Why "Some Americans" Don't Like Soccer (Part 1 of 4)

Homer SimpsonCorrespondent IAugust 22, 2010

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 18:  Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore of the United States dispute a decision with Referee Koman Coulibaly during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group C match between Slovenia and USA at Ellis Park Stadium on June 18, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Over the years I've heard various reasons why *some Americans* don't like soccer. Here are my collective rebuttal's to some of the arguments.

Note: I'm only saying "some" and not generalising, because I know many Americans do like soccer. And this article is in no way having a underhand dig at America or its sports, of which I am also a fan.

Many of the reasons "some Americans" don't like soccer actually exist in their own US-based sports:


1) Sceptics say, "The game is low scoring."

Yes, this is true compared to other sports, but isn't the fan is watching for action and plays rather than a score line of 102-100?

The final score doesn't dictate how exciting a game is, just how easy it is to add points to the scoreboard.

If sceptics are still arguing the low-scoring mantra, then think of this: if entertainment value were determined solely by number of points/runs/goals, cricket would be the most popular sport in America.

And indoor soccer, with its 18-14 scores and no ties, would be far more popular than regular soccer, rather than the dying sport that it is.

A soccer match on TV requires 105 minutes to show 90 minutes of regulation play. An ice hockey telecast requires 150 minutes to show 60 minutes of regulation play. A football telecast requires 180 minutes and change to show 60 minutes of regulation.

In 2006 World Cup group play, 2.44 goals per game were scored, or about a goal every 49 minutes of telecast time.

In the NHL in 2008-09, 5.43 goals were scored per game in regulation, discounting empty-net goals. That breaks down to a goal every 28 minutes.

In the NFL in 2008, there were 4.38 touchdowns scored per game (including overtime TDs, which are rare), or a touchdown every 41 minutes.

Lacrosse would destroy all three.

Also in soccer the issue is that only goals are counted, not corner kicks, free kicks, or anything else. Plus in GridIron each touchdown is awarded with 6 points, unlike a soccer "goal" which is 1. GridIron also gives points for safety's and field goals. So if we compare the two and only take into account touchdowns, the scores are very similar. See http://ideas.repec.org/zimm/experimental/nfl2006.html.

Considering that soccer almost never stops, and ice hockey and American football make you sit through endless commercials (during which scoring is literally impossible), scoring can't be the answer.


2) Sceptics say, "Too many games end in ties."

Why can't Americans understand that not everything must be decided?

Soccer games sometimes end in a tie. The tie the USA got versus Slovenia was an exciting game and gave the USA the one point needed to progress out of the group. 

Americans are so upset by ties; they always want winners and losers. But sometimes in life, things are equal. Think back to your math classes and remember that equation you tried to balance.

If you’re so against ties, you probably don't see sense in the equals sign (=) in math.


3) Sceptics say, "Players dive and waste time."

This is admittedly a problem that needs to be tackled and is being done so (albeit slowly) by the authorities.

But the same problem also exists in basketball and the NBA. Manu Ginobli? Pau Gasol? Or the touch fouls Kobe always pleads for?

How many times have we seen NBA players exaggerate contact and fake falls?

So it’s not solely a soccer problem. Faked injuries and selling calls are an unfortunate part of sports, but hard to control.


4) Sceptics say, "Not having a countdown timer or technology is stupid."

This is a minor issue that most soccer fans are indifferent about.

If the referee says there are four minutes of injury time, sure, a timer may help, but the excitement you get from not knowing how many seconds are left on the clock also adds to the tension.

Regarding technology, I agree that it is needed.

About 99 percent of soccer fans agree with me. Unfortunately, the people who make this call are FIFA, who are run by some inept old gentlemen.

Technology would help in goal-line decisions, offside calls, fouls, everything. Sepp Blatter, the head of FIFA, doesn't think so at present.


5) Sceptics say, "Limited substitutions make for a poorer spectacle at the end of matches."

The beauty of soccer is that, because substitutions are limited, the players that stay on the field continuously have to be fitter and stronger.

Being able to last the distance is part of the game; presumably, you wouldn’t recommend that marathons be run in shifts by eight-man teams in order for everyone to be at their best?

Ditto a 12-round boxing match.

Add to this the fact that only three subs means you have to be tactical with changes. Baseball, after all, has fairly strict substitution rules, and that affects strategy.


6) Sceptics say, "Soccer is un-American."

Because soccer is a sport that America didn't invent and doesn't play as well as the rest of the world, they class it as dull, communistic, anti-American, gay, feminine, Marxist, and/or foreign-sports terrorism.

As soccer doesn't revolve around the USA and their immediate gratification, the implication is that it’s therefore impossible to understand, care about, or appreciate.

One could argue that the draft system prevalent in most major US sports tides more with socialism.

The poorest teams are given the first draft choice. Poor-performing teams are not relegated to a lower league. Salaries are capped, markets are means-tested and profits are shared. New franchises must be approved by the Commissioner’s office.

Even scouting is shared to maximize the collective brand, and the brand of the individual club is therefore lost.

The NFL hasn't created equality, it's created mediocrity, where successful clubs are penalized and failure is rewarded.

As former Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell once put it when talking about his fellow owners, “we’re 32 fat-cat Republicans who vote Socialist".

Of course these factors probably have more to do with America, as the MLS also includes elements of this "sports socialism". But this highlights the stupidity of those Americans who argue that soccer is a socialist sport.

Sure, soccer is played in a lot of socialist countries, but then it’s also played in a lot of democratic countries, some more "free" than the USA.

US radio hosts Glenn Beck and G. Gordon Liddy hate soccer, not because they find it boring, but because it doesn't fit with their "monochromatic" view of what it is to be American; namely, white and middle class.

In the minds of conservatives like them, soccer players occupy the same space as illegal immigrants; that is, they are differently-coloured foreigners who want to rob America of its values. Liddy's show even suggested soccer was being "sold as part of the 'browning' of America."

With views like that, you're probably wondering why they give this guy any air time. Many others think the same thing.

Continue to points 7 to 13 of this article.

Please keep comments between bloggers polite and respectful!


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