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An American’s Guide to Soccer

June 25, 2010
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Every four years the World Cup comes along. And every four years journalists rave how soccer is “un-American”, while those yanks try to convince themselves to watch a strange sport that has gripped the rest of the world. Given that the United States is now in the second round (and the victors in our group for the first time since 1930) it is inevitable that more Americans are now turning their head and once again trying to figure out this crazy sport.

So being an ex-soccer player and soccer fan myself I thought I would construct a helpful guide watching for Americans explaining this foreign sport.

  1. There are no commercials- Yes, it’s true we American’s love our commercials. So much in fact a large portion of Super-bowl viewers actually watch for the commercials. But soccer is a sport where there are two forty-five minute halves with no stopping. Even when a foul or an out-of-bounds ball is called the time still ticks down, so there are no stops for commercials. But don’t worry. Capitalism can still be found within soccer. See those bill-boards along the sides, or the patches on their jerseys? Those help you determine which products are being pushed. Or you can just go with the safe bet and be sure to be drinking Coke and eating McDonald’s as you watch.
  2. It’s Called Football- … or futbol depending on where you are from. This may be very confusing since we already have a sport here named football. Since you are within the United States feel free to call it soccer, but just be careful when you’re talking about “football” anywhere on the planet. And don’t try to explain why we call it football. You’ll just fail (see below).
  3. It’s A Low Scoring Game- This fact alone will probably have most of you turning off your TVs. Unlike “football” or basketball where scores are always in the double-digits most common soccer score will contain some combination of the numbers zero through four. I understand it’s hard to wait that long for a goal. Fast food, TIVO, and internet porn has all but stripped us of our patience. But some from foreign lands may argue that the sport of soccer is a much closer analogy to life than our own beloved sports. They may say that, “In life we don’t always succeed after hard work. Life isn’t a string of successes, but a constant battle towards a victory.”
  4. Teamwork is required to win- Unlike many American sports, soccer requires all of the team to work together in a team-like fashion to win a game. Yes, you have your Ronaldos and your Messis. But they alone can’t battle through three defenders with a slippery ball. So as a second strategy many players actually choose to pass the ball to another teammate, setting up a scoring opportunity for other players. Yes, the entire team must play together in unity.

Hopefully these pointers may have clarified some confusion for you, and will help you watch the second round of the World Cup.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Wes permalink
    June 28, 2010 7:30 am

    Did you forget the rule about grabbing an ankle and whining when you loose possession? Kidding, most of the tackles are pretty rough and certainly take a minute to recover from, but the flailing and obvious acting after phantom-fouls is certainly a turn off to American fans who often judge athletes based on toughness and ability to play through pain.

    • blueskywriter permalink*
      June 28, 2010 11:05 am

      Very true Wes, and I was certainly thinking about adding that in, but I was hoping to lampoon American’s more than make fun of soccer 😉

      But I totally agree with you on the flopping, and I’m disappointed to see socceresque flopping starting to come to the NBA. I think it’s an awful part of the sport and makes players quit a play early to try to draw a foul (see many of Altidore’s plays), but if used correctly can equal the playing field (see Dempsey drawing the penalty kick). I say blame the sport, not the players. Officials need to card more for blatant flopping. I think the sport has reached almost joke-like levels from the amount of flopping at the professional level. You’d think for the sake of the sport the players would try to show a bit more grit and toughness.

  2. July 3, 2010 8:57 am

    Well the only sport I can think of that does not need team work is golf. Which is Scottish.

    In Baseball the pitcher expects the rest of his team to run around behind him trying to catch any ball the hitter hits. In Football the quarterback depends on his front line to protect him, and that the guy he throws to to catch the ball. Basketball when played well is all about passing and moving the ball until you find the person with the best chance to get a basket.

    We would just love it if the stations showing our sporting events never had commercial breaks. or just showed them in between periods or innings. Admittedly I was a bit jealous about this until I went to the laundry mat, where every tv is showing World Cup. And a generous helping of commercials.

    Last nights Red Sox vs. Orioles game was 3 – 2, which is as a understand math, a low score.

    Now none of our games end in ties. In baseball we just continue innings (visitors first, then home team) until someone gets another run. In most other sports we have overtimes. Which end the minute either team scores.

    We also have championships every year, in every season. For us, World Cup soccer with it’s every four year championship and multiple rounds is a bit like watching the Olympics, only with the talking heads from the Today Show and with only one sport.

    Maybe if Howard Cosell was calling the game we might listen.

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