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Soccer and American hegemony


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July 11, 2006

Soccer and American hegemony

Stephen Baker

I'm really enjoying the comments on yesterday's soccer post. The conclusion I'm reaching--and tell me if I'm stretching--is that most of the world would like Americans to love soccer, to admire it, even to participate--but basically to keep our complaints and suggestions to ourselves.

I think many are fed up with Americans trying to run things, and would like soccer to remain an area where the U.S. is a member of the general assembly, as it were, but not the security council. There's a belief that Americans don't understand or appreciate soccer, and that our suggestions would take a sport that's as rich and textured as La Traviata and turn it into Hello Dolly! or perhaps Dirty Dancing.

Fair enough. My proposal then would be to turn American professional soccer into a laboratory for wild experimentation. Try the various things people have suggested. Try loosening the offside rules on free kicks, maybe allowing limitless substitutions. If they work, great. If they don't, it's only American soccer. The rest of the world won't care, or even notice. And sadly, most Americans won't either.

05:15 PM

society

The game's name is football! Football, football, football! You actually use your foot (or feet) in this game of football. Just playing. :-)

Seriously though ... anyway, not so serious, I think it's quite funny when American commentators mention a player's weight in the commentary: "Here comes David Beckham weighing 175lbs." Eh? What's weight got to do with it?

Makes me chuckle.

Posted by: Stephen Davies at July 11, 2006 06:09 PM

Clearly many Americans do understand and appreciate soccer, but the vast majority still don't, I would hazard a guess.

I think what you say about American influence in the world being a factor in getting people's backs up on this issue might not be far from the truth.

But .... it would be interesting to see how Amercians would react to French suggestions to create a more flowing, less stop start version of American Football.

Posted by: Alex Bellinger at July 11, 2006 06:27 PM

I can back you up on this one, Stephen. I know nothing about soccer but blogged the finals as my 15-year-old son is a big fan and he had it on as I was doing something else. I made a few "helpful" suggestions on my blog (a shot clock might be nice) that has led to some incredibly vicious e-mail directed my way. Fortunately, some of the names they're calling me are new to me, as well.

Posted by: Rex Hammock at July 11, 2006 07:07 PM

As an American, am I allowed to say I concur?

I like how you put this post under the category of "society." Don't you know that should be reserved only for baseball, basketball, and football?

Posted by: China Law Blog at July 12, 2006 09:14 AM

For all the derision that the sport has received stateside, there's a lot of evidence that more Americans watched this year's World Cup than had before. Many more Americans were upset at the US team's performance in Germany than were when the Yanks pulled a three-and-out during France '98.

When Major League Soccer launched in 1996, the league used NHL-style shootouts to break ties and a US-centric countdown clock in and effort to "Americanize" the game. Thankfully, MLS brought the league to the world standards in the late '90's.

Journalists and casual fans are quick to note that "no one cares" about the American game. However, MLS averages 15,000 fans per game (3.2 million fans/season) and a growing (though small) audience on TV. MLS will garner a TV rights fee for the first time next season. It's not the NFL for sure, but remember that our "football" league has an 80-year head start.

There are second-tier soccer clubs in the US that draw nearly 10,000 fans per game, and the internet plays host to a healthy collection of soccer sites where fans can discuss the game that the mainstream US sports media ignores or belittles.

Baby steps, as we American soccer fans say. Baby steps.

Posted by: Mr Fish at July 12, 2006 10:38 AM

A friend of mine said to me years ago, "What kind of a sport is it where you can't use your hands and arms?" This may, in fact, encapsulate America's inability to embrace soccer/football/futol, despite decades of dedicated work by youth soccer/football/futbol coaches who have tried to brainwash young Americans into loving the sport. So maybe we could experiment in the states with a form of soccer/football/futbal which permits use of the arms and hands. Or does that start to make it like rugby? God, I love rugby!

Posted by: Dan Cook at July 12, 2006 04:54 PM

Yeah and as well as those changes you should be allowed to kick the ball in overtime at basketball and also scrap offside in NFL. ;-)

Posted by: Bert at July 13, 2006 06:27 AM

US men != the whole world. The US is a nation of immigrants so it's obvious that some immigrants would like football because the played it in the countries they left. Trying to "Americanize" or change the rules to a game that everyone else in the world plays with and your women are pretty good at is stupid.

Posted by: Olly at July 14, 2006 10:33 AM

Stephen:

As Mr. Fish wrote, American soccer DID try to be experimental in the early days of both the NASL and MLS, and failed. Why? Because the core audience for soccer is traditionalist in nature. The fanbase hated seeing these manufactured, Americanized rules changes.

And now, we're seeing the audience for soccer grow in this country the RIGHT way, as more people are exposed to the beauty of the game as it's meant to be played.

Soccer will always be a niche sport in the U.S., but it will be a successful and profitable niche without the gimmicks.

Posted by: John Wagner at July 15, 2006 10:00 AM


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