Soccer in America
Since the IS/IT depression started seven or so years ago, I have worked part time at gyms in North Carolina, and Georgia. Because a lot of what you do while supervising a gym is waiting, and knowing what goes on in the world of sport, I keep up with the internet sports news. Older guys read the paper, I read the internet. I am an IT guy – so the internet is not foreign to me, even though I may be a bit older than most of our clients.
I keep hearing about the coming revolution of soccer in America. I had for years, wondered why soccer never makes it as a major league sport here. I have watched this and that tried, while both along with the next and last great soccer solutions fail. I have ask myself the question why does this happen? About the time of the latest attempt to breath life into American Soccer, I developed a theory. The latest post miracle news is out today announcing the coach of LA Galaxy is leaving. Perhaps it is time to publish my theory, since it seems that latest experiment has now failed.
American sports fans are mostly hardworking people, who watch their favorite sport on TV, and occasionally go a game. Most of us are not at the park every night the Braves are in town. In America going to the game is about more than just the match. Braves vs Dodgers games are always well attended because those games are traditional rivalries. Families get together to attend the event. Office outings get scheduled around the event. It is about more than baseball – it’s about connecting with other people who share an interest in baseball, plus something else.
Race fans flock to the largest sports arena in North America twice a year in Bristol, Tennessee. Some drivers hate the place because the track is short, steep, and difficult to drive. Some skip the event. Perhaps most would rather do something else on those weekends. Speeds at Bristol seldom get to 100 miles per hour. So why does NASCAR go to Bristol twice a year? Fans love the race! It didn’t get to be North America’s Largest sports venue seating more than 160,000 people because drivers like it. It is the largest venue in North America because perhaps a million people head to the tri-cities on race weekend.
What the International proponents of soccer have failed to realize is American sports fans are not typically elitists. They are people who go to work most days except for race weekends, or when the Dodgers are in Atlanta, or whatever the local big event is. Soccer in America is practiced by those who consider themselves a bit above the crunched fenders at Bristol, or fly balls at the Georgia Dome. Soccer sets them apart from the American crowd. Soccer is oh so much more international. Lets face it – soccer in America is a sport of those who consider themselves elite. That is precisely why it will never be commercially successful here – at least until it becomes something people attend to be part of the crowd, instead of something to do to prove one is better than the crowd.
The other reason I think we Americans hate soccer is there are already to many versions of this game – ice hockey, roller hockey, hand ball, soccer, you can finish the list. It is just too boring – and the rules don’t make a lot of sense either. One of the places I work has a youth flag football program in the fall, and soccer in the spring. We allow K-5 to play soccer, but require flag football players to be in first grade. This practice developed after some years of experience which strongly indicates K-5 kids cannot play flag football, because American football rules require too much attention to details like lining up and standing still until the ball is snapped, where any kid who can run around for half an hour can play K-5 soccer.
One other thing – soccer matches are action intensive – there is not time for connecting with friends or family. There is no down time, like a caution flag – they get plenty of those at Bristol. No walking the home run hitter to skip his homer. To watch soccer you have to have your “head in the game”. Most of us Americans would rather play the game if we have to have our “head in it”.