Why Americans Don't Like Soccer
Firstly, I disagree with the premise that Americans don’t like soccer. I don’t think they know anything about it, but that’s not the same thing as not liking it. To be honest, here in the United States, we aren’t given a chance to really understand professional soccer. Finding an MLS game on TV is more difficult than locating the NHL playoffs (which finished before anyone actually knew they started). But before I expand on the lack of exposure soccer gets, let’s look at the game itself.
Participation isn’t a problem in the US. Considering girls get to play with the boys, I wouldn’t be surprised if soccer were the most participated organized youth sports program in the country. So fundamentally, most parents know the rules. Certainly any kid who has played knows the basics. And enough kids play, that you can’t claim you don’t like it because you don’t understand it. Even a person who has never played any sport at any level can pick it up in about 1 minute: kick the ball in the goal, you can’t use your hands, you can’t knock people over if you’re not actually making a play on the ball. Sure there are other rules (like offsides), but that right there is all you need to know to be able to follow the action.
The biggest argument you hear is that there’s no scoring so it’s kind of dull. My feeling is that the lack of scoring actually makes it more intriguing. When a team actually gets a good scoring chance while attacking the goal, it’s absolutely enthralling. To watch the players position themselves as the series of events unfold is fascinating. Granted, most of the time, these developments finish with no pay-off, goal wise, but they’re certainly interesting to watch. I would say during the course of a match, there are just as many scoring chances in soccer as football. Obviously, the big difference is, they score far more often in football. But I think the non-stop action of the soccer game more than makes up for the differential in actual scores.
Another big argument is that soccer players are wusses because they’re flopping all over the place. This is one I can understand. I have a problem with this one. However, in most cases, I can understand and almost forgive it. You have to realize that soccer players run non-stop for 2 45-minute periods. That’s an insane amount of running, So if a guy twists a knee a little bit, it’s understandable that he’s going to milk it for a minute. I suspect all of the players on the pitch are appreciative. The problem becomes when a guy flops after barely being touched, if at all. This is egregious and frowned upon, even in soccer. You’ll hear the commentators give the guy a bit of a tongue lashing. And in reality, it doesn’t happen nearly as often as you might think. It’s annoying when it does happen, but no more so than, say, Nomar’s antics at the plate or a Peyton Manning interview.
I think the real reason soccer isn’t big in the US is because of the afore mentioned lack of exposure. As a kid, you’re playing soccer and it’s reasonable to say that, given half a chance, you’d watch some on TV. If it ever came on. Which it doesn’t. It just doesn’t get put on the tube. And that’s because it’s a bad format for the corporate big wigs. It’s 45+ straight minutes of action without any possible chance of cutting to commercials. That’s not a viable format for the networks, therefore, they’re more than happy to prevent any sort of ground swell of interest from the populous. There is absolutely no economic benefit to broadcasters to have them try and sell soccer. And the fact is, now, it’s going to have to overcome football, baseball or the NBA in order to gain mainstream acceptance. There’s absolutely no way that would ever happen without increased exposure. 40 years ago, soccer could have easily beat out football or the NBA for popularity in the US. All it would have needed was a league. The league that did form was 5-10 years too late and ended up folding. The basketball and football leagues had already been around for decades. People already had a rooting interest. Then TV started expanding sports coverage. And BOOM, we have sports #1 and #3 in popularity in the US. ESPN, had it partnered with the now defunct soccer league might have been able to get soccer that #3 spot, but no dice. For a time, Australian Rule football was more popular in the US than soccer.
Now we are a top rate nation with a second rate soccer team. That should eventually be enough to enable us to catch up with the other nations in quality of play. Eventually. But for now, I’ll just keep on rooting against Brazil (the Yankees of international football) and for England (because I am an unapologetic Anglo-phile).
PS Had a 2nd i-view with the consulting group today. It went amazingly well. I think I’d be a very good fit. I’ll have 1, may 2, more interviews before any sort of offer. So before July 4th for a job does not look realistic, but, if things continue to go well, I don’t see a problem with before the end of July.