Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Reasons why one particular American doesn't care about soccer . . .

Much ink -- both actual and virtual -- continues to be spilt discussing why Americans aren't as rabid about soccer as most of the rest of the world. There are many theories:

** "Soccer would be popular in the U.S., but it can’t be televised profitably because there are no natural breaks for advertisements."

** "Americans have neither the belief system nor the temperment for such a sisyphean sport as soccer. We are a society of doers, achievers, and builders. Our country is dynamic, constantly growing, and becoming ever bigger, richer, and stronger. We do not subscribe to a 'zero sum' mentality. We do not labor for the sake of laboring. And we like our sports teams to score."

** "America isn't interested in football because they can't win, plain and simple. Enough BS American propaganda."

** "Maybe the sales pitch is wrong. . . . perhaps the best hook for Americans is not the beauty of soccer, but the fact that the game is also, in truth, pretty ugly."

** "it’s a sissy sport"

** "[Americans' dislike of soccer] can be easily explained in two parts[:] First, as a nation of loony but determined inventors, we prefer things we thought of ourselves. . . . The second and greatest, by far . . . is the element of flopping. Americans may generally be arrogant, but there is one stance I stand behind, and that is the intense loathing of penalty-fakers."

** "Another big factor as to why Americans don't get as passionate about soccer is because, generally speaking, we don't have a strong sense of nationalism."

My take on the matter is . . .

. . . that it's not easy to generalize about the motivations of a nation of ~300 million people. The quotes above provide just a few examples of people's attempts to do so, but each of these explanations obscures as much as it might illuminate. Rather than filling the airwaves with yet another over-generalized attempt to corral the perceptions of 300 million people into one simplistic explanation or another, I'll stick to a perspective I can speak definitively about and specify my own reasons for not caring a whit for soccer:

1) I grew up watching and playing football and have a much greater understanding of, historical connection with, and emotional attachment to football than to any other sport;

2) I'd rather play any sport than watch any sport, even football;

3) Whereas I am entertained watching NFL (and sometimes college) football, I find it hard to find viewing times in the midst of my extremely busy personal and professional schedule -- generally, I have more pressing things to do on a Sunday than sit around and watch hours of football, particularly in September and October when the weather is still decent;

4) Televised sports have an excessive and excessively annoying amount of consumerism associated with them, in the form of demeaning, vapid, formulaic, and mind-numbing commercials, corporate sponsorships, and tv show plugs which never cease to amaze me in their variant of increasingly insipid and surreal brainwashing;

5) I find it morally reprehensible, in some respects, that sports, generally, are given such high cultural value that hundreds of millions of dollars are wasted on them (and that could be better spent alleviating poverty, delivering health care, improving education, etc.). This is most pronounced in the United States, and particularly with the NFL, NBA, and MLB, but applies generally to all such widely-televised and commercialized professional and semi-pro (i.e., college-level) sports;

6) The kinds of sports I generalize about in #5 above include football, soccer, basketball, baseball, hockey, and NASCAR[1], as well as the Olympics. I refer to such sports as "gladiator sports."[2] Following #3 above, I only have a limited amount of time for one gladiator sport, which is the one I'm most familiar with and intellectually and emotionally attached to. Additionally, following #4, I have a very limited amount of patience for the commercial breaks that come between gladiatorial feats;

7) I've found soccer an extremely fun sport to play, but the few times I've tried to watch it I've found it boring and difficult to follow[3];

8) Like the Olympics, soccer -- particularly World Cup events -- is pushed in our faces incessantly, as if we're supposed to care about it or else we're not being proper world citizens. Bollocks to this. These gladiator sports are threatening to become little more than delivery vehicles for corporate tie-ins and advertisements (the Olympics, the NFL, the World Cup). There are no inherent reasons why anyone should care at all about any of these sports. Sports are just games and entertainment, though sometimes people choose to perceive them as (sometimes only semi-civil) stand-ins for internal or international conflicts (USA vs. USSR hockey, 1980, World Cup 2010, South African rugby). It's never going to be the case that all 6 billion (or whatever) people on the planet will be fans of a single sport. People who love soccer (or football or basketball or whatever) shouldn't care if Person X doesn't share that love, because there are plenty of other people who do. It doesn't seem logical to me when people attempt to paint an entire nation one way or another simply because a majority of their sports-viewing population doesn't care about soccer;

9) Based on #8, it seems to me that many soccer fans who comment on the question "why don't Americans like soccer?" approach the issue from a position of insecurity. Why does it matter to Soccer Fan X if Americans get rabid about soccer or not? The professional game seems to be going along perfectly fine without the Monolithic American Masses putting their collective weight in support of it;

10) Following one of the comments I quote above, I'm one of those people who is not prone to pull for a national team, which is likely a reason why I don't give a whit about soccer or the Olympics.

[1] If the latter can rightly be called a sport. I'm not so sure.

[2] I didn't coin this term, but I heard it in passing years ago and have appropriated it.

[3] I feel the same about baseball, except the difficult-to-follow part.


1 comment:

  1. Another installment of discussion on this topic over at EotAW. Good stuff, as usual.