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Why America Hates Soccer

2008-03-25

By Marty Mercado


Venice, Valencia, and Vienna scream as the two teams take to the pitch. Rome, Rotterdam, and Rio de Janeiro roar with excitement at the opening kick-off. Cheers echo throughout Buenos Aires, Barcelona, and Bangkok as a goal is scored. Moans are heard in Milan, Melbourne, and Moscow as an opportunity for a goal is missed. Liverpool, Lyon and Lisbon sing songs of victory as the final whistle is blown while Athens, Adelaide, and Aberdeen groan in defeat. Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Portland, however, remain silent. Not a peep is heard in Memphis, Miami, or Minneapolis. As the world watches twenty-two of the world’s greatest athletes partake of the “beautiful game” that is football, Americans refuse to pay any attention to another boring soccer game. In American culture, the presence of soccer, or lack there of, has been neglected. When over one-hundred, thousand fans flood the streets of Madrid to see Real play Atletico, Americans stay at home and wonder what they should do for the day. America goes through the day not knowing that the United Kingdom is at a stand still as Liverpool take on Manchester United. There is an obvious difference between how America and how the majority of the world view soccer. The world embraces soccer and Americans push it away. Soccer has never been a big sport in American culture and there seems to be a genuine dislike from most Americans towards the sport. This is because soccer is seen by Americans as a sport that stands for four things that they dislike: absence of big business, an overabundance of foreigners, homosexuals, and a lack of initiative.


Big business is one of the cornerstones of American life and there is no better way to market something than through television commercials on a highly-viewed show. About eight minutes of commercials can be seen on a standard thirty-minute show (Gaebler). In sporting events, commercials are shown whenever a time out is called, when there is a break on the play, or whenever the TV network can fit a thirty-second commercial. Advertisements are sometimes incorporated into the sport itself. It is common to hear announcers say something to the effect of “this was brought to you by…” From instant replays to locations on the playing field, it is almost certain that a company “brings it” to the viewer. In soccer, however, play continues for 45-minutes straight without interruption. It is followed by a 15-minute break and another 45 minutes of uninterrupted play. This leaves little to no room for advertising as the short 15 minute break from play would also require networks to provide the halftime report. Also, other than the instant replay, it is difficult to find other places to advertise in soccer. For instance, “That harsh tackle was brought to you by Coca Cola” does not exactly send a desirable message to viewers. Although advertisements are permitted to be placed on team shirts, they are mostly printed across the chest and stitched on the sleeves thus, they are not clearly visible to a TV audience. This lack of advertising opportunities pushes away sponsors. Networks, therefore, would not show soccer as they stand to lose money from lack of sponsorships since a thirty-second spot can sell for an excess of $100,000 (Gaebler). As a result, Americans are not able to watch soccer because few networks are willing to show it, and the few that do are usually pay-per-view channels. This lack of exposure does not allow the American sports fan to see the game in its entirety. Worse, they only see the negative comments made by late-night pundits who make fun of the sport.


From a lack of one thing to the overabundance of another, an aspect of soccer that turns away Americans is the foreign talent. With the threat of global terrorism and the tension surrounding America’s southern border, it is not surprising that there is some form of xenophobia in the United States. American politicians call for more secure borders and a limit to overall immigration. Soccer, however, promotes and encourages foreigners to play the sport. Big clubs in Europe look for talent from Central and South America, as well as Africa and Asia to play in England, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. American sports, on the other hand, look to local talent to fill the sport. Although there is a presence of foreign athletes in America’s major sports, a majority of the players are still Americans. However, if one takes a look at Major League Soccer, one will see that the top performers are foreign. Players like Colombian Juan Pablo Angel lead the league in goals scored. In addition, David Beckham of the Los Angeles Galaxy is arguably the league’s most popular personality. When compared to a sport like baseball, American football, or basketball where majority of the “all-stars” are Americans, the local talent in Major League Soccer is not as abundant.


Another idea that soccer “promotes” that strikes fear into Americans’ hearts is homosexuality. Soccer does not explicitly promote homosexuality, if it does at all, but in America, it is regarded as a “girly sport.” Though soccer made a brief appearance as an intercollegiate sport in the Ivy League between 1869 and 1875, Harvard refused to compete under the soccer rules, proclaiming that the rugby rules are more "manly." (American Attitudes…) Rugby then evolved to American Football and everything before that turned into history. Thus, soccer appears to be tame in comparison to American Football. For example, the NFL prides itself in six-foot-five, three-hundred pound giants who go on the field and can produce high-impact hits. Conversely, soccer players are five-foot-eleven hundred-seventy-pond men who run to avoid contact. The low-impact image of soccer makes it appear less manly and boring to the casual sports fan. In addition, the phenomenon of “diving” in soccer has only added to the “gay” image of soccer. Diving is the act of tripping over by an offensive player with little to no contact from his defender in order to win a free kick. Players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba, and Arjen Robben add dramatics such as loud screams and crying which further emasculate the sport. Homosexuality has always been a controversial issue that Americans have tried to avoid, and a sport like soccer that does not appear to be “manly enough” has failed to attract attention from the US.


Finally, Americans are known for being decisive and being able to get results in the quickest and most efficient way possible. Americans find solutions to problems and settle for nothing less than a win. Whether it was the Atomic Bomb in World War Two or an average dad fixing a creaky door, Americans look to get decisive results. Soccer, however, is a sport that can be considered as indecisive. Regular league matches can end in draws sometimes with neither team scoring. Most soccer clubs look to play defense and only utilize a counter attack to score. An all-out attack will make a team vulnerable to conceding a goal, so most teams look to defense as a first option. This sends a message that goes against the “make something happen” attitude of Americans. With this playing style, it seems as if that soccer is trying to prevent something from happening. This leads to Americans getting a bad image of the sport and leads to them disliking and not watching it.


Although soccer is one of the most beloved sports in the world, America remains to be a country that has yet to embrace it. The game represents ideals that America stands against and therefore has achieved limited success in North America. Soccer remains to be a children’s sport that Americans grow out of rather than a phenomenon that invades the country. As long as soccer remains to be the sport that it is today, Americans will continue to fail to see the beauty in the game. As the world cheers on their favorite football clubs, America stays silent.

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