The American people vs. the game of soccer (or football?)

Being the classic example of a high school exchange student that I was, I got acquainted with the sport called football. Wait, American football that is. I attended a pretty large high school and the Friday nights of the fall semester were all about football. I loved it, the atmosphere, the popcorn, the cheerleaders and football players, it was just like the movies. Except for one little detail – I didn’t understand a thing about the game. I was constantly sounding like the American equivalent of one of those annoying women in the Netherlands that don’t understand offside (I obviously do) because during the American football games I was constantly saying: ‘Why are they running that way? Shouldn’t they go back? Was that good? Where’s the ball? Why are they stopping – AGAIN? Why are there so many players not playing?’ After a couple of minutes, I decided to just go with it (to save myself some friends to watch the game with me) and just cheer when everyone else was cheering. In the end, I told myself I totally understood everything (but to be honest, I only know that you should get the ball over the last line, that’s it).

Football soccer
This is a goal right?

I absolutely love soccer. Or should I say football? Well, I’ll call it soccer to make things a little clearer. My mood on Sundays is definitely depending on if Feyenoord is going to make me happy. In the US, people were often surprised about my lack of knowledge of American Football and my love for soccer. Soccer was often seen as ‘boring’. Still, soccer gained popularity in the US and especially women’s soccer during the Olympics, where team USA won the gold medal last year. But it is nothing like the soccer culture of Europe and South America. It makes me wonder, why is the most popular sport in the world, not something Americans stay home for?

 

Soccer vs Football
Confusing stuff

Why don’t Americans like soccer?

The question ‘Why don’t Americans like soccer?’ is one that boggles the minds of countless people around the world. Seriously, Google ‘Why don’t Americans like soccer?’. I did, and I came across numerous theories that sounded like they could explain this phenomenon, but there was not one definite answer.

One of the reasons often brought forward by Americans is that soccer is boring. A game that ends in a 0-0 score can’t be exciting! American football and basketball have constant scoring opportunities and could never see a 1-0 score. Soccer supposedly takes too long and is not exciting. As a European, I frown upon hearing this. Of course, one game is more exciting than the other, but there is so much more to the game than just scoring. If you think soccer is boring, you ‘just don’t get it’, according to what Europeans think. The internet has given tons of reasons for this, all boiling down to the fact that Americans more than any other society are living with expectations to be constantly entertained, and do not have the patience to sit out an entire game without the excitement of scoring all the time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYUa7DpPses
The Simpsons are always scientifically solid right?

 
Another reason, mostly brought forward by Europeans, is that Americans don’t like soccer because they are simply not that good at it and they only like to watch sports they are (one of the) best in. On the one hand, this could explain the relative popularity of women’s soccer in the US. In the Netherlands, women’s soccer is just starting to gain some popularity but it’s nothing close the popularity of men’s soccer. In the US, it is popular especially after they proved to be the best in the world. But on the other hand, popularity and skill might go hand in hand. In the Netherlands, little boys dream of being the next Cruijff, and they strive towards this dream because of the popularity of soccer. In the US there might be tons of talented soccer players walking around that never put their abilities to use. This is a typical ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg’-discussion, is there talent because of popularity or popularity because of talent?

boring soccer
Source: 2.bp.blogspot.com/

The thing that makes the world go ’round: money

The most probable reason I came across during my search on the internet was probably the thing that makes the world go ’round: money. A soccer match is 2 times 45 minutes, during which the game might stop for a little while as a result of an injury or a substitute entering the field, but the clock keeps on ticking and the game doesn’t stop. If you ever watched television in the US, you might have been surprised of the number of commercial breaks during a show. Or if you watch Dr. Phil in the Netherlands you might be surprised by the number of times Dr. Phil looks into the camera and says ‘we’ll be right back’ after there was just a touching and emotional moment where Emerald was crying over her cheating husband and you are considering yourself lucky that you live in the Netherlands and you have a 75% chance that there won’t be a commercial break so you can find out right away what kind of dirty stuff Shawn did while Emerald thought he was working. Or maybe that’s just me.
But you also know that the commercial breaks in the US are much shorter. Perfect for a quick grab of a drink or a bathroom break, while Dutch commercial breaks take so damn long that you can prepare a pizza in the meantime and you will suddenly forget what program you were watching in the first place. Well, I’m getting off track here. My point: American football stops a lot for whatever it is they are doing, and American TV loves it. This is why the most talked about moments the day after the Super Bowl are the commercials during the breaks and not the team who actually won. Soccer is not that popular and it can only gain popularity when it is shown on TV. But the American network bosses are not that interested in showing something you can only have 1 commercial break in after 45 minutes. And thus it will not be watched by the public.

But this might change! NBC will start showing premier league football (soccer) and announced it with a hilarious commercial showing an American soccer coach in England and showed that whatever sport they love; they are in any case very good at making fun of themselves.

 

(And if you want to see a little less eloquent discussion about which sport is the best and why, just look at the comments. Got to love people that argue on YouTube comments)

Ciska Schippers
Ciska Schippers is an almost-historian from Amsterdam and loves everything that has to do with the wonders of American culture, politics and history. Biggest guilty pleasure is watching reality tv shows of which she is convinced are real. Suffering the hardships of being a Feyenoord fan in Amsterdam.

23 COMMENTS

  1. Soccer/Voetball is the most popular sport at the youth level in the U.S. The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) starts at age 6 and is the origin of the “soccer mom” in the minivan/suv stereotype. Professional soccer isn’t popular. What we don’t have is good coaching or a good system. It is all (well-meaning, but clueless in soccer) parent volunteers. Competitive soccer travel clubs are very expensive, so they are skewed toward more affluent areas. Your system of local clubs is much better for developing and maintaining an interest in the sport, plus they have pubs for socializing. Our kids also play 3-4 different sports during a year. Once kids get to high school (your colleges), the only teams are at the school and there is only a single team, so only 20 kids can participate. Your (1, 2, 3,…) system is much better for maintaining participation (true for field hockey also).

    • By the time kids reach age 10 or 11 they lose interest in soccer because most Americans and Canadians do not play the sport as adults and there are no role-models. Recent arrivals from Europe have been trying for over 100 years to get the sport established but after they’ve been assimilated into society, they become less interested. Football, baseball, hockey and basketball are so popular in North America that soccer is nothing more than a healthy distraction for young kids. Big British money is investing heavily in North American TV in an effort to sell the product but I’ll bet my bottom dollar it will fail. There are fewer recent European immigrants than there were years ago and less interest than there was in the early 20th century. We in America perceive the sport to be REALLY BORING and as we all know, perception is reality.

  2. I must disagree with your statement that Americans hate soccer. in my house, and many like it, soccer is #1. It’s true that we are still struggling with creating a solid adult soccer association, but not all of us are dimwit jug heads who love to watch grown men (and young boys) knock the snot out of each other on the gridiron. I don’t get American football, either!
    Pennsylvania

    • That’s one example. You can’t just say, “OH MY FAMILY LIKES IT SO YOU’RE WRONG.”
      Ever heard of sample size? But c’mon that’s a bit much isn’t it? So everyone who watches the NFL is a dimwit? I think you just made you’re entire argument irrelevant with that remark. I don’t like soccer and love football, but the author here made some great points and I loved the way he conveyed his information from both perspectives, outlining the pros and cons of both. But I feel like you’re too full of yourself to take something out of an article that you disagree with.

  3. I’m an American who finds soccer boring but is married to a guy who loves it. After learning more about the rules of the game, how it is played, the rivalries, etc. I think I understand why Americans don’t enjoy it: because while many of us (not me) may have played it as children, it is not what we watched as spectators. Watching a sport and playing it are two every different things. “Watching” a sport as a fan is also about rivalries, competition with the guy sitting next to you at the bar about who is the more devoted fan, who can sing louder, recite the most esoteric facts, etc. We Americans do that with our own beloved sports, but not so much with soccer because it isn’t on TV much and isn’t part of our adult culture. If we had that level of distraction to engage in around the game, maybe we’d like it more, because let’s face it– for many of those 90 minutes, in most games, absolutely nothing happens. The clock may run continually, but I am often amazed at how bored even the players look! Also, Americans will need the rules to change if we are to embrace this game. We need more refs on the enormous field (to make it harder to pay off a single ref and throw an entire game– way too easy when there’s only one responsible guy on the field and a couple lineman who can barely see anything), and we need replays. When a game hinges on just one goal, you’d better be damn sure it really was a goal, or that each one counts. It seems to me that as a TV-soccer-watcher, I can see at least one horrifically blown call from my couch that the ref either was too far away to see, or blatantly ignored. Very frustrating! Why care? My husband, I am convinced, likes the blogs and commentary and highlights and shirts more than the actual game because when he’s “watching” it, he’s often also checking Twitter, watching another game simultaneously on his laptop, reading articles, or what have you until the TV commentators start talking in more agitated voices. Because most of the game is more boring than paint drying, and not so “beautiful” at all! More like the “very, very infrequently beautiful game that is mostly so boring and frustrating you should probably just watch best goals and tackles highlights on youtube” game.

    • If soccer is like “watching paint dry” then u should never watch American football which is a waste of 3hrs for just 11 mins of action.

      It would be difficult to create a compilation of beautiful moments in American football bcos there are none. Throwing and catching is easy. But controlling a ball without using ur arms takes much more skill. Thats what leads to the beauty.

      And ur husband is just one guy, he does not represent soccer fans. I myself have never bought a jersey or even been to a stadium. I love playing and love watching top teams play even on my phone.

  4. It is simple – soccer had more lobbyists in Europe back then than in US. Also sports culture is slightly younger in Us hence they have bigger liking to more modern sports like ice-hockey and football, which cannot really be played in poor villages (soccer can). Even basketball in thriving purely thanks to public fields that allow tallent to amass from all layers of society.

    Also I play soccer a lot and find it incredibly boring to watch. For example today is world cup, one of the most exciting games supposedly (Span vs Netherlands) yet I don’t give a slightest shit about it. I’ll have a game myeself tomorrow though.
    So yes – even long-term players can admit it is boring as hell to watch. Just as baseball – it’s cool toplay and is sort of a traditional sport, but to be honest it is boring for someone who comes there for views.

  5. Soccer sucks. No matter how you cut it, the game is more boring than watching paint dry. If you’re tuning in for the last two minutes, OR if there’s a penalty shootout, then……….maybe. But for most of the game, it absolutely SUCKS.
    Take it back to Mexico, or Argentina, or Columbia……… PLEASE……….

  6. First of all, American “football” should be called Handegg. Second of all, American football is the most boring “sport” ever. It requires NO skill at all. In the other hand, REAL football it’s a combination of skill, technique and stamina, real athletes not just a bunch of fat asses wearing thight pants and pads. Funny thing is that Handegg fans brag about being tough and rude…pffffft…..bs, take the pads and the helmet out and then talk.

    • “It requires NO skill at all”.

      Yep, Americans just hand out millions of dollars to which ever “Player” shows up first. That is how they decide which unskilled person gets to play (insert eye rolls).

      American football fans may be insular, but FIFA fans are often delusional about reality.

  7. My issue with soccer is not so much the game itself, just the way it’s administred; corruption inside governing bodies rivaling a banana republic, complete inability to even attempt to address issues that plague the sport(players faking injuries, a one man dictator(referee) having way to much power over the contest etc.) which stands in stark contrast to North American sport leagues which are constantly trying to tweak their product to make it better(not always successfully). Not to mention the fact that the same handful of teams seem to win the UEFA Champions League going on a quarter century now with no end in sight. You don’t have to institute an American style draft and salary cap, but do something to get some fresh blood in there.

  8. You do know Soccer is the most popular sport and highest ranking sport in the world and “American Football” doesn’t event come close to being 2nd 3rd or 4th and so on it’s one of the more less popular sports and the stupid faked injury things you see in images are not faked soccer is more taxing on the body and you don’t wear armor in american football they wear armor you might as well call them pussys soccer is basically football but more dangerous and american football is easy soccer actually requires skill soccer is very enjoyable to watch along with mma and boxing american football is boring to watch along with basket ball and soccer has longer games than both constantly running and using foot work and arm work further proving my point that soccer is a more taxing and harder sport than american football and in soccer you’ll see some nudging and grabbing a lot this whole thread this pussy started because he reduces himself to one the most pussy sports in world and it can’t compare to soccer get over it weak ass more peopl soccer and have more fans and it makes the most money and it’s physically better than puss boi american football you just got schooled kids xD

    • We all know soccer is the world’s most popular sport. We simply don’t care.

      Over the past few months I’ve made an effort to learn more about soccer and follow the game, by radio as I don’t own a TV. It’s a lost cause. The announcers are horrible at describing the game.

      If you dig into the history of US soccer you’ll find the US was very good and reached the semi-final round in the first World Cup. The Great Depression destroyed soccer in the US. Now, this is a nation of people much like me: I’ve never watched the entirety of a soccer match. I’ll be surprised if that changes during my lifetime (about 30 years or so).

  9. And all that you stated is wrong soccer is more popular than football football will never be as popular as soccer football fans and coaches and the community of American football just embarrass themselves constantly and you can’t prove me wrong because in both this and my other comments are facts you’re like one of those YouTube videos that like battlefield saying cod is worse even though its better just like with american football soccer will always be better it’s a fact

  10. Also, Soccer is the number 1 ranked sport and it makes the most money and soccer athlete’s get paid more than american football Soccer your facts you got are wrong and easily at best just spewed bullshit do a quick Google search or ask anyone

  11. The problem with your theory about Americans living American football because of commercials is that the tradition of stopping and starting in American football PREDATES television by about 70 years.

    The truth, I believe, is that people love the sport that was loved by their family and neighbors when they were growing up. That is the only reason. At every sports fans life there was a moment of suspense during some sporting even where everyone around them really cared who won. And the excitement of that moment never wore off the person. In India the moment of suspense probably during a cricket game. In China, maybe a basketball game or table tennis match. In Japan, it could have been baseball. In the Netherlands it was likely a soccer game and in the U.S. it was likely an American Football game.

  12. I think ­ NFLTVNOW­­ can be good place for you. You also will have there very good lives with all season games.

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