Thoughts on the World Cup or why I think football is not popular in America


As yesterday was Scotty’s birthday, he got to do what he wanted and since it was the final match of the World Cup, we went to the Cambridge Bar and tucked into some serious burgers while we watched the match.  I haven’t been watching all the games but I’ve watched a few and I now have a few thoughts on why professional football (soccer) has never really caught on in the States.  People like to posit theories for this uniquely American problem.  It seems that every other nation in the world loves football and it’s quite the conundrum that it hasn’t caught on in like manner in the good ol’ USA.  Theories range from truncated American attention spans that can’t hold on for 45 uninterrupted minutes of play or the games don’t produce scores high enough to provide the stimulation required of simple American brains.  Frankly, I know lots of Americans who aren’t bothered by the lack of commercial breaks, the long games with scores rarely passing 2. Football lends itself to high drama and I don’t think the lack of American interest in the game can be entirely written off in a condescending epitaph on their national lack of ability to pay attention.  Americans love their sports.  Baseball, American football, hockey, basketball – most of these games last far longer than 90 minutes and the increasing number of commercial breaks is not something that we’re all celebrating.  The interruptions are annoying.  I think think it may have something to do with grown men holding their shins and writhing on the ground that does not square with the American cowboy ethos.

Image borrowed from: arabnews.com/sports/ article61705.ece

When I think about the majority of American men I know (and most men I know are American) I just do not see them being able to stomach 90 minutes of grown men regularly faking injuries in an attempt to get another player booked.  And for that matter, I don’t think American women have much patience for it either!  The constant interruptions to the flow of the game is annoying enough but when it involves these men acting like schoolboys, it gets to be repulsive.  One is reminded of a child who falls and looks up at his parents to gage their reaction before deciding if he’s hurt or not.  The way the footballers are always out to get a foul called on the opposing team does not add anything to the game.  If you’re going to play football, play football.  There were some incredible shows of athleticism last night but sportsmanship was sorely lacking.  And while Americans and their athletes are not immune to whining, poor sportsmanship, appealing to the ref or ump or other authority, there does seem to be more of an attitude of “let’s get on with the game”.  Yes, we will all complain about a bad call and play the roll of Monday Morning Quarterback with relish but the amount of bellyaching that Americans will tolerate on the field, diamond, rink, or court is limited.  Until football becomes more about the game than the fouls and penalty kicks, I really do not see it taking hold.

And sure, plenty of whining can occur at any baseball, hockey, or basketball game.  But the fact that nearly every minute of a football game someone is “injured” and finds it necessary to roll around on the grown with an agonized look on his face trying to catch the ref’s attention gets old.  Fast.  Some of these injuries are legit – I do not deny that – but most are not, as evidenced by the player quickly regaining all physical ability as soon as a foul is called.  Baseball players are regularly hit by 90mph fastballs and they are expected to shake it off and make their way to first base, not wiggle around in the dirt for dramatic effect.  Basketball players regularly collide with the same force as football players and despite finding themselves sprawled on a hardwood floor, there is an expectation that they should bounce back and get on with the game.  These guys are well-played.  They are living their dream.  They are expected to play.  The game should be about the game – not how many fouls you can fake, or penalties you can get away with.

I am, obviously, not an expert here.  These were just thoughts that came to me while I was watching the match last night.  I really enjoyed aspects of the World Cup – the England/America match was classic.  Last nights game was different, at least to me, and I walked away with little respect for either team.  For you football fans out there – what do you think?  What did you think of the game last night?  Did you find it as annoying as I did?  Why do you think football hasn’t caught on in America?

About Rebecca

Hi! After five years in Europe, I'm adjusting to life back in the US. I use this blog to record my adventures, post photos, organize recipes, and post about things that interest me.
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4 Responses to Thoughts on the World Cup or why I think football is not popular in America

  1. pete says:

    I watched 62 of the 64 games. Last night’s divefest was the worst. It was the only hope the dutch had. They play dirty anyway, but against Spain it was their gameplan. Spain were sucked into a little bit, they had to be. It’s the boxing equivalent of clinching, if you can’t trade punches you fight dirty to stop the onslaught. For the most part, Spain kept their cool and the best team won. It wasn’t exactly good triumphing over evil, but it was class over cheap-shooters.

    Viva Espana!

  2. pete says:

    as for soccer in america, i think the attention span issue is a real one. i think, though, that soccer is much more of a team game than the three major sports in america. In baseball and american football, you literally sit down and rest for at least half the game, there is a turn-taking mentality, a player can afford not to do his job, as long as somebody else does his. as for basketball, here in the states we’ve just had a major free agent switch teams. And when he did he came very close to saying that it doesn’t matter who else in on his new team, they’ll still win. soccer still has stars, and money, and egos, (and melodrama) but its pace is relentless and its margin for error is tiny. there is little room for selfishness, and selfishness is a trait that americans admire.

  3. POP says:

    Being an American and never having watched more than 10 minutes of a televised soccer game I am not one to speak here but your observation intriqued me. I do see your point and think that you are on to something and tapping directly into the lower depths of male psyche. Male athletes who sigh, whine, behave like sissies, or FAIL to behave according to the traditional male gender role are just not fun to watch and are a turn off. Men tend to spurn them.
    However, a Major League brouhaha between a ego-driven ump and a lunk-head manager (think, Billy Williams, Lou Piniella, Bobby Cox) performing a home plate, spit-laced jawing or a riotous team brawl on the diamond (though silly and possibly dangerous) is usually fabulous TV. Why? Because watching ‘natural man’ act and react in his ‘natural way’ of ‘might makes right’ can be quite a show. Man’s lowest form of social behavior is that of a slugger. But when it occurs in a controled enviornment (sports), where real damaged is not allowed or likely to happen, the results are often hilarious. ‘Controled mayhem’ with the excuse being ‘boys will be boys’ has in part propelled the NFL to the stratosphere of popularity and wealth. Maybe soccer players need to do more manly stuff like head butting. I mean the only thing I remember about any World Cup is when several years ago that French guy lost it and pummeled his nagging opponent with his forehead, dropping him straight to the ground. Entertaining stuff.

  4. Hilary says:

    I think you have made a really good point here! Jimmy and I first watched the World Cup four years ago when Jimmy was living with Xavier. It was really fun watching it through his eyes. He explained the complexity of the game and his enthusiasm really rubbed off. We haven’t watched much this year (no tv) but what we have seen we have really enjoyed. I think you will really enjoy the following video. It is from the 2006 World Cup, but is SO funny!!

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