Re-post: Why Americans aren’t completely into soccer… yet. (opinion)

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THIS was written shortly after Spain had beaten Netherlands 1-0 in the 2010 World Cup final. It is a re-post, but the ideas are still prescient

You may have heard that FIFA, the governing (futbol) body in World Soccer has announced the use of “goal line technology” to be deployed soon at a pitch near you (or at least in the 2014 World Cup). Its funny, because my ideas (below) caught a rash of shit from the nay saying purists (read: foreigners) who bellowed that it would never happen…  and hell, it wasn’t even on the table back then. I mean, should an American even have the right to suggest changes to this venerable game?

When it comes to Soccer, Americans know nothing, right? But does America really  hate “the beautiful game”? Soccer is the second most popular sport by participation among children under 15 in the U.S. Our Women have dominated the sport for years, becoming the most dominant team in any international sport. Is it long before our men catch up with the rest of the world and make a WC finals? Probably, but give us another 12-16 years and…
2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa (video game)
2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa (video game) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

2010. I’m American and a soccer fan.

Unfortunately, I’m already feeling withdrawals from the thought of four years of semi-hibernation sans-soccer about to commence.

Like many soccer fans I watched most of this year’s World Cup, read a ton of internet articles, and listened to this year’s flavors of talking head, who all weighed in on “the beautiful game” and America’s ambivalent attitude towards it.

Though I’m not an expert by any stretch, I am a fan who has watched soccer from the outside for many years. I played American collegiate soccer over 30 years ago at a Division 1 college in Kentucky, though back then the game was nebulous as to the meaning of “American”. Like many American college teams, we were a collection of decent foreign players and renegade American sports athletes who for various reasons no longer graced their once chosen sport, or who had played high school soccer at one of the few schools who fielded a team. I was an ex-distance runner with average soccer skills who was recruited on-campus after I decided to forgo my track scholarship. After graduating, I played club soccer in North Carolina for about 10 years. Now, my experience comes exclusively from my thousands of hours addiction to playing video game maker Konami and EASports PES and FIFA soccer on my PS3.)

What changes are needed to create more fan interest in the game here on American soil?

Besides America actually winning, American sports fans care about two things in sports: excitement and fairness. World Cup watchers got a first-hand look this year at how the lack of these two things can drive Americans crazy, and perhaps keep us from embracing the world’s most beautiful game. In fact, the World Cup has been rife with “cheating” in the past, in the form of egregious “flopping”, sometimes changing the complexion of the entire Tournament. Scoring? Oh my. Last year’s final was a 1-0 affair with the winning goal (Spain) softly rolling off the goalie in the side of the net after a gentle Iniesta nudge. But was it boring? Not to anyone who actually watches the game with interest.

I personally don’t like penalty shootouts and don’t feel they are the best way to find the real winner of matches. I like better the Golden Goal rule where the game is played on the pitch until one team scores… then it’s ballgame. Also, weaker teams can play for a tie in hopes of winning a shootout. Playing to tie makes it much easier to actually end in a 0-0 tie, giving the weaker team almost a 50-50 opportunity.

1. Scoring –

People all over the world love GOOOAAALS, yet Americans are criticized for their “lack of depth” because they want to see more of them. To say that Americans under appreciate the richness or unseen nuances of soccer is to trivialize our ability embrace sporting value, without giving serious thought to the underlying issue. Long gone is the day when to be an American at a world soccer event was a curiosity. I’m tired of apologizing for our soccer to the world, and listening to people from everywhere tell me how we just don’t get it.

It is true that I found the Spain-Netherlands game the most exciting game of all even though the final score was 1-0. The final game may have been a let down to many, but isn’t that the way finals go many times, with over-expectation? The entire event was a low scoring affair, as it is many times when quality teams play one another.

The problem with this as I see it; unless there are changes made we are doomed with 1-0 or 0-0 finals forever. Great teams are not about to give up 2, 3, 4 goals in today’s game, and two great teams…well…?

The world wants GOOOAAALS!

During the World Cup I heard all kinds of opinions concerning America’s attitude toward soccer, many of them ridiculous. If America thinks soccer is boring how do you explain our obsession with baseball? If it’s just that we can’t understand the game in its’ totality, who is going to tell our women, who are the most dominant sports team in the history of International Sports?

FIFA, the governing body for International Soccer must agree that scoring more goals is important to the future health of the game, and not because of the “stupid” Americans. The Jubillane (ball) was introduced at this years’ event for one reason: more goals. It failed to produce.

I suggest that the goal be made two or three meters wider and a meter taller to allow for more scoring opportunities with well placed shots. Many goalies today are superior athletes and can block even the best aimed, most twisting and screaming shots, resulting in many games being decided by fluke goals or lucky, but weak chances. It also means that there are more terribly bad shots because of the increased pressure added for the low margin for error. This is not how sport is supposed to work, and I suspect many Americans sense it.

Why not give these great athletes a better chance to display their talent to the world? A great shot should be just that… an untouchable missle blasted just outside the even the swiftest goal keeper‘s reach, something rarely possible in today’s game. Even the final WC goal by Spain was knocked down before landing softly inside the goal. I dare say more goals roll into the back of the net than ripple it.

With a slightly larger goal there will still be the finesse of the flip shot in one-on-one situations as goalies will adjust to the larger goal area with earlier, more aggressive charges in order to cut down angles. Forwards and halfbacks will try slightly deeper shots once again with hopeful success; something rare in championship soccer today because of the evolving skill of today’s goalkeepers. a larger goal means the game will not be considered over when a team goes up by two or three goals,unlike it is today. The “hope” of scoring is just as important as the notching the goal itself to the fan of soccer. I think FIFA should give everyone more hope.

2. Officiating –

I am continually amazed at how many sports governing bodies have been able to ignore the onslaught of new technology when it comes to officiating. It seems that human officials have become the “sacred cow” of many sports; the one thing that must not give in to change. Frankly, I don’t understand the value proposition. What good reason or reasons are there for not getting more accurate results in a sporting event? The 2010 World Cup was an example of how protecting the purity of a sport may also be how to eventually destroy it. Game after game missed calls affected or potentially affected outcomes, leaving one to wonder at times which team was pre-destined to win?

Having played competitive soccer I know that every game endures bad calls and good calls, some favorable and others not. It is sometimes very difficult to identify the offender and the offended in a physical game like soccer where neither player owns possession in a strict sense. The World Cup officials were criticized for many calls which were made that might not be questioned in a regular contest. The magnitude of the event rightly or wrongly leads to magnification of every call and the WC officials are somewhat always in a no-win situation. Yet, at this year’s Cup, it seemed yellow cards were shown to players for simply playing hard, and even worse: Hollywood style faking by their opponents. Video captured these moments to FIFA’s embarrassment several times during the competition. Yet, there was no make-up call for the actors and the tragedy unfolded in horror for those falsely accused and their fans.

In soccer it is mandatory that calls be correct near the goal (inside the box) due to the excessive severity of a penalty. Time and again video replay busted the official calls or no-calls in the area, one of the most debilitating events which can happen to a team in soccer. Though the officials didn’t prejudice one team, they missed calls on every side.

Hey FIFA, what’s up? Can you explain this…?

Is it merely cost that stops FIFA from using video to insure that teams and titles aren’t lost simply over bad calls? Is it time? Techno-phobia? Why are we so entranced by humans who are only all too “human”? I could go one here forever, but I’ll constrain myself to this:

America will never love a sport where such contradictions exists. Yes, we hate to lose badly, but mostly we hate to lose unfairly. And who wants to win a Cup marred by so many blatant mistakes by officials? OK, you won’t hear any Spaniards complaining, but that’s about it. There are a number of teams this year who could say that the whistle cost them a game and maybe the Cup.

I hate crybabies in sports and believe that the mistakes somehow seem even out over time. But I think FIFA owes the sport a better deal.

FIFA should “embrace change”, America’s mantra of the eighties and nineties when we finally convinced ourselves that technology and change does not always mean bad. Almost every industry experienced game changing rules at record setting pace as technology advancement forced us to reconsider our most cherished and hallowed traditions. In sports we witnessed technology’s effect with a wary eye and slowly made changes where needed. Golf, one of the most traditional sports lengthened and re-designed courses to offset better equipment and stronger players. Basketball keeps moving the three point line and reducing the shot clock. Baseball built bigger parks and limited ball and bat technology…Every sport has had to re-evaluate and make needed changes to enhance and maintain their core value.

I think some limited use of replay has a place in soccer RIGHT NOW, not next time around. It’s imperative to get the calls right and to keep the game honest if America is to participate on every level. But for this to happen changes must be made, if only in small increments. FIFA seems to be unmoved by the controversy but changes might help America’s attitude toward the game improve.

Evolution has taught us that life, the world, and the universe is dynamic. Small improvements over time lead to larger overall positive results. Listen up FIFA!

Nowhere did it exclude the beautiful game of soccer.

-30-

I picked Holland over Spain in the final of my ESPN Soccerpick fantasy bracket based on a junk “home-team” theory I developed when I realized no African team was strong enough to win it all. My other picks were pretty good too, except for one glaring mistake: USA. Even though Uraguay won my WC when I played a completely computer driven WC Simulation with PES2009 on my PS3, my heart said USA would make the final four this time. Never listen to your heart when picking sporting event winners. You can check out my picks (mostdiggity) at http://games.espn.go.com/knockout/en-us/frontpage.

In 2014 you will see USA escape the Group of Death after Beating Ghana (finally) and tying Portugal and Germany. The USA will advance one more game before getting Gobsmacked by Spain. Germany (I think) is destined to advance and spoil Brazil’s party, then beat Spain in the final game 2-1 for their 4th World Cup win. I was in Germany in 1990 and 1994 when they were at their strongest. Germany plays like a fine uh… German Automobile. With precision.
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I do agree with better officiating but….
I don’t think we need to have higher scoring games, that’s just ridiculous and takes away that intense feeling that these players can score at any minute. I think what Americans fail to appreciate is the fact that they can score at any minute, instead of having the mindset of “when are they going to score”. A lot of my friends were very bored by the final, but honestly I thought it was good solid game, it was physical, it had the right momentum, and it all culminated in an amazing shot. If you can watch baseball, why can’t you watch soccer? that’s one of the most baffling points that I also fail to understand. I do think that people are becoming more and more interested partly due to the FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer Games, It tends to teach people the basic rules, strategies, statistics, things Americans love, but often misunderstand.

by TerpsAllTheWay on Jul 12, 2010 12:31 PM EDT actions
I think everyone who was watching learned just how amazing a 1 goal game can be when landon put the winner in against Algeria. I’ve said it many times, so i guess i’ll say it again, the reason soccer isn’t wildly popular in America isn’t because Americans don’t like soccer, it’s because theres such obscene amounts of money to be made with football. Why? because theres a thousand opportunities for commercial breaks during a football game. Soccer has precisely 1 break for commercials. ESPN and the like will pay attention to soccer during the summer when sports are slow, and they’ll pimp the EPL because it’s on early in the morning, and they have nothing else going on at that time so it’s better than nothing. But when college football or the NFL is available? You’ll never see the big sports networks get behind soccer, theres just not as much money to be made.

by GKINMD on Jul 12, 2010 2:19 PM EDT actions

Premise of the whole article is wrong
MLS is having great attendence – up 10% in a down economy that has MLB down 2%. TV ratings for MLS are even with NHL when put on comparitively accessible tv stations as well.

Records were set for American viewership of WC’10 South Africa. With all its time zone differences and what-not it was the most watched World Cup in US history.

So if this is going to be the best year for the domestic league, and the best WC why are we claiming that Americans don’t care?

I am not a Supporter | I am not a Fan | I am a Sounder
Sounder At Heart
by Dave Clark on Jul 12, 2010 3:20 PM EDT actions

I think one way to can increase scoring in soccer is to eliminate the offside rule. I don’t know how controversial this would be, but it seems like it would do the trick.

As to officiating, I think having one ref for each half of the field (they’d both be on during play) would eliminate some of the bad calls that seem to happen simply because the ref was far away and couldn’t do anything about it.

Hockey Blogger at Pensburgh.com
by GoPens! on Jul 12, 2010 6:25 PM EDT actions

Eliminating offsides
would change the game in a horrible horrible way, the game would suffer sooooo much

by I need more Esteban on Jul 13, 2010 10:19 AM EDT up actions

Yes, slow ass piss poor defenders would no longer be bailed out
by Cool Dudes on Jul 14, 2010 1:32 AM EDT up actions

Seriously?
slow ass piss poor defenders? How about the offsides trap? How about cherry picking? Offsides is intricate to fielding a good game. What fun would it be if someone just stayed at one end of the pitch and continuously fielded balls after a long kick? That would make the game terrible.

“I will never have my best season,” Brian Dawkins
“There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” Bruce Lee
“This fucking game is over!” Chuck Bednarik
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” Mike Tyson
by Talon Talent on Jul 15, 2010 12:41 AM EDT up actions

Yeah, the “offsides trap”
A defense that rely’s on the proficiency of the linesman to actually be competent AND see perfectly to ensure that a goal is not scored.

Fucking brilliant! You should coach France! You would be great!

by Cool Dudes on Jul 16, 2010 12:37 AM EDT up actions

wow didn’t realize you could simplify it so easily.
The offside trap is not without risk as a perfectly timed ball will leave a defense watching the cleats of a forward as he streaks for a one on one opportunity. It may not be a “brilliant” defense, and yet how often has it saved a team? Anything that works as well as it does might very well be considered brilliant.
And it also amazes me that with everything I wrote there, the only thing you could dispute was the offsides trap part of it.
Simply put, soccer without offsides would be terrible. If you are looking for high scoring games watch basketball I hear they score like 80 points on average or something.

“I will never have my best season,” Brian Dawkins
“There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” Bruce Lee
“This fucking game is over!” Chuck Bednarik
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” Mike Tyson
by Talon Talent on Jul 16, 2010 10:59 AM EDT up actions

Dude
There’s not enough time in the day to dispute everything you are saying that’s wrong. I just concentrated on the funniest part.

by Cool Dudes on Jul 16, 2010 2:46 PM EDT up actions

Nice. I take that as victory. Thanks for playing

“I will never have my best season,” Brian Dawkins
“There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” Bruce Lee
“This fucking game is over!” Chuck Bednarik
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” Mike Tyson
by Talon Talent on Jul 16, 2010 10:04 PM EDT up actions

I disagree and disagree. Goals should be a treasured event. The scoring of a goal in soccer is one of the best moments frowarded to the players and the fans watching. It is because they are harder to come by. I mean if the goals were coming by the handful who the hell would want to be a goalie for the sport? All the attention would be put on forwards (as it often is now) and at the core of humanity is the need for recognition and love. This is why offensive players are usually more coveted in every sport. if anything soccer gives the defenders a more equal chance to shine.
Instant replay for soccer is always and always will be a bad idea. To put it brief (because I already explained it in Disappointedleafs fan World Cup Controversy fanpost) The fluidity of soccer can not be messed with. The momentum part of soccer is so crucial and Instant replay would take that away completely.

“I will never have my best season,” Brian Dawkins
“There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” Bruce Lee
“This fucking game is over!” Chuck Bednarik
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” Mike Tyson
by Talon Talent on Jul 12, 2010 10:04 PM EDT actions

disagree
only in part.

I definitely agree that the fluidity should not be messed with too much but there HAS to be goal-line replay and replays on offsides when they involve goals.

You will have an official in the booth who watches a replay and relays the outcome to the head official in a matter of seconds. This would not mess with flow by any means, in fact, it might speed things up because you wouldn’t have to wait as 6 players argue with the official. This is 2010, you can make these things happen fast.

by I need more Esteban on Jul 13, 2010 10:23 AM EDT up actions

Somehow the NHL seems to be able to recruit goalies and keep their players from taking a smoke break during goal reviews
Not sure how they do it. Maybe we need some sort of secret Canadien technology.

by Cool Dudes on Jul 16, 2010 12:48 AM EDT up actions

The Final Was the Most watched soccer match in U.S. History with a record 24.3 Million Tuning in.
by TerpsAllTheWay on Jul 12, 2010 10:59 PM EDT actions

Agree or Disagree
This was a well-written post.

I don’t think I can jump on board with the widening of the goal. Like many have said, the rarity of goals are what make them so special when they do happen. What more Americans that don’t like Soccer need to realize is that the excitement of the game comes on opportunities to score. With every cross into the box of the opposition, you hold your breath that this could be the one that loses you the game, maybe even in the first 10 minutes! That’s why every minute matters and every opportunity is so special. When Americans that don’t enjoy the game realize that they may jump on board.

But hey, not everyone likes every sport and that is fine. I just wish our society could get past hating so hard on soccer. There is not a sport in America that more shit is talked on than soccer. Although, I do know a lot of people that hate pretty hard on baseball these days. I live in Kansas, though, so I run across my fair share of bumkins who throw out, “err soccer is so f’n borin’, let’s go watch us some g’damn Nascar!
End rant on that.

Agree with you about technology. Get with the times FIFA. I said it above, but goal-line technology and technology on offsides involving goals should be implemented in some ways. I mean the goal that England didn’t receive and the goal that Tevez scored on the non-offsides call were inexcusable. Do it incrementally, experimentally, just do something.

by I need more Esteban on Jul 13, 2010 10:31 AM EDT actions

If Soccer Had Just Been, or Was Just Being Invented
You would be totally correct. They made the goals too small, the advantage the goalie has using his hands over players using their feet is too much. But the goal is the size of the goal and I really doubt that will ever change (except perhaps as a good way to break a tie in extra time).

But, I really think there are some less drastic rule changes that could be made. A ridiculous number of goals get called off because of the offsides rule, and a lot are really borderline calls. I would really like to see offsides become more of a zone rule not unlike what they have in hockey. The intent of the rule is to prevent poaching and continous longballs, but it wasn’t well thought because a lot of calls are made after the ball is already in the box, which really makes no sense. I would really like to see this rule changed.

While the size of the goals may be sacred, I really don’t think the offsides rule is very universally loved and people would be far more willing to change it.

by Cool Dudes on Jul 14, 2010 1:39 AM EDT actions

No…
I think that the majority of Americans would watch it. But they refuse to watch it out of fear that they might like it. And that is enough for them not to give it a chance.

The Once and Future King
by FlaGators on Jul 21, 2010 3:53 PM EDT actions
Comments for this post are closed, bro.

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