wrap up with an exploration of further topics to explore within the beautiful game itself, such as the classic handball debate: I-Didn't-Mean-To v. I-Didn't-Get-An-Advantage.

Rob Smith (mail):
Nothing is more boring that a soccer game. Darn little scoring, referees throwing cards for infractions no one even noticed and you can't use your hands which it really stupid as our ability to use our hands is one of the things that makes us human.

Why is this topic even part of this blog?
5.14.2007 9:59pm
U.Va. 2L:
Why is this topic even part of this blog?

To tell the rest of us whom we can safely ignore in comment threads, of course.
5.14.2007 10:25pm
AK (mail):
Wait. Your name is Birdthistle? You're fucking with me, right? Get back in a Dickens novel and stay there.

Anyway, we've had this discussion already, during the God-awful World Cup. As I recall, we decided - beyond all doubt! - that soccer is a game for homosexuals, foreigners, and other mentally handicapped individuals. Here's what I wrote at the time:
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.

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.

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.

As true today as it was when it was written.
5.14.2007 10:44pm
Ted F. (www):
Three dominant sports leagues in this country. One not-so-dominant one whose tv ratings are frequently beaten by months-delayed broadcasts of poker game highlights.

What I find fascinating about soccer is that its official competitive structure so coincides with Schumpeterian creative destruction: ruthless market competition, and if your team doesn't want to bid for the best players, well, just be that way and we'll relegate you to a league more to your abilities. In comparison, in America, one of the most capitalistic countries in the world, the NFL has an express goal of parity through schedule manipulation, and all the sports emphasize equalization techniques ranging from the draft to revenue-sharing, a force so strong in the NBA that teams are notorious for tanking to improve their position in the draft.

I also like how soccer leagues segregate tournament play from seasonal play. In any given year, there can be a winner of the league, and two or three different winners of tournaments, and all coexist as separate achievements. In the US, a team can win the six-month marathon of the baseball season with an extraordinary effort, and the season is considered worthless if they then lose three out of five games to an 84-78 team in the first round of the playoffs. Somehow the World Series has been elevated from a postseason exhibition coda of the main event into the be-all and end-all of baseball, and baseball has lost something from this.

The sport of soccer itself, meh. At the highest of levels--World Cup or Champions League finals--it can capture my attention, but at the MSL level (which is still an extraordinarily high level), it's terribly dull. But the organizational structure fascinates me.
5.14.2007 11:13pm
Avatar (mail):
Sports are sports. People enjoy cricket too, even if I've never properly understood why (or how, for that matter.)

Personally, I think soccer's main problem is with the pacing. The games aren't any shorter than football or baseball games, functionally speaking, but the continuous action means that players can't just go all out except on rare occasions. The kind of explosive power you get in practically every play in the NFL, or off a good hit in baseball, just can't be sustained for ninety minutes. Basketball has similar exertion limits, but is a shorter game (and a smaller field, too.)

Thus, the need to stay fresh enough to keep up in the last ten minutes means that teams are forced to play the whole game fairly conservatively - defensively, with not a lot of fast movement not actually on the ball. That's... not a whole lot of fun to watch, really. It also leads to the style of play where teams go home with a 0-0 tie - and not because of defensive heroics, but because neither team was willing to take the kind of risks necessary to penetrate the other team's defense.

Possibly this also ties in to the viewing experience. Watching the popular US sports is not a ten-tenths activity. You're basically paying close attention for a few seconds out of a minute, and the rest of it you can spend listening to the commentators or sipping your beer or whatever. Basketball requires more attention, but even it has frequent time-outs, and it also has MUCH more frequent scoring (and displays of raw athleticism) to satisfy the viewer. But when you're watching soccer, the game is both continuous and not terribly exciting for most of the duration. If the only bits worth watching are a few highlight clips, why not just watch those after the game, and save yourself a few hours?

Seriously, though, I wonder how soccer would feel if it were played on a significantly smaller field? With less pure room to cover, there's more energy to be put into actual play, and more traffic means more chances for good ball-handling to come into play, which is fun to watch even if the ball doesn't end up in the goal...
5.14.2007 11:16pm
Atlantic06 (mail):
AK ~ How embarrassing. Doubly so for repeating it.
5.14.2007 11:38pm
Chicago:
Atlantic06: I disagreed with almost everything AK said, but it was funny.

As for the video clip, (1) Messi is underused by both Barca and Argentina, and (2) Maradona is a dirty cheat.
5.15.2007 12:22am
Le Messurier (mail):
Atlantic06 wrote:

AK ~ How embarrassing. Doubly so for repeating it.


Embarrassing? Hardly. I've read the first and the second. It's a CLASSIC! Hilarious! About the best in any thread I've read on VC.
5.15.2007 12:22am
Archit (www):
Even more universally appealing, the play-by-play. It deserves its own place in sports history.
5.15.2007 12:23am
Mark Field (mail):

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.



This was obviously written by someone who has never seen Emanuel Adebayor with his shirt off. Or pretty much any other footballer these days.

Also, you'll have to remind me how strapping on 25 lbs of equipment to play rugby makes someone "manly".
5.15.2007 12:26am
Michael H (mail):
AK, that was great! Far better than I could've written.

I've rarely met a genuine American soccer fan. A very few, here and there. But mostly the soccer "fans" are posers, wanting to be different, to set themselves apart from the average American fan. And not just that, they're practically evangelical! I'm a cycling fan, but don't go around expounding on the Giro d'Italia to people who don't understand the sport. It'd bore them to tears. Cycling is big in Europe, but will never be more than a niche sport in America. Soccer is big in Europe, but will never be more than a niche sport in America. Get over it, soccer fans. Find a pub where people appreciate the sport and go watch it together.

Oh, and there are no "four big sports" anymore. There's the NFL. And then there's NASCAR (whatever its appeal may be - I don't get it, but a lot of people obviously do). And then there's everything else. The NBA first. Then there's college basketball. Then there's baseball, but nobody really watches anymore until the playoffs. Then the big golf tournaments. Then poker. Indy Car Racing, if Danica "I'm almost as hot as Anna Kournikova and have just as many wins" Patrick is racing. Then maybe hockey, unless it's been overtaken in popularity by Ultimate Fighting Championship. Then Arena Football, tennis, track &field, the WNBA and anything involving that really hot women's curling team from the Olympics. Then soccer probably falls somewhere in behind that. I think it's still beating rugby, at least, though I can't really understand why.
5.15.2007 12:39am
DCP:

I'm glad a link was posted to Maradona's outstanding "legitimate" goal. To this day those damn Brits whine about the hand of God goal as if it's the greatest tragedy to ever befall the human race. Argentina completely dominated that game, and Maradona was more talented the the entire English side combined. Probably the most talented ever, although Pele had a better career.

I'm hesitant to post any of this b/c soccer is a pansy sport that will never catch on here - despite the continued prevelance of soccer moms. That's what people don't get. Soccer is a sport played by little kids whose moms are paranoid they will get hurt playing a manly sport. Eventually, they put on the pads or grab a bat.
5.15.2007 1:25am
Doc (in China) (mail):
One reason that all those soccer playing kids won't grow up to play in the top leagues is that they don't have much opportunity to play beyond high school. No scholarships. The farm system dies after graduation.

I like the game, but I don't claim to share a common soccer mythology with the rest of the world. I definitely like it more than baseball, but I know more about baseball history. I can only identify a few premier league teams, even though I catch a lot of games and highlights, due to living outside of the US. I think that much of the sport's popularity is due to the requirements for a game - a ball, a flat place, and a bunch of dudes with nothing better to do. Not that there's anything wrong with that (unless some fool is bashing American football) - accessibility is good.

That said, the game requires a lot of stamina and skill - I am a soccer fan; I've been known to attend matches, and will watch a game in preference to many other sports. I'm looking forward to this series of posts.
5.15.2007 2:39am
Gray Jay:
I like soccer and am a registered Republican, though I vote libertarian more often than not. I like watching soccer, but I don't think that it'll be anything more than a niche sport here for the following reasons:

1) It's much worse on t.v. than in person. T.v. doesn't have the field of view to capture all of the field and action. Most of the action and significant events in football happens within 10 yds of scrimmage, and are largely captured on camera. In soccer though, the course of play is often changed by what players do 40-50 yards away from the ball. T.V. can't capture that well, but you can sitting in the stands.

2) There isn't enough scoring. Since t.v. doesn't do well with capturing the ebb and flow of a match, you as the viewer are left with focusing on shots and goals. And there just aren't enough of them in 90 minutes. I don't have the stats at hand, but I'd guess that a 3-2 game is more the exception than the rule. Even if you convert football scores to soccer scores by counting touchdowns as goals and ignoring FGs, there are plenty of 3-2, 4-3 and if you're a WAC/Pac 10 fan, 6-5 games. 0-0 games are far more prevalent in soccer than in any NFL game not involving the Ravens.

3) There aren't enough stats. I forget the quote, but it's entirely possible and enjoyable to follow baseball and even football via box scores. That's what fantasy baseball and football are all about. How do you do fantasy soccer? Shots and goals? I guess you could do it but it'd be a real limited sample size.

4) There's way too much flopping. As a young man playing sports, I was told to get up when knocked down and to not make much of a fuss if I couldn't. (The actual language was much saltier). It's the exact opposite in soccer. How many times have we watched a player brush his opponent while playing the ball, only to have the opponent go down writhing like he'd been gutshot, and then pop right back up three minutes later after getting the ref to issue a card? It's offensive to a red-blooded American male to watch behavior like that.

I've rattled on too long, and I don't think that soccer will ever be more than a niche sport here. If I could change anything in soccer (besides flopping, but where do you start?) I'd get rid of off-sides. Although, that might make teams even more conservative on attack than they are now.
5.15.2007 3:30am
logicnazi (mail) (www):
I really like cricket. I don't quite know why myself but the summer I spent in england I really enjoyed watching the cricket games. Partially because it was the right amount of occasional excitment that I could work/think about my math and occasionally get excited when someone knocked down the wickett.

In any case I think everyone is misdiagnosing the problem with soccer taking hold in the US. The real issue is the TV model we have in the US. In countries with more state sponsored TV or closely influenced by such countries soccer is easy to put on TV and enthusiasm will spread. Soccer faces the serious problem in the US of being not very conducive to commercials.

Sure you can put ads on the jerseys and the stadium but you can do this with other sports as well still leaving soccer at a net disadvantage. Additionally it is the TV networks that have a great deal of power to popularize the game and they need to be profiting from it at a similar rate to football and baseball if not higher for them to have the motivation to really support it (certainly someone may carry it but this is a lot different than all the commercials one hears for monday night football on such and such).

Yes, you can put commercials in small boxes on the screen or scroll them across but these are unfamiliar new models.
5.15.2007 5:20am
S.A. Miller (mail) (www):
Then there's baseball, but nobody really watches anymore until the playoffs.

MLB sold 73 million tickets in 2006, a new record. Attendance is up at most parks. Someone is watching during the regular season.
5.15.2007 5:46am
Positroll (mail):
I wonder how soccer would feel if it were played on a significantly smaller field?
There is an answer to this question (besides the obvious one of indoor soccer). It's called (team / olympic) handball. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Team_handball
It is high scoring, physical (lots of upper-body strength involved), fast and obviously you get to use your hands …

Of course, many in the U.S. have never heard of it. This might change with the planned expansion of TV coverage of the German Handbal League to the U.S, cf. http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.308

For a video showing the highlights of the games of the German and Polish teams before they met in the final round of the handball world cup 2007 see http://www.zdf.de/ZDFmediathek/inhalt
/28/0,4070,4343388-6-wm_dsl,00.html
(in German; for a full screen picture click on „Im Vollbild anzeigen" on the right hand side). BTW, Germany won the title on Superbowl Sunday …
5.15.2007 6:05am
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
I'd like a refresher on how soccer differs from cricket. Difficult to keep straight.
5.15.2007 6:52am
A.C.:
Regarding Gray Jay's comments on televised soccer:

Will things get better as televisions get bigger? There are certainly camera angles that show a lot of the field. Seems that those can be used more if people are watching on enormous screens. I don't have one myself, but I know that a lot of people buy them specifically to watch sports.
5.15.2007 10:20am
M. Gross (mail):
Ok, I had my doubts about the topic, but the comments totally justified it.
5.15.2007 10:57am
A.S.:
That goal was incredible. Messi is the best young player in the world. Difference between Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo? Ronaldo would have fallen to the ground about 8 different times in a similar situation.
5.15.2007 11:07am
Mikeyes (mail):
Here is a "gross nationalistic caricature that impugns a large group of people": Americans will never give soccer its due. The US may have a large youth soccer program, but it is like Tiawan and baseball, soccer is a child's game here. It is a good way to get children out and exercise, especially since the schools are not doing that any more, but the children who play soccer are not doing so with the intention of becoming professional sportsmen. Instead they probably want to go to college and get a job eventually. In addition, most of the time the game causes embarrassment and pain for the vast majority of uninterested participants. Those 95% don't even keep up with the game on a recreational basis after grade school probably for the same reason that most children fail to play the piano after grade school, they hate to do what was forced on them as a child.

Rugby, while it will never be a national sport, at least is learned on a voluntary basis and has a strong social infrastucture to keep the interest up. I have classmates who played rugby 40 years ago who still play or at least keep up with the various international teams via television without getting all gooey about it. The US will never be an international power, but we do hold the two Olympic gold medals and we bask in the irony of that.

Cricket is a fascinating sport, especially the One Day version, if you are a stats freak. The problem is that it has position names like "Silly Mid Off" which conjurs up visions of pederastic English public schools. Not a good image here. Besides, the 30 players in this country can't even get their act together to form a single national governing body.

As much as you may wish it to happen, soccer will not catch on as a major sport in this country. Our national stereotype will not let it happen. (And the paying customers, mainly middle class Americans, grow up thinking that soccer is like a trip to the dentist, boring but fraught with pain and humiliation.)
5.15.2007 11:30am
Don Miller (mail) (www):
I appreciate your love of socceer, but it won't change my opinion of the game.

I have played soccer, and enjoyed it. But I can't stand watching other people playing it.

When my son was 6 years old, he asked if he could play soccer. We spent a month going to practice every day. We would kick the ball around in the backyard. We go to the first game. He walked off the field within 10 minutes and refused to go back. He liked kicking the ball around. He enjoyed the practice. But the game was pure chaos.

To this day he prefers baseball. Each player has an assignment and they don't run all over at random. Even at a young age, the kids get the idea that they have a job to do and if they leave their position, they can't do their job. My son likes that. He also likes the pacing.

Maybe when he is older, he might enjoy playing soccer. As the other kids mature, they will be better at playing their positions and not mobbing the ball.
5.15.2007 11:32am
dearieme:
Until some marketing genius finds a way of making soccer as camp as American Football, it won't thrive in the USA.
5.15.2007 11:34am
TribalPundit (W&M 0L) (mail) (www):
Heh, at first glance I thought it said "Wayne Rooney is built like a <b>coach</b>." With visions of Ralph Friedgen in my head I figured that it probably meant about the same thing either way.

AK...are you AK47 on xoxohth?
5.15.2007 11:38am
David Drake (mail):
I too am a registered Republican who lives deep in the heart of American football country (Atlanta, GA) and I love futbol. I also love American college football. I follow European pro futbol, especially Champs league, and keep an eye on the MLS. The MLS is now looking at putting a franchise in Atlanta, and I will follow the MLS closer then, of course.

I believe that one day futbol will arrive at its own in the U.S., probably when the U.S. national team makes a run to the semifinals of the World Cup. Will it ever replace American football, basketball, or baseball? Probably not, but it will be able to compete with them and build a fan base.

It is probable that the fan base will continue to be foreign born. The reason the MLS is contemplating Atlanta is the large Latino population here.

As to boring--to me, futbol can be as dull as watching paint dry or the most exciting sport outside high school tournament basketball. E.g.: Liverpool/Chelsea second leg in the Champs this year for the former, and both legs of the Milan/Man. U. tie in the Champs this year for the latter. It certainly is no more boring than some regular season baseball or pro basketball games.

As to no use of upper body in futbol--nonsense. A comment from someone who has no idea of how the game is played.

Look forward to these discussions.
5.15.2007 12:02pm
Kierkegaard (mail):
As someone immersed in the playing activity of soccer (played D1 in college, graduated a year back now) in the United States and the business side as well for my whole life (My family has been quite involved in professional and yotuh soccer in the US since the early 90s), I can speak a bit on these topics.

As Mr. Birdthistle suggested, the "hordes of soccer moms" dragging their children to game has indeed produced something very important that has not been yet mentioned: a new and improved youth soccer infrastructure to develop American players.

I do not mean to compare it to the European systems of course, for we will never be like them. First, the idea of going to college is too ingrained (in my mind, rightfully) in the ideas of parents of American children. In Europe, if you have the talent, at age 17 you are already playing for a professional club.

5 years ago, this would never have been the case in the US. But you see things developing such as the Y-League, MLS youth teams and increased regional league competitions and you can't help but notice the level of talent improving. When I was 16, I had playing oppurtunities that someone 5 years before me never had. The same is the case now for my 16 year old brother. Development across the states is becoming more and more institutionalized with better training methods, coaches, and recognition of talent at a young age.

Along with it comes the better players. That is why it is so important that MLS continues to heavily invest in this trend; these players are its future and its only, and i repeat only, way of suceeding as a league.
5.15.2007 12:44pm
Robbie Fowler:
If there's anything more annoying that a Euro-poser soccer fan, it's a pseudo-nationalistic soccer hater.
5.15.2007 1:28pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
"Here, I anticipate gross nationalistic caricatures that impugn large groups of people. "

Huzzah!
5.15.2007 1:54pm
Aultimer:
American youth soccer doesn't compare to the Limey version since there's no farm system tryout involved. I have no idea about other country's systems, and don't care, but I'll guess they're less like the US and more like the UK.

As for the video - oh boy, yawn. Some guy ran past some other guys. Exciting game you've got there. Try watching some tapes of Gretzky, Lemieux, Jordan, Swann (pre-politics), Rice, etc.
5.15.2007 2:05pm
Mark F. (mail):
Soccer is a "universal" game for girly men and metrosexuals.
5.15.2007 3:27pm
Peter Young (mail):
I wondered how long it would take the anti-soccer brigade to put in an appearance. Not long, as usual in any forum that is not devoted specifically to football/soccer/futbol. And so the focus of the discussion becomes--for the ten thousandth time--their stale attacks on the bona fides of the sport rather than whatever you wanted to discuss about it.

As a transplanted Englishman--I've been in the U.S.A. since 1957, 50 years this September 29, longer than most of the native born Americans--I don't care whether soccer succeeds in the U.S.A., particularly now I get all the matches I want from Europe and South America on satellite television. The strange thing is I've only just begun to believe it will succeed here, largely because of the huge influx of immigrants from futbol-loving countries. Yes, I'm beginning to think its success is inevitable even given efforts to close down the borders.

It's amusing to read attacks on soccer that are, in my view, so perversely and hysterically wrong. Messages like AK's speak for themselves and reveal a lot about their authors (more than intended, I suspect, when they raise masculinity and homosexuality issues).

After 50 years of watching the anti-soccer brigade in action, I believe its members feel threatened by the worldwide popularity of soccer, that foreign sport, and their fear reveals itself in their messages of hatred and ridicule. I can't think why else they bother with their relentless efforts to attack a sport which they belittle as marginal at best and regard with contempt.

Sport is a matter of cultural taste. That's one reason I'm not a soccer evangelist; I don't care what North Americans think about the game, although I welcome those who appreciate it.

In the meantime, I have a healthy regard for and love of nearly all sport, an appreciation for which I'm extremely grateful, although I do like some sports more than others. Each to his or her own. Let the North Americans, including me, celebrate their World Series, Super Bowl and NBA and NHL playoffs. A good part of the rest of the world joins them in that. Reciprocity would be nice--leave soccer fans to enjoy our World Cup and European and South American Championships and to have our discussions about our game--but it usually isn't forthcoming and, thankfully, is not essential.

I wish you luck, Professor Birdthistle, in your efforts to have a serious discussion about improvements that might be made in the game. I hope you can get it off the ground in the face of the anti-soccer brigade.
5.15.2007 3:54pm
Mark F. (mail):
The seriousness with which you soccer fans take your tedious, eye glazing, coma inducing game is truly amusing. You know what? We like getting you riled up. Advice: Don't take the bait.

BTW, I'm a masculine gay guy.
5.16.2007 9:47pm
Peter Young (mail):
BTW, I'm a masculine gay guy.

Hurray for you.
5.17.2007 1:52am