Soccer in the US and Europe

Tommy BalcetisCorrespondent IJune 18, 2008

Soccer (or football, as it is everywhere else in the world) ranks seventh or eighth in terms of popularity in the US, with baseball, American football, basketball, hockey, nascar and golf beating it. Why is that?

Why is Europe so beyond crazy about a sport that doesn't generate much interest in the nation full of outstanding athletes and most developed show business?

The issue hinges upon differences in sports culture between the two continents. Where European players see commitment to one's team, the US players prioritize financial well-being. Where European fans see aggressive all-out dedication to their beloved Manchester United, Americans see it as a family trip to the arena, with hot dogs, peanuts and—oh, by the way—the actual game.

The game itself is just not a big deal to Americans, I have seen that over and over and over again. Perhaps the level of consumer well-being in the US leaves Americans with many options of where to go and where not to go, so the process just isn't as much fun.

Abundance creates numbness as it makes joyful experiences mundane. They will go see a romantic comedy, a monster truck performance and their favorite team play with the same dedication.

Similarly, the game of soccer itself opposes everything that a US sports fan would like to see. There are no tremendous athletes who can level other people with their brute strength. There are no fantastic finishes, where LeBron James hammers the ball down on three defenders, once again displaying utmost domination of physical prowess.

No. Soccer is a game where grace and agility are the key factors to success. That's no fun to watch! Are you really going to outrun your opponent? Is that it? Can you at least do a Terrel Owens after you score a goal? If you ask me, however, the process to achieve the physical fitness that soccer players possess is a lot more strenuous. A lot.

Moreover, the US is a nation that tends to prioritize immediate gratification. Look at the prevalence of fast food restaurants and electric can openers! In the nation where time is money, patience is no longer a virtue.

It makes sense, then, that soccer is not the game of choice by many Americans. Who wants to watch a 90 minute soccer game that ends 0-0? Where is the score, touchdowns, dunks, three pointers, home runs?

It's a consumer culture, and immediate gratification is needed in the form of these things. Europeans tend to enjoy the process, rise up for every breakaway, every corner kick, every goal siege. Americans need goals. Simple as that.

OK, you may probably maintain that hockey isn't too much of a scoring game, but Americans still like it. However, think about the dynamics of hockey and soccer.

Have you seen a hockey player who rests in one place for at least five seconds? How about fights? Have you noticed the difference between the sizes of the playing field? And how many hockey games really end 0-0?

Furthermore, ask people why they like hockey, and they will tell you three things: fast pace, people crashing to the glass and fights. Doesn't really remind of soccer, does it?

Soccer will not become any more popular than it is today, due to many subtle cultural and ideological differences between Europe and the US. Many of them have to do with different abundances of leisure activities, preference for sports that require different kinds of physical fitness and the clash between goal-orientedness and the joy of the process.

Add tradition to the mix, and it becomes clear why a young American kid will see Michael Jordan, while a young Italian kid will choose Paolo Maldini as their idols.