FanDuel - WFBC

March 19, 2010

CNN: Why America Never Fell In Love with Soccer: In a piece that covers the early history of American participation in the World Cup, James Montague tackles the question of why soccer's been a hard sell in the United States for most of the beautiful game's history. "As almost every nation on Earth embraced its rapid spread around the globe, the U.S. remained one of the few, resolute outposts of abstention," he writes. "But why has it been so difficult for Americans to take soccer to their hearts?" When the U.S. shocked the world with a 1-0 win over England in 1950's cup, only one American newspaper covered the event. Player Walter Bahr said that when he got back home, the only person there to greet him was his wife.

posted by rcade to soccer at 03:18 PM - 34 comments

Personally I think it is the money-grubbing networks fault. They don't put it on because they can't sell "real" commercials because there is only one break in the game; because it is so rarely on people don't get a chance to see the game. Then the networks will argue there is no interest in it. That can be the only explanation for why ESPN would find it more important to put poker on over soccer. They can interrupt the "play" anytime they want.

Thank goodness for FSC.

posted by scully at 03:21 PM on March 19

While my facetious comment about soccer strategy didn't go over so well the other day, I do actually enjoy the game of soccer. I enjoyed playing it when I was younger and have every intention of encouraging my son to play it when he is old enough. I do however understand how people here in the states find the game to be boring and think that this article does bring up a good point in the fact that when the US was still in a somewhat formative state, football did take over and push soccer away and has been held closer because it was a form of the game that was played by our people and not sent to us by the old country.

Very entertaining read from both an informational and sociological approach.

posted by Demophon at 03:23 PM on March 19

ESPN's picking up more soccer lately. It runs Premiership games early Saturdays, has the Champions League rights and will go crazy on the World Cup. I think it also has the MLS rights.

posted by rcade at 03:42 PM on March 19

They haven't so much been picking it up as it's been falling from the sky.

posted by yerfatma at 04:14 PM on March 19

Terrapin: I'm a Brit and moved to Canada in 1996. I was sickened when I saw soccer here for the first time and the network (TSN) put ADS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GAME! Then when I got CTV Sportsnet (as it was back then) I discovered THEY DID THE SAME!

Then things slowly started to improve. First we had the game shrunk down in the corner and an ad run. That went on few a few years.

Now we get the full half with no ads.

Stuff 15 minutes of ads between the halfs, I don't care. Just leave the damn game alone.

Of course then there's The Score who HAVE to shrink the screen down and give some random sports headline every 20 minutes because the assholes at the CRTC won't let them change their broadcasting deal. (They're allowed to show fucking poker, but not an uninterrupted half of soccer...)

posted by Drood at 05:19 PM on March 19

ESPN had the Champions League, they lost them to FSC starting with the current season; the title game will be on parent network Fox. They do have an MLS game of the week, though so does FSC.

Fox absorbed the carcass of Setanta US at the beginning of month but have continued the boneheaded $15/month fee. And of course they have yet to negotiate carriage with Comcast and other major cable co.s so I couldn't pay them even if I was of a mind to do so. Understandably this weekend's Liverpool v. Man United match is on said channel.

I recently read the first part of The Ball is Round from recommendations here and the author goes into the reasoning for the spread of soccer outside Englad in some detail. America basically heard about the game, he said, but didn't get the codified rules soon enough, hence the devolution into American football.

posted by billsaysthis at 10:14 PM on March 19

I have that book. Been meaning to start reading it but have 22 other books to read!!!

The Setanta fee is obscene. I'd have Setanta if it was fairly priced but $15 is insane. Especially when you can get GolTV for $3.

posted by Drood at 12:27 AM on March 20

The answer is simple...simply simple! As i've said here before and to anyone else that will listen. ITS ADVERTISING, DUMMY!!

Americans are now conditioned to EXPECT commercials...the attention span of a typical American is simply too short to appreciate soccer.

All the bullshit about it being boring, is just that...bullshit. Americans would LOVE soccer if they were given a chance to even WATCH the damn game... There is a monopoly of team owners, corporations, media, etc., that LIKE the way things are and find soccer a threat so they simply won't let Americans learn to appreciate the greatest game in the world...

Just THINK about what would happen if Americans learned that soccer fans actually have an ACTIVE part in their respective teams. Do you think that a typical American basketball, baseball, football team owner gives a FUCK what the fans want?! Hell no, they just want the money... At least a fan of his soccer team can actually make his voice heard if not actually have a say in what his team will do...

Fans of American sports are just passive, money spending pawns...at least soccer fans are active participants...

posted by StarFucker at 04:22 AM on March 20

Thank you for that. Way to know your audience.

posted by yerfatma at 08:50 AM on March 20

All bullshit aside, soccer IS boring.

posted by mrk124 at 12:48 PM on March 20

Thank you for that. Way to know your audience.

posted by yerfatma at 01:00 PM on March 20

Americans are now conditioned to EXPECT commercials...the attention span of a typical American is simply too short to appreciate soccer.

It's not the attention span, it's the stomach. Commercials are the time to get another beer and fix some more nachos. The average American fan would starve to death on a soccer diet.

posted by Howard_T at 04:28 PM on March 20

I watch a lot of Premiership games. The British fans in the stands do not, as a group, appear to have missed many meals.

posted by rcade at 05:50 PM on March 20

All the bullshit about it being boring, is just that...bullshit.

Ahem. I would like to take issue with that statement. The game consists of a group of men kicking a ball back and forth something like a ping pong game et large, with no real sense of organized plays. Scoring is so rare and almost seems by accident. And they do this for 90 freaking minutes! You look up boring int he dictionary and nearly one of the first entries is soccer.

posted by irunfromclones at 11:37 PM on March 20

with no real sense of organized plays

Really? I linked to this in the huddle the other day. And its just the tip of the iceberg.

posted by owlhouse at 12:10 AM on March 21

The British fans in the stands do not, as a group, appear to have missed many meals.

Someone really does have to find a way to supply rcade with a pie fresh off the terraces. And irunfromclones with a slightly stale one.

Scoring is so rare and almost seems by accident.

What's that line about baseball? Oh yeah, that it's a sport where the very best hitters fail more often than they succeed. And there's nothing quite so boring in sport as the second half of an American football blowout or garbage time in the NBA. But your trolling efforts are appreciated.

America basically heard about the game, he said, but didn't get the codified rules soon enough, hence the devolution into American football.

And the US might well have embraced cricket, apart from a certain kerfuffle in the 1860s that made touring difficult, and provided a catalyst for the spread of baseball.

posted by etagloh at 12:39 AM on March 21

Scoring is so rare and almost seems by accident.

I feel the same way about low scoring games of any kind. Defensive games might be exciting for the baseball enthisiasts but the lack of action bores me to tears. And the only one wh lives under a bridge in Norway is you.

posted by irunfromclones at 02:33 AM on March 21

Ahem. I would like to take issue with that statement. The game consists of a group of men kicking a ball back and forth something like a ping pong game et large, with no real sense of organized plays. Scoring is so rare and almost seems by accident. And they do this for 90 freaking minutes! You look up boring int he dictionary and nearly one of the first entries is soccer.

Well, shit, you sure cracked the code on that one. If only your genius could be spread to the four corners of this ignorant world so the great error of respecting and enjoying soccer may be corrected.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 12:59 PM on March 21

The game consists of a group of men kicking a ball back and forth something like a ping pong game et large, with no real sense of organized plays.

I'm not going to argue with you about disliking soccer, but you couldn't sound more ignorant about a sport if you tried. The fact that you cannot see the organization of a soccer match does not mean there's none. It just means you don't know what you're seeing.

Take any sport you don't know. A few years ago I went to a Leeds Rhinos rugby match in Jacksonville and knew bupkiss about the sport. It seemed structureless, arbitrary and utterly random. To me, it looked like a bunch of musclebound men in form-fitting cycling attire throwing a ball around and randomly tackling each other before engaging in field goals at weird angles.

But if I declared it boring on that basis, I'd just be demonstrating my own ignorance on the subject.

posted by rcade at 01:54 PM on March 21

irun: you get troll points for "low-scoring" and "no tactics" just as StarFucker gets a few for "all commercials" and "no action".

There's an interesting conversation about the history behind North America being to team sport what Australia is to fauna, looking at how decisions made over a century ago now define the sporting landscape. There are equally interesting conversations about why the west country of England and the southwest of France remain rugby-playing enclaves in footballing nations, and good comparisons to be made between the rugby league / Aussie rules divide in Australia and the attempt to export hockey to the Sun Belt.

This place is at its best when knowledge and passion for one set of sports enlightens the appreciation of others. Hoary cliches don't add much.

posted by etagloh at 02:24 PM on March 21

Well, shit, you sure cracked the code on that one. If only your genius could be spread to the four corners of this ignorant world so the great error of respecting and enjoying soccer may be corrected.

It's World Cup year, Weedy, so be prepared for more of this.

We get the same thing down here from rugby and AFL 'experts', who obviously don't understand the world game, but feel like they have to tell us what they think anyway. The best ones are the rugby union commentators lecturing the public about how to make football more exciting (without irony).

I wish they'd just fuck off and leave the real fans to enjoy it.

posted by owlhouse at 07:51 PM on March 21

I wish they'd just fuck off and leave the real fans to enjoy it.

Amen. I used to care about persuading dolts to try soccer. Now I hope they miss out forever.

posted by rcade at 07:55 PM on March 21

Come on guys, give me a break. Don't be hating on me just because I give an honest response about a game that I admit I don't watch much because its not all that interesting to me on a profressional level. Is it a requirement for spofi to watch and love every sport?

And if you stop and think about it for a moment, or you took a poll of the general US population, my feelings about soccer would probably be right at the top of why Americans never fell in love with the sport. And my comment was meant to be humerous, if a somewhat weak attempt. It's all the drugs I am on presently and not meant to be trollopping or trollish.

And try educating me about pro soccer instead of just making the snarky comments.

posted by irunfromclones at 08:51 PM on March 21

And try educating me about pro soccer instead of just making the snarky comments.

A lot of American sports fans are so invested in disliking soccer that it's pointless to try educating them. Going back to your dismissive comment, do you really see anything in it that would make somebody believe you could be persuaded?

The game's an incredible sport. You're missing out. The World Cup is coming around again in June, and you have the perfect opportunity to see the sport at its best. If you miss it, you have to wait until 2016.

posted by rcade at 10:26 PM on March 21

try educating me about pro soccer instead of just making the snarky comments.

Loving or liking soccer is not a requirement for life, let alone SpoFi, but as a community this place tries to be above "[your favourite sport] is in the dictionary under boring. Yuk, yuk yuk."

Personally I find basketball to be soul-destroyingly dull, with no apparent tactical depth and so much scoring as to become mundane. I cannot fathom why even people who like the sport would want to watch anything other than the last two minutes.

I've found a combination of ways to avoid receiving snarky comments about my opinion though - firstly I consciously realise that it probably comes from a position of ignorance about the nuance of the sport and secondly I resist going into basketball threads and appearing to shit on something other folks like.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 11:01 PM on March 21

And try educating me about pro soccer instead of just making the snarky comments

Did you follow the link I provided about 11 comments back?

posted by owlhouse at 11:46 PM on March 21

And if you stop and think about it for a moment, or you took a poll of the general US population, my feelings about soccer would probably be right at the top of why Americans never fell in love with the sport.

And there are historical reasons for that. But nobody gave a tinker's cuss in the UK about the NFL until Channel 4 started showing day-old edited highlights in the early 1980s, and it was a happy coincidence that John Madden showed up at the same time with his telestrator.

I honestly sympathise with people who want to get up to tactical speed in the US -- commercials squeeze out the room devoted for replays and analysis, and there's not a huge crop of good TV analysts in any case. If you have friends who follow the game, irun, watch with them, especially during the World Cup, and get them to do some extra commentary. Or see if you can find a good venue with people who'll do a bit of explaining -- I watched much of the '98 World Cup in a bar in Athens, Ga. surrounded by lots of international students, a smaller number of Americans and a few people who just showed up to see what was going on at lunchtime. Or go and watch your local high school XI, where you'll see genuine gameplans and tactical play, and be close enough to the action to hear the players calling to one another.

owlhouse: ZonalMarking's a fantastic site for tactical junkies, but it's a bit much for a beginner. This MetaFilter thread might be a better place to start.

posted by etagloh at 02:27 AM on March 22

etagloh: irun: you get troll points for "low-scoring" and "no tactics" just as StarFucker gets a few for "all commercials" and "no action".

What?!

posted by StarFucker at 04:22 AM on March 22

owlhouse: ZonalMarking's a fantastic site for tactical junkies, but it's a bit much for a beginner

Yeah, I know. Good link on MetaFilter.

posted by owlhouse at 05:43 AM on March 22

What?!

The whole "this sport is boring, so I'm going to shit on it" theme is discouraged here. It became a major beating.

posted by rcade at 07:18 AM on March 22

And there are historical reasons for that. But nobody gave a tinker's cuss in the UK about the NFL until Channel 4 started showing day-old edited highlights in the early 1980s, and it was a happy coincidence that John Madden showed up at the same time with his telestrator.

Week old, even. When I first starting watching the NFL in the UK the Sunday highlights package showed footage from the sunday before. Shortly after that my friends and I discovered AFRTS and would spend Sunday evenings hunched over a crackly, fading radio signal scrawling down scores to talk about at school the next day, before having to wait seven days to see a 20-second wrap up on Channel 4.

One Monday night in 1985 I spent four hours craning over the radio to be simply stunned as my Dolphins beat the apparently invincible Bears, finally getting to bed after 3am on a school night.

Channel 4 did a decent job of bringing the viewer up to speed though, having regular basic tactical sections early on and even publishing a book or two around the rules and tactics. They were fortunate to have, in Mick Luckhurst, an English guy who'd played the sport to bridge the Atlantic for us.

From living in the US my experience so far is that America has a cadre of folks who are rabid about soccer, a thin layer who know what's going on and then a void down to the bulk who have little idea. Some friends are bemused that we'll allow a game to end in a tie - even in a knockout competition - while others are baffled that players move for money and not in player-for-player trades. From there it's a long way to get to a point of discussing the importance of athletic fullbacks in the 4-2-2-2 system.

Of course I expect all of them will be suddenly interested in talking to me about the sport on June 13th though if things go well for Team America the day before.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 07:29 AM on March 22

The whole "this sport is boring, so I'm going to shit on it" theme is discouraged here. It became a major beating.

Starfucker actually likes soccer though, so I think the point he was trying to make may have been missed.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 07:31 AM on March 22

I know. Etagloh's point was that his dismissal of football was like Clone's dig at soccer. There's really a limited amount of value to be gleaned from hearing fans talk about a sport they don't follow. I know the subject's unavoidable in this link, since it's about the perception that Americans haven't warmed to soccer, but still. Every time somebody makes a sweeping dismissal of somebody else's sport Touchdown Jesus kills a kitten.

posted by rcade at 09:27 AM on March 22

Did you follow the link I provided about 11 comments back

Is that the zonal marketing one? Yes I did but I have just glanced at it so far. I did bookmark it and intend on reading it. Thanks for the link.

rcade, I didn't think I was making a sweeping dismissal of someone else's sport or trying to shit on it. I don't believe that I have been guilty of that in the past. I was just saying why I personally wasn't interested in the sport, and in the process giving one possible reason why its not as popular here as in other countries.

posted by irunfromclones at 06:06 PM on March 22

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