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Why Americans Reject Soccer

Sad goalieMy fellow Yanks, we like simple things.

Think about it. We prefer uncomplicated stuff, like durable pairs of blue jeans, delicious apple pies, and cheesy Hollywood action films (seriously, we have a market in the US to whom Brendan Fraser is appealing). Most US male sports’ fans like this Yank enjoy one undemanding thing above all the rest though:  

An uninterrupted summer day with our sports and some suds.

But, just because we enjoy simplistic stuff, does that mean “we” (and I am speaking in the “royal we” now Americans, you know, the editorial) are simplistic people? I don’t think so.

In fact, I believe Americans are the most complicated people on Earth. This is an opinion that I am sure many of you from outside the Ameribubble would think was atrocious.

You would claim we were the most childish country. As proof, you would introduce Exhibit A: the “fact” we have treated the Middle East like a toddler playing in a sandbox. I rebut you on this allegation though. I will espouse my argument that the US is a bit more like the underpaid teacher trying to keep the kids in the sandbox from killing each other.

Let’s agree to disagree and move on. You would now introduce Exhibit B: the “fact” Americans do not appreciate soccer, the most simplistic and beautiful game on the planet. Now, I could not disprove your claim that soccer was – of all of the world’s major sports (excluding bowling) – the most majestic game and the easiest to understand. It’s perfect.

There are relatively few rules. The entire FIFA Laws of the Game is wrapped up neatly in 140 pages. By contrast, the Official NFL Rule Book comes in at a whopping 295 pages (it’s heavier than the Yank’s supper bowl filled with a Double Quarter-Pounder). Also, the game is magical. It transcends borders and languages better than any other on Earth.     

But Americans do not dislike soccer because they are too simple to understand its rules or its brilliance. That is simply not the case. No, we tend to ignore soccer simply because we have so much other complicated stuff going on sports-wise. Our sports market is way past the over-saturation point, and it is difficult for any sport to break into the US fans’ “Bigs.”

By the “Bigs”, I mean football, baseball, and basketball. Those three athletic pursuits (@ the pro, collegiate and youth levels) devour a large percentage of the average US sports fans’ attention. Plus, we have NHL, golf, tennis, racing (horses, cars, babies, whatever really), lacrosse, Olympic events (both summer and winter), “extreme” sports, etc., etc.

Soccer is not the most extreme sport though. Neither is base jumping nor free diving. Nope, the most extreme sport is American football. On the gridiron, every play is another battle royale and every bone-crushing hit that is delivered is received with awed delight by the denizens of the US of A. We also know every rule in the NFL Book (though the refs don’t).

You foreigners though (never a good way to begin a sentence) cannot seem to wrap your supposedly superior minds around our brand of football. You say you cannot understand the overwhelming amount of rules. Moreover, you can’t comprehend why that Moss fellow just won’t lateral the ball back to that Brady gent when he is about to be tackled.

Well, because he may turn the ball over (or get Gisele’s guy creamed… oh, you all have dirty minds!). In our style of football, turnovers are more costly than in soccer because ball possession (snicker) is even more important to Belichick than Mourinho (can you imagine that coaching tandem?). So, soccer is the most simple and beautiful sport in the world.

But, football is the most complex and brutal one, and that is exactly why we love it more than soccer. It is because it seems that we are the only ones who have the capacity to understand the game’s penumbras and the stomach to endure its cruelties (and, of course, the money to afford its costly equipment).We love it because we created it. It’s just like us.

It’s our Frankenstein, and it’s alive, alive, ALIVE and well in the States and I predict (and hope) that it will be for a long time. It is my favorite spectator sport, though soccer is a close second. My love of soccer has flowered over the last few years as I have been writing for this blog, and I know that over the last few years I have seen soccer rising in America.

But maybe it’s just a thing like once you get a car, you see everyone driving the same car. I don’t know. Maybe I am wrong here, but this Yank sees pro soccer jerseys now on the streets of his city in the States, and – trust me – it’s a city that can pack thousands into a stadium to watch high school football, but can’t get the Nats to come to town anymore.

Soccer is carving out its place in the much-analyzed American sports landscape. It has arrived, and (God willing) it is here to stay. Why? Because we Americans can appreciate soccer’s beauty and simplicity just like all of you do my foreign friends. Like I said at the start of this post, though we Yanks are a complicated people, we still like simple things.

We would like to share soccer with you.

In exchange, we will give you Brendan Fraser.

Take him, please.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Kelley Mari