why (association) football won’t fly in the USA…

now the USA has been knocked out of the FIFA World Cup, soccer fever has begun to subside in the States. the vast masses of American citizens don’t care about soccer most of the time, because they have no personal investment in the sport. they only support the US team from a convergence of nationalism and sport.

this is no surprise, as association football will never really challenge the US mainstays of gridiron football, basketball and baseball. there are four major reasons why:

1. soccer in the US is considered by many a sport of the wealthy. one of the cheapest and most egalitarian sports in the world, and here it’s the purview of the upper middle class and higher. though play really only requires a ball and some space, organized play requires a standard field. said field won’t fit in the bounds of a standard US gridiron field. this makes affording playing space difficult, given that ideal locations are probably already taken. multi-use fields exist, of course, but that doesn’t mean they are common. there’s also a whiff of “Euro-ness” about it that turns off many traditional US sports fans. this is a country that renamed french fries “freedom fries,” for goodness sakes.

2. soccer is often called “The Beautiful Game.” while this may seem a throwaway phrase to some, appreciation of the sport is, in many ways, aesthetic. American sports fans aren’t trained to appreciate “beautiful” sports. American football? not beautiful. the average NFL player weighs around 250 pounds – players in the offensive line can top 300. put these guys in pads and slam them together? not beautiful. baseball? while there is a certain amount of aesthetic appreciation included in baseball, it’s far more a game of statistics than anything else. you should really like math to truly enjoy baseball. and basketball? possibly the closest “homegrown” sport to soccer’s beauty, the grace and skill of individual players just doesn’t translate on a team level.

3. ties. seriously, Americans don’t like ties. “(G)ive me liberty, or give me death!” “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.” “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” “There is winning and there is misery.” the American obsession with having a clear winner and loser is best shown with baseball: if the game is tied at the end of 9 innings, play continues until there is a victor. the longest professional baseball game in history lasted almost 8 1/2 hours, going 33 innings. though the game was stopped after slightly more than 8 hours and continued on another day, 19 fans stayed the entire time. for a minor-league game. keep in mind, beer concessions stop at the end of the 7th inning – so these folks went 25 innings without a drink. i love baseball, and i don’t think i could handle that.

4. and finally, there’s nowhere to put the commercials. for a sport to be popular in the US, you need somewhere to put the commercial breaks for TV. the NFL actually requires 20 breaks per game, and has a man on the field to make sure that play is halted long enough to let the commercials run out. baseball doesn’t have time outs, but there’s plenty of time between innings or during pitching changeovers to run ads. but soccer just runs for 90 minutes. sure, there’s a half time break, but Americans want a new beer, more chips, or a bathroom break more frequently than every 45 minutes. hence, commercials.

some may point out that the US culture is changing, with more and more people from Latin America emigrating. yet though the adults will be soccer fans, the children will most likely be soccer and football fans. or basketball. or baseball. or NASCAR, even. for most, by the third generation, soccer will just be another sport that’s only interesting every four years. case in point: my great-great grandfather emigrated here to play soccer professionally. i like watching it on TV (i’d watch more if i had FSC) and i’ll go to a game from time to time, but i really don’t care that much about soccer.

maybe this will change. i could be wrong. it’s happened before. heck, i think it happened earlier today. but i don’t think so.

quote of the day:

“I never did say that you can’t be a nice guy and win. I said that if I was playing third base and my mother rounded third with the winning run, I’d trip her up.” – Leo Durocher


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