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Soccer Will Never Be Popular In The United States

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Until last year, The Tampa Bay Rays perennially owned the worst attendance in the American League. Then, during their miracle 97-win campaign, their attendance skyrocketed to third worst! Woohoo! But at least the Rays can hang their hat on being Florida’s baseball hotbed, topping the Marlins, who can only start a wave in the audience if they install hydraulic seats.

Dan Levy wrote at the Sporting Blog about how ESPN should cover the World Cup, including sending a studio crew to South Africa. It’s probably a good idea, that way their coverage isn’t just lip service to FIFA. Levy’s underlying message seems to be that promotion of soccer in the United States is a good thing, and this is a key component in carrying out that goal.

I don’t argue with that. Just with this: “The best thing to come out of the success of the U.S. men’s national soccer team is that, finally, soccer isn’t a four-letter word in the American sports vernacular.” Maybe jokes like The Simpsons did back in the day are outdated, but the four-letter word is now nine: B-A-N-D-W-A-G-O-N.

The win over Spain last week, according to the president of U.S. Soccer, was one of three landmark soccer moments in recent memory, along with the 1994 World Cup win over Colombia and reaching the quarterfinals of the ’02 Cup. Three great moments in the last 15 years? That’s it? Hell, the Marlins have won two World Series in the last 15 years. Would a third championship have made a big difference?

This isn’t about trying to squeeze soccer into The American Casual Fan’s loaded rota of football, baseball, basketball, college sports, NASCAR, and hockey. The doubt lies in the American soccer program compared to the rest of the world’s. Europe is the ACC, and the United States is Gonzaga. And even if all of those caveats were met … would soccer still be popular?

“People in America like to win,” Levy wrote, “and on an international stage, something the United States has never done in men’s soccer.” We do love international victory (Lance Armstrong, The Dream Team, gymnastics) but when it doesn’t happen, we don’t get that worked up about it, saying “oh well” in lieu of “oh hell,” then flipping back to our own intra-national leagues. Then we zone out international competition until someone notices we beat England or Italy or some other futbol-loving foreign country, such as South Florida.

About Suss

  • Dr Dreadful

    No, zing, the pattern is the word those governing bodies’ names are NOT prefaced with.

    All those sports were invented in England, so it seemed superfluous, when the organizations in question were created, to call them The English Football Association, or the English Lawn Tennis Association or what have you. That’s our conceit, which demonstrably is more subtle than you Seppos’. The fact that all those sports are now played around the world, often to a far higher standard than in their country of origin*, is neither here nor there.

    * Especially in the case of tennis. The national newspapers print the headline ‘Brits Crash Out’ automatically on the first Tuesday of the Wimbledon fortnight. It’s always accurate.

  • zingzing

    the english certainly do like to point out their englishness. i wonder if the pool (billiards?) term “english” was coined by an englishman?

  • zingzing

    hrm. seems like it’s american. i wonder what the angle is.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Never heard that term. Probably is American.

    Over in Britain we play the far more civilised, skilful and tactical game of snooker, which is one of the few global sports which we still dominate – I’d say about 90 of the top 100 snooker players are from the British Isles. Of course it’s still not a truly international sport – Thailand is crazy for it for some reason, it’s the second most popular sport in China after basketball, and it’s starting to make headway on the Arabian peninsula and in continental Europe, but other than that its main fanbase still lies in Britain.

    The cue skills and tactics are a lot different than those used in pool, but some of the top snooker players still fly out to Vegas occasionally to try their hand at the American game. Quite often kick the Seppos’ butts, too.

  • Dr Dreadful

    (Have to back up a bit here and acknowledge Matt’s #45. Have the Steelers drafted that linebacker yet?)

  • zingzing

    “Over in Britain we play the far more civilised, skilful and tactical game of snooker…”

    oh, for fuck’s sake.

    “it’s the second most popular sport in China after basketball”

    i’m surprised to hear that…. i woulda picked ping pong.

    and pool is definitely not supposed to be “civilized,” it’s supposed to be drunken, shit-talkin’ fun. you go put your little vests and shiny loafers and cufflinks on, we’ll get drunk. (and last i was in england, all your bars had pool tables, not snooker fookers.)

    “Quite often kick the Seppos’ butts, too.”

    you can probably count on your fingers and exhaust such sports.

    as for “english,” it comes from “body english,” meaning twisting the body before you hit something. in pool/billiards/snooker/whatnot, it means to put a spin on the ball… so you missed my little (widdle) joke up there.

  • Silas Kain

    I have to say I love football. Never been one for American Football as the whole “tight end” thing just doesn’t cut it for me. Most of these American Football players are anything but, um, tight. Sorry,in advance, for the perverse humor.

    My nephew’s maternal grandfather was coach of the Manchester team for years. When he passed, the team, the community, in fact a good part of Britain mourned his passing. I was amazed at the outpouring of love for this man. That’s what I envy about professional sports in Europe as opposed to the U.S. Around the globe professional sports are more about the sport than the franchises, branding fees, and exorbitant salaries.

  • Dr Dreadful

    My nephew’s maternal grandfather was coach of the Manchester team for years.

    Was that Sir Matt Busby by any chance, Silas?

    Great man, great coach.

  • Dr Dreadful

    i was in england, all your bars had pool tables, not snooker fookers

    That’s because a snooker table is twice the size of a pool table and won’t fit in most pubs, at least not if you want to leave room for a bar.

  • roger nowosielski

    Actually, they have some in Texas, off Fort Hood where I was stationed.

    You shoot snooker a few times, and you’re billiards will improve.

  • roger nowosielski

    Pool enthusiasts:

    you might enjoy this little video, just a teaser

  • Dr Dreadful

    Thanks, Roger. Interesting to compare the techniques and strategies of pool vs. snooker.

    Here’s snooker at its best: a video of my favourite player, Jimmy White, making a 147 break – the biggest possible score – at the 1992 World Championship. It was only the second time a maximum had ever been achieved at the Worlds. Enjoy.

  • roger nowosielski

    That was great, Dreadful. Watched some games by Hendry and Ronnie O. They’re all greats.
    By impression, though, was that snooker featured smaller billiard balls and pockets.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Snooker balls are slightly smaller and lighter than pool balls. The pockets are a tad smaller as well. Not THAT much smaller, though. The difference seems greater because the table used in snooker is twice the size of a pool table.

  • roger nowosielski

    I get you. The table is enormous when you first see it. But if you go by the UTube videos – all great, BTW – you wouldn’t know the difference.

  • Bliffle

    SnOOOOOker is a great game, and easily eclipses pool as a skill.

    Those pocket openings are significantly narrower so it’s easy to miss a shot that would fall on a pool table.

    Pool tables used to have a minimum size of 4.5 X 9 ft. (nowadays they are sometimes only 4 x 8) whereas snooker tables are at least 5 x 10 and 6 x 12 for international tournaments.

  • popopo

    Americans want to believe that only reason football is the most popular sport in the world is because It’s cheap sport, American sports are not that expensive to play, but nobody watch american sports, because American sports are boring. only reason american sports are popular in america is because It’s american sports. american sports will NEVER be popular in the world. Football is the most popular sport because It requires various physical abilities and most exciting to watch. Popularity of american sports speak how boring those are. I know because I watched american sports and never watch again.

  • zingzing

    “I know because I watched american sports and never watch again.”

    impeccable credentials.

  • Robert

    Futbol and Rugby are the two greatest games on the planet. I for one am a American who is addicted to the international drama. Its a shame setanta will no longer broadcast in the USA I will miss Rugby

  • Tyler

    Soccer is already popular. They just dont have the T.V. popularity yet. Many people love to play the game.

  • Michael

    [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]

    Soccer is much more exciting to watch than ALL of american sports. NASCAR, Football, Baseball…ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Nascar and baseball have to be the most boring sports ever, and football has more time not playing than playing.

  • jjj

    soccer is a boring sport period

  • Andrea

    Soccer is not a sport for 3rd world countries only, that is not the rason why it’s popular in Latin America, it’s also popular in Europe. Don’t forget that England are the creators of soccer. For baseball all you need is a bat and a ball and practice makes the master, not the money. For baskeball same rule applies as well as soccer.
    Name one player from the MLB, NHL, or NBA that’s a Dr., engineer, or that has a Ph.D? Not to mention that Argentina has a pretty strong basketball team & has defeated the US, also Argentina does well in golf too, Chile has excellent tennis players & what do you say about that? 3rd world country sport?

    It’s offensive when comments like are said about a sport cause it diminishes countries. A great sport is not based on how much money the person has to play, but how good of a player he is & how many people become fans.
    The world prefers soccer, a lot of people here in the US like soccer too. There’s is no need to diminish a sport just cause you don’t like it. Many of the baseball players come from the Dominican Republic & Venezuela and to you these countries are rich? Basketball, many are from Argentina & Bosnia & so on, yeah very wealthy. You see now? Different sports are on the same stand as soccer.
    There was no need for you to talk about money issues cause it is not the reason why most people play soccer.
    It would of been much better to say “Soccer will not be popular in the US, due to the fact that that most of Americans prefer the NFL, NBA, MLB, & NHL” & you wouldn’t sound like a moron as you do now. The other leagues have players from 3rd wolrd countries too, never mind according to you these sports are for rich people only. If ESPN is gonna air the FIFA World Cup, good for them, it’s their money.
    Learn the facts before you make a comment about a sport. I am not a fan of soccer, but of tennis. The reason why your comment makes me mad is because you mention 3rd world countries play soccer cause they can’t afford the other sport. If anyone from another country reads this article is going to think that Americans are morons, I don’t think is fair for the rest of us…

  • kesha

    wow really?

  • Rafael

    That’s funny. Americans saying that soccer is boring…really, what the hell?! What about baseball? Hockey? American Football ?? They suck all suck. In American Football, for example, the game stops all the time. There is no magic to it, it s not a beautiful game. Basketball is kinda cool, but not like soccer. Soccer is the world most famous sport for a reason: it is exciting. There are boring games, of course, but a soccer match can be wonderful.

    Americans just hate that they suck at it. But they are improving. They are doing a great job in the World Cup.