7/02/2006

so I've been enjoying the World Cup. What I don't like, however, are articles about how the US doesn't care about soccer and the World Cup is generating only yawns, like this one from Reuters. It seems to me that the World Cup is a lot more popular than it used to be. While it's still damn near impossible finding a soccer jersey (see my odyssey on DCist), it seems that a lot more people are talking about it. Everybody in my office followed the US games, and even some of the other games - people would say "hey, Brazil just scored" and the others paid attention. My dad said he recognized the same thing in Tennessee, and even random people in elevators have talked about it with me if I'm wearing my US jersey. And these are mostly people who hadn't followed soccer at all and knew very little about it before.

But if you're comparing the popularity of soccer in the US to its popularity worldwide, obviously it's going to come up short. Soccer is, and probably will remain, at least the 5th or 6th most popular spectator sport in the US, behind the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, college sports, etc. There's nothing wrong with that - people like multiple sports, and our country is so sports crazy anyway, that still leaves lots of fans to go around. But comparing it to other countries, where soccer is by far the most popular sport, is not fair, I think.

One of the problems I think about soccer breaking into the American mainstream is the language used in the press - it's this weird form of British sports English, where half the time I don't understand what they're even talking about, and the other half of the time it sounds silly - and I like soccer. One of the first things is that countries are plural in these stories "Argentina have not been doing well so far..." etc. In American English, it should be "Argentina has..." just like it's "New York has won many championships" or whatever. And a frequent criticism of the American team is that they lack "passion." What the hell does that mean? They're just zombies out there, robots who have no emotion when playing? That's silly. Other soccer terms are unclear, like "pace" which means speed, "fit" which means healthy or not injured, "class" meaning skill level (kind of), someone "did well to shoot that" or whatever, meaning it was a nice play, "sides" meaning teams, "fixtures" being schedules or something like that, and so on. I much prefer reading about the games on the Washington Post and other American papers than Yahoo's official site, which has all the British-soccerisms. While I know what they mean now, after reading about soccer for years, I can see how it might frustrate casual US fans - you shouldn't have to translate the news about your own team.

There was also a big outcry overseas after coach Bruce Arena called out some of the US players, saying they didn't play well. This is hardly a shocking thing in US sports, but foreign folks were going crazy about it. And there are other subtle differences in attitude about soccer in the US and elsewhere, like Europeans on the Yahoo chat complaining about Americans not having a better team, with comments like "there are 300 million Americans, how can they not field 11 good players?" as if soccer is the number one sport in the US. I also hate when Europeans and Latin Americans complain about Americans calling it "soccer." Sorry, the name "football" was used by our version, and that version was (and still is) a lot more popular than soccer in the US. We're not going to introduce more confusion just because other people call it football. They call basketball "baloncesto" in some Spanish-speaking countries, who cares?

1 comment:

Edmund Schluessel said...

"Lack of passion" means that Americans don't get irresponsibly drunk and riot when they win. Or lose.

And as for the "soccer" thing: the word "soccer" is short for "association", because soccer is "association football" (as opposed to "rugger", "Rugby football"). As far as I'm concerned, "soccer" is perfectly valid wherever there's some ambiguity, and the US has both those two plus American football going on. It's just another of those things the English like looking down their noses about.

And on that note: it's the English team in the World Cup. People in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are currently getting a lot of crap for not sufficiently supporting the English side...this really bugs us. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have their own national football teams. NI even beat the English during the qualifying rounds. When fans wave a football flag in England, they wave an English flag, not the Union flag.

And Wales isn't even that into football anyway. It's rugby country.