The World Cup might be drawing record viewers, but American football is still where it’s at in the United States.
The highest rated game so far has been USA and Ghana, which drew 19.4 million Americans, making it the most watched soccer game in America ever.
However, it represents only a fraction of the number of Americans who tuned in for this year’s Super Bowl, a record-setting 106.5 million people.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the Super Bowl anyhow. I was only ever into it for the BBQ’s and parties that surrounded the event, and I’ve missed several throughout my lifetime.
Then I discovered real football, the game I grew up playing as a kid. I called it soccer back then and will do the same for the remainder of this piece in order to avoid confusion.
There’s only one NFL, but there are four of them in soccer (England’s Premiership, Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga, and Italy’s Serie A), another really good one just below that (France’s Ligue 1), and several more “middle of the road” leagues, most of which are still more competitive than the United States’ Major League Soccer.
That’s just the top tier. Those countries also have several more “minor” leagues underneath each of them as well. And South America has several quality leagues of its own too.
That’s all club soccer and we’re talking about the World Cup, where players from virtually every professional league on the planet get the opportunity to represent their countries in a grand competition that is almost three years in the making.
It makes Major League Baseball’s so called “World Series” pretty weak by comparison.
My knowledge of football lore is far below decent, but I remember the Buffalo Bills becoming the first NFL team to lose four Super Bowls in a row. People were tired of watching them lose after two.
Without going into detail, I seem to recall that there have also been a number of rather lopsided outcomes, which are only fun to watch if you’re a die-hard fan of the winning team.
Yes, soccer matches can end in a tie—something most Americans can’t stand—and I’ll admit that draws can be unfulfilling, but the knockout stages demand a winner.
And that’s when things get really exciting.
Most soccer matches can end in a draw, so when they do require a tie breaker, it makes them that much more exciting since it is such a rare sight.
I also like the fact that there is no longer a “golden goal” rule because it gives each team a chance to kick off (i.e. two fifteen minute halves).
The penalty shootout is even more intense, and also gives both teams equal chance of win the game.
In football’s sudden death, however, the winner of the coin toss gains an advantage since they can deny their opponents the opportunity to score or answer back, which is not the case in soccer.
Even footballs fans must acknowledge the degree of athleticism soccer requires.
Coaches are limited to three substitutions for the entire duration of the match, which means at least 16 of the 22 players in a match that goes to a penalty shootout have been playing for two hours, practically non-stop, with no timeouts and only a 15 minute rest after 45 minutes.
Football players rarely play for more than a few seconds at a time, get countless breaks, and use two completely different squads for offense and defense.
I’ve even heard several hot girls from other countries describe football as “ugly and gay.”
Think about it.
A bunch of guys in skin tight pants relying on brute force constantly pat each other on the butt throughout the game and the quarterback rubs the center’s balls on almost every single play.
Soccer is also very much a contact sport, one in which the players have a single set of shit guards versus being covered from head to toe in padding. And they use grace and flair to move the ball around the pitch—with their feet—something only one special player from each team is allowed to do in football.
The Super Bowl denotes a single game whereas the World Cup encompasses 64 different matches, so pitting them against one another is a tad unfair. However, we can use the championship match by itself in order to better compare apples to apples.
An average of 260 million people worldwide tuned in for the final between Italy and France in 2006, and over 600 million watched at least part of the match, versus the 106.5 million Americans viewers for the Super Bowl (a number that barely increases at the global level).
This is not to say one sport is better than the other based simply on the size of the fan base, but we often measure success in entertainment based on box office receipts and records sold, so it’s worth noting.