The Deadman Night Rider

A forum for evening students of the SMU Dedman School of Law and other outlaws..

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The soccer post

For some reason the Deadman wife has really gotten into the World Cup this year, so I've watched a few games. It's interesting enough, I guess--not that I watch all that much sports to begin with. The more interesting thing, though, is the perennial question: why does this sport that shuts down the rest of the world fall so flat here? Consider this:

Four times as many watched this year's Academy Awards as an average day of the World Cup, 91 million tuned into the 2006 Super Bowl, and even last month's finale of "American Idol" drew 36 million viewers. (By comparison, the article says that only about 9 million Americans have tuned into the World Cup this year--D.)

Now I've gone through all the sociological explanations: Americans are result-oriented as opposed to those process-oriented Europeans, too little chance for commercials to generate TV revenue, our collective short attention spans that require high-scoring games (cf. the 24-second shot clock in basketball). But, I think I've finally got it--the real reason this sucker just won't get off the ground.

I call it the sippy-cup theory. It hit me after I read a couple of stories about how soccer has to be the future because so many kids play it when they're young. Then I realized, the reason it's not the future here is because so many kids play it when they're young. Just like the fact that almost every kid starts out using a sippy-cup, but as soon as they are able, they graduate to a grown-up cup. Does this mean there's something wrong with sippy-cups? Not at all--at work, I should really probably be using one when I set my coffee down right next to my laptop, but I'll never do that. Here's why: even as a kid, I realized that I was given the sippy-cup because I was being kept from normal cups--and therefore the sippy-cup took on an irrevocable stigma. Here's how one article describes the reality of soccer in the U.S.:

But at about age 10, something happens to the children of the United States. Soccer is dropped, quickly and unceremoniously, by approximately 88 percent of all young people. The same kids who played at 5, 6, 7, move on to baseball, football, basketball, hockey, field hockey, and, sadly, golf. Shortly thereafter, they stop playing these sports, too, and begin watching these sports on television, including, sadly, golf.

The Slate article goes on to strangely attribute this fall-off to soccer's statist image and past association with Communism, plus the modern-day scourge of flopping, which the Italians have elevated to an art form. I think this misses the point that due to a convergence of odd forces (youth soccer associations who sold hordes of soccer moms on the idea that their sport was a safe, civilized alternative to football by watering down the game by eliminating slide tackles and aggressive play) soccer acquired the sippy-cup stigma here. It's seen as the baby sport your mom wants you to play, which of course you ditch as soon as you're old enough to choose for yourself.

Effect: just like beer, we get Miller Lite while the rest of the world drinks Guiness. Here's a pictorial representation:

Soccer for the rest of the world:

Soccer for Americans:

Of course, there's also the offsides rule, but we'll save that for another day.


Blogger nappel said...

Maybe it is time that we make a distinction that the game we play here in US is a "soccer". In any other country there is no such a game. There is a football and an "American football". What we play here is a soccer, because it can be called football, rules are too different.

5:25 PM  

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