Yesterday while I was watching the World Cup, one of my cousin who was visiting asked me, “Why do you think soccer isn’t as big in the US as in the rest of the world? I mean, we are really a minority- the rest of the world is crazy about it.”
This cousin grew up here, where I am currently vacationing, in New England. He said he played football when he was about five, but that no one ever played it because they wanted to play at a higher level or because they loved it, it was more of a transition into another sport. I am from the Northwest, and am a decade or so younger than him, so I didn’t quite agree with that, since a lot of people out where I live do play football as their primary sport. However, I have to agree that the US is a minority in the area of sports, and it is really too bad that we aren’t as football crazy as most of the rest of the globe. Americans seem to like games that stop often and require less running and often, in my very biased opinion, skill. (Alright, it’s just a different kind of skill I suppose, but I do think the skills required for football are more advanced). Games that involve running into each other or the use of your hands.
Anyway, in response to my cousin’s question, I came up with the most brilliant answer of “I don’t know.” I have no idea why Americans are the weirdos of world sports (actually, maybe Canada is with us on this. I don’t know- how popular is football there?), but I know that we are weirdos. I suggested that maybe it was because most Americans have the same frame of mind that my cousin had- that soccer was something to sign your kids up for in kindergarten before switching them to baseball or American football or basketball in second grade. Thinking about it now, maybe it’s because Americans like more scoring- in this respect, actually, I’ve encountered a strong disrespect toward the sport. Most of the people who I’ve talked to who don’t like or watch football use the excuse that there’s not enough scoring, or that it’s not exciting enough. So maybe this is it: football is a sport of quick planning and thinking by the players, of evolving plays and of patience. The field is long and the goals far apart, so there is not always on-goal action. And it is no secret that Americans tend to be impatient- always jumping from one thing to the next with little relaxation time, or thinking time for that matter. So maybe the reason football isn’t as big in the USA is that Americans just aren’t patient enough to watch a game that sometimes has no scoring.
In my search for the answer to this very puzzling question, I gave myself a little history lesson on the evolution of football. The contemporary version started in England, and then it spread to other countries via traders and immigrants. Then why didn’t it spread to the USA? Well it did, but according to one website, it competed with baseball, which was “America’s past time” and another said that although there were college leagues and some pro leagues, there weren’t universally accepted rules and these leagues were inconsistent. So it could have been the lack of a place to play, although in other countries people have played pick-up games in all sorts of conditions.
I asked my mom what she thought, and she suggested one, more ugly reason football hasn’t taken hold of the US. America is a business sort of nation, where people are always looking for more ways to make money. Football is a game with two 45 minute halves and one break in the middle. As she said, “Where’s the time to put in a commercial?” This is sad, but true. American football is full of timeouts waiting to be filled with commercials, somebody even told me they have commercial breaks in the middle of the game! (I wouldn’t know if this were true or not, since I don’t watch American football). There’s not a whole lot of profit for the tv channels to be made off broadcasting football, compared to American football or baseball. And if it’s not broadcast as much, then people won’t watch it as much, kids won’t have football stars to look up to and the whole chain is broken.
My last thought on this is that the US is not number one at football. And it seems that we like to be number one in the world when it comes to sports: our baseball league is called the World Series and the American football Super Bowl winner is the “World Champion”. In neither of these leagues is another country involved, so I don’t think that the title of “World” is very accurate. But it sounds good, right? And at this point we are not close to being the world champions of football, so why should Americans watch it, when we can instead watch something that we are the “best in the world” at?
Of course, these are all just speculations and thoughts as to why America is so behind in realizing the awesomeness of football (we still haven’t figured out that the metric system is easier either… I am sensing a pattern…). In truth, I still have almost no clue why the MLS isn’t the most popular pro league, or why kids aren’t playing pick-up games all over the country. If you have any ideas, thoughts or theories, please let me know in the comments section below, maybe we can puzzle this out together!