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The Superiority of American Culture and Sports

According to a PEW Research Center poll from 2004, a larger share of Americans than Germans, French and others agrees with the statement "Our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior"; as shown in the right table from PEW.
Of course, the overwhelming majority of Americans are not condescending, but some press coverage gives this impression:
Billions of people around the world and millions of Americans enjoy soccer, but several U.S. media outlets don't understand the fun of the game (that's okay and fine!) and turn their lack of understanding into condescension (that's not nice). The neoconservative Weekly Standard:
Soccer is the perfect game for the post-modern world. It's the quintessential expression of the nihilism that prevails in many cultures, which doubtlessly accounts for its wild popularity in Europe.
That's just a brief quote, read the entire piece. This could be satire, but it could also be serious. You never know with the Weekly Standard. More at The New Republic, Dingnan, World Cup Blog and Dialog International. (Perhaps Claire Berlinski is also just joking, when she said "Europeans are lazy, unwilling to fight for anything and willing to surrender to anyone; they are fascinated by decadence." However, her Euro-bashing isn't related to soccer, but to her new book "Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis Is America's, Too", which is pretty popular at Amazon.com, Amazon.de.)
The American Thinker explains why soccer is not as popular in the U.S. as in most parts of the world:
My theory is that Americans have neither the belief system nor the temperment for such a sisyphean sport as soccer.  We are a society of doers, achievers, and builders.  Our country is dynamic, constantly growing, and becoming ever bigger, richer, and stronger. (...) I think it reflects the static, crimped, and defeatest attitudes held by so many of the other peoples on earth.
Some condescension and some minor superiority complex are found in a liberal publication as well: 
 
The Huffington Post does not like penalty kicks:

Imagine if the World Series ended in a tie, and they picked five pitchers aside to throw strikes, or five catchers to throw out base runners, or five batters to have a home run hitting contest. It would be preposterous and infantile. And oh yeah, unjust. But that's how the rest of the world is - a little underdeveloped and full of injustice. And that's how they like their games.
America is based on a just and efficient meritocracy that thrives on measured competition. That's why soccer has never really quite caught on here. They play a whole game and often the only score is a single goal awarded based on a flop in the penalty area. Americans would never stand for it. It reeks of random injustice and unearned glory. Could you imagine if they played a whole basketball game and no one was able to score and then based on one foul the other team got a free throw worth fifty points? That about sums up soccer.
A culture gets the sport it deserves.
While America runs and runs, the rest of the world takes its time and people's lives often change with one critical stroke of luck. In America, we believe in second chances. There's almost always hope that you can catch up in basketball and football. In soccer, you fall behind by two goals and you're pretty much done.
I just love these wanna-be anthropologists, who make judgements about cultures based on their own (lack of) understanding of soccer. Since the Huffington Post brought up the World Series: Why is the championship series of Major League Baseball called "World Series"? How many international teams are participating in this "World Series"?
And why is the winner of the Super Bowl called "World Champion", although only American teams can participate?
 

Creative Commons licensed photo from: agu2000_de

The National Review Online demonstrates you can criticize soccer rules and make a lame joke about Europeans without being condescending like the Weekly Standard, the American Thinker and the Huffington Post. The NRO's Andy McCarthy does not like penalty kicks after overtime:

What's wrong with playing overtime until someone scores a real goal?  I realize soccer is already a tediously long game in which almost nothing ever happens, and overtime could go on for a very, very long time.  But they only play this World Cup every four years, right?  Even the French and Italians ought to be able to work this out by, say, 2009, no?  I mean, do all forms of overtime violate EU labor laws?
British blogger Clive Davis, who also writes for The Times and The Washington Times, does not like the National Review's lame jokes based on the stereotype of anti-Semitic French surrender monkeys.
Scroll down his sports category for more World Cup coverage and beautiful pictures by photoblogger Peter Feldhaus.

The Economist writes:
America is perhaps the only country that greets the World Cup with an orgy of football-bashing. In 1986 Jack Kemp took to the floor of Congress to contrast "European socialist" soccer with "democratic" and "capitalist" American football. In 2003 a blogger even pointed out that a leading al-Qaeda terrorist had been a European soccer player: "You don't see any former NFL players or Major League baseball players joining al-Qaeda, do you?"
Twenty years afterwards, former Representative Jack Kemp still gets criticism from the US press for his comments and now he "officially apologized". He says he loves soccer, but finds it boring. Does that mean the US is now less "democratic" and "capitalistic" and resembles more "European socialism"?

The Economist continues:
This year is no different—though, for the time being at least, the focus of moral outrage has shifted from hooliganism to sexual depravity, with commentators fixating on Germany's willingness to provide "sex garages" and "mega-brothels" to slake the lusts of depraved football fans. On June 6th Tim Parks, writing in the Wall Street Journal, argued that the competition was "born out of cheating" before giving Uncle Sam a pat on the back: America finds it hard to get involved in this game of "world domination" because it is too busy with the "real thing".
Yankee hostility to football draws on deep wells of both patriotism and populism.
The Atlantic Review wrote about the concern about increased sex trafficking and prostitution and the moral outrage by Congressman Smith and parts of the US press. Reuters (via German Joys) now reports that this concern was overblown:
The hordes of beer-swilling men who have descended on Germany for the World Cup are proving a disappointment for the host nation's sex workers, preferring to party in public rather than spend time with prostitutes.

Creative Commons licensed photo from: Brendio
 
Chi-Dooh Li wrote in his Seattle Post-Intelligencer column "Soccer is key to global understanding":
As a lifelong soccer player and fan, the only thing more painful about watching the U.S. get knocked out of the World Cup in the first round last week is having to endure the commentary of cynical sportswriters, late-night TV show hosts and other know-it-alls on why they couldn't care less about soccer, the U.S. team or the World Cup. There is nothing new about this quadrennial outpouring of self-congratulatory contempt. The same stale analogies, twice-cooked sarcasm and leftover witticisms are brought out of refrigerated minds every four years to question the sanity of billions of people in the rest of the world for whom life itself is put on hold for a month. (...) Some U.S. sportswriters and TV personalities may get a cheap laugh or two at the expense of soccer and the rest of the world. But in so doing they reinforce an unfortunate stereotype of Americans that is too often too true: We are a provincial people who have no desire to understand or know other peoples, their cultures, their passions.
The emphasis in this and all other quotes has been added.

Chi-Dooh Li
also criticizes the international coverage of U.S. soccer. I think, soccer is increasingly popular and appreciated in the U.S., and Europeans have increasingly more respect for American players. Besides, I believe there is less Anti-Americanism in Europe than many critics think there is. And Americans are less Anti-European and condescending to other nations than the above examples might suggest. Those examples should not be exaggerated, but it is fair enough to point them out.
If you don't like soccer, that's fine, but why trash those who enjoy the game?

There have been many good articles in the U.S. press about the World Cup in Germany. Many reporters helped to reduce stereotypes about Germany.
Some stereotypes might end, but others die hard.

Let's end on a positive note with
Robert T. Brill's observations from the World Cup, published by the Morning Call. Dr. Brill is chair of the Psychology Department at Moravian College and was positively surprised by his visit to Germany:
First, my compliments to the German nation. Beyond the stellar performance by their team, Germany can be abundantly proud of its role as hosts. From free public transportation for ticketholders, efficient approaches to strong security, and the outstanding hospitality and service of its workforce, the German nation warrants high praise.
Attending three matches, I was filled with nervous excitement. Mob behavior and overzealous fans would periodically come to the forefront of my thoughts. I saw none of that whatsoever. My kernel-fed stereotype of the international soccer fan morphed significantly. Engaging and amiable banter ruled the day. Opposing fans outnumbered us significantly at both U.S. games, many in close proximity to our small cluster of red, white and blue. Cheering was intense, but regardless of whether the American play was poor (against Czechoslovakia) or heroic (as against Italy) the interaction between us and the opponent fans was respectful and enjoyable; united by a love of the game that demands stamina, smarts, strength, finesse and skill necessarily distributed in balanced fashion across all players on the pitch. (...) Soccer was consistently the international ambassador enabling transitions into interesting and thought-provoking dialogue.
Any Anti-Americanism?
Not at all. In about a dozen extensive conversations I had with fans from six different countries, their sentiments regarding our country was practically unanimous. Less critical than Hertsgaard's findings in The Eagle's Shadow, they expressed disdain for our president, but great admiration for our culture and a certainty that our nation will self-correct itself in due time; an interesting combination of blind, unconditional optimism in our system.
UPDATE:  Above, I have asked how international the "World Series" is. In case you want to respond like this:
Many believe that the name World Series is American hype or arrogance, but the truth is that the Series was named after the New York World newspaper who sponsored the title games in the early part of the century.
That is just an urban legend. Snopes explains why:
Perhaps this belief springs from today's hyper-commercial sporting climate, in which nearly all athletic championships and sports stadiums are named for corporate sponsors, or perhaps it springs from the incongruity of the winners of a contest featuring only teams from North America being declared "world champions," but so prevalent is this erroneous belief that it is now regularly cited as a "fact," despite a complete lack of any supporting evidence.
The New York World was established in 1860, just before the Civil War, and it fared poorly throughout the 1870s before being bought up by Joseph Pulitzer in 1883. (...) The New York World never had anything to do with the World Series, however, other than being one of the many newspapers to report the results. The modern World Series (like its predecessor series waged between National League and American Association teams from 1884-1890) was so named not because of any affiliation with a corporate sponsor, but because the winner was considered the "world's champion" — the title was therefore simply a shortened form of the phrase "world's championship series.
NPR agrees.

Trackbacks

Clive Davis on : MORE ON BALLS

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An e-mail on that post about the outbreak of soccerphobia among American conservatives:There's an odd combination of densiveness and aggression that seems to characterise much of the American Right's response to soccer as well as an ugly nativist streak that,

Amerika Blog on : Joerg von den Fulbrights lernt...

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Joerg von den Fulbrights bei atlanticreview.org kuemmert sich endlich um den Dreck der mich hier ankotzt. Es waere auch schoen wenn Joerg's Kritik an mir angebracht gewesen waere und die USA ein recht zivilisiertes Land waeren. Doch die Propaganda mit

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Tom P on :

This is one of the sillier posts I've read here. Because soccer may be one of the few outlets Europeans can indulge in overt nationalist display doesn't mean Americans are obligated to give this sport (or any sport) the same psychological importance. The premise of this post only works if you can show me that American cultural self-regard is based on sports. I don't think so, or are you goiing to convince me that the special relationship between the Brits and Americans is based on our mutual love of cricket?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

You didn't get it. My point is: If you don't like soccer, that's fine, but why trash those who enjoy the game? Please read again!

GRC on :

An excellent post, some very interesting (and silly) opinions from Huffington Post and others. Tom P, you missed the point completely. What puzzles me is that these columnists are referring to football as European when it is a worldwide sport.

Tom P on :

Joerg, My problem with your post is the extent you extrapolate without backing up your analysis. You're inferring that American belief in our cultural superiority has anything to do with sports. Did the Pew survey examine the reasons behind people's attitudes? If not, then how did you come up with sports? You're also assuming that the articles you cite are indicative of popular attitudes, which may be dangerous when you're talking about academics, columnists, and those who blog on the Huffington Post. Seriously, if you look US viewship of the World Cup, you can safely conclude that soccer isn't that popular in the US. You may be confusing hatred with indifference. It's like me asking why you Europeans hate baseball since you clearly don't play the sport. Don't Europeans and Americans have more relevant reasons to be annoyed with each other without relying on an non-issue like soccer.

GRC on :

The authors of the article are talking about some US media, not all US opinion - did you read this sentence? "Of course, the overwhelming majority of Americans are not condescending, but some press coverage gives this impression" Also, they are not asking why they don't like football, but why they feel the need to trash it. If they don't like it, why not just ignore it? I don't like American Football but I don't feel the need to trash it.

Tom P on :

GRC, I understand that but don't you think the article may be creating a mountain out of a molehill. What does some unfavorable press coverage of soccer has to do with Americans' pride in their culture? I don't dispute these points individually but the post makes a connection by virtue of its title and leading with the Pew poll that's a bit of a stretch. If, as Joerg states, "the overwhelming majority of Americans are not condescending" and "millions of Americans enjoy soccer" then why is he connecting American cultural pride with these individual opinions about a foreign sport. Rhetorically, it's sloppy. But more importantly, who cares if Americans think highly of themselves or whether or not we like soccer. I assure you American sport fans are not sitting around bemoaning what Europeans think of our spectator sports. Why is this an issue? I think there is some displaced narcissism at play here.

Anonymous on :

Where is all this negative press coverage coming from? Why can't these Americans just ignore soccer, if they don't like it? Why do they have to be so judgemental? What puzzles me are all the reasons why non-Americans like soccer: defeatist cultures, socilism, nihilism, decadence, underdevelopment, moral decay, preference for injustice etc. Why are these Americans so judgemental? Where is this arrogance coming from? Or shall we say racism?

joe on :

How do you define racism?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Tom, please, don't read too much into this post. The post neither intends to "extrapolate" nor "inferr". "You're also assuming that the articles you cite are indicative of popular attitudes" They are examples. Nothing more, nothing less. I saw the frequent bashing of soccer and other cultures and wondered what the reason is. I was surprised to see the PEW poll. The bashing of soccer and other cultures in the publications that I quoted are examples of the superiority attitude, which PEW found. However as I wrote: I believe there is less Anti-Americanism in Europe than many critics think there is. And Americans are less Anti-European and condescending to other nations than the above examples might suggest. Those examples should not be exaggerated, but it is fair enough to point them out. If a German paper would criticize Baseball in such harsh terms and trash the the American people because they like Baseball, then many US blogs would consider this Anti-Americanism. "You may be confusing hatred with indifference." You may be confusing a lot. I am not writing about hatred. And I am not writing about indifference. Indifference would be fine. If Americans are indifferent, why do so many Americans either watch, play or write something positive or negative about the soccer and the world cup? Apparently the Weekly Standard, the Huffington Post and all the others are not indifferent. And many folks I have quoted and/or linked to share my assessment. The respected Economist even spoke about an "orgy." Just have a look at the links.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

How would you react, if German publications would describe the U.S. nation in the same way as the above mentioned publications described the rest of the world?

ADMIN on :

Scroll up to the trackback we just received. "outbreak of soccerphobia": I like that phrase.

Tom P on :

JW, not being a sports fan, the timely use of soccer as a rhetorical device doesn't have much currency with me. Is sport a bad metaphor? At times, although if you watch The Natural or Field of Dreams, there is mythological quality about baseball that is quinessentially American. Does cricket says something about the British character? I don't know. I haven't seen any good cricket movie lately. As for soccer, I don't think it works as a rhetorical device, even if I agree with whatever criticism it's meant to illustrate. It's akin complaining about the use of the title World Series to infer American arrogance and disregard for the rest of the world? There's a pettiness, and in the face of how dangerous the world is, a pointlessness even discussing such thing. The whole post strikes me as being so hypersensitive as to invite ridicule. I hope the next posting will be something more relevant, such as Bush's visit or German reaction or current Isreali-Palestinian flare-up. American anti-soccer feelings don't quite cut it.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"American anti-soccer feelings don't quite cut it." This is not about anti-soccer feelings. The quotes I presented are not direct against soccer, but against other nations, which are described as nihilistic, socialistic, underdeveloped, and as prefering injustice and surrendering, while America is praised as... ah, I don't want to repeat what I have written...

Christian on :

Claire Berlinski is one of those right-wing babe "authors" popular among nutcases who like to look at the cover of book rather than read it.

grc on :

That Berlinski stuff really is nuts. Not sure why she bothered travelling round Europe to research her theory, she'd obviously made her mind up already, and must have just ignored the vast body of evidence which contradicts her. I find it scary that people buy such books and form opinions from them.

Don on :

This entire thing is a tempest in a teapot I'm afraid. A complete explanation would be that some people in the US don't like most EU countries (particularly Germany, France, and Spain) and will seize on any chance to put them down. Futbal is merely the potage du jour. To be perfectly honest I think this is a vice exercised at LEAST as much by Europeans about the US, with such relatively global sports as baseball and basketball put down by Europeans because they are not quite as global as futbal. It's all a bunch of arrent nonsense. Particularly this year. US sporting 'superiority' is suddenly in decline this year or so it seems. Lance Armstrong has retired and the chances of a Yank replacement seems no more than 30% right now. After having 3 out of 4 finalists at Wimbledon in 2005 there were none this year. The US hasn't won a Ryder cup recently (golf), bombed out of the futbal World Cup in the first round, and hasn't done well recently in international basketball or ice hockey competitions. The US team was a slight disappointment at the Turin Winter Olympics (kudos to the German team). So talk of US sporting 'superiority' at this juncture is specious. Cultural superiority is another issue. I think the US is culturally extremely strong but believe 'superior' is not the proper term to use in many cases. The US values and cultivates the arts as shown by strong patronage of a variety of arts. It's been noted that New York is a strong #2 in many art forms. In ballet Moscow is #1 followed by New York. Opera? Milan #1 followed by New York. We have strong symphony orchestras comparable to tbe best European symphonies such as the ones in Berlin, Munich, and London. Because the US was formed 230 years ago there are relatively few art forms which the US began and remain dominant in. Primarily Jazz, Blues, Rock & Roll, and the US retains primacy only in Jazz and Blues. Many of the foremost painters of our day are americans - but not all. European collections of Old Master art will always surpass those of the US.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

> This entire thing is a tempest in a teapot I'm afraid. A What tempest? Don't read too much into this post. I just pointed out some condescending articles. > complete explanation would be that some people in the US > don't like most EU countries (particularly Germany, France, > and Spain) and will seize on any chance to put them down. Exactly. That's the point. Is it fair to say that this is the equivalent to Anti-Americanism? Perhaps not in scale, but in sentiment. How do you want to call it? "Anti-Europeanism"? I dunno. Re tempest in a teapot: Happens all the time with charges of Anti-Americanism based on one newspaper article on the other. Many instances are totally overblown. This post, however, provides many examples and some perspective rather than exaggerate minor examples. Besides, I believe there is less Anti-Americanism in Europe than many critics think there is. And Americans are less Anti-European and condescending to other nations than the above examples might suggest. Those examples should not be exaggerated, but it is fair enough to point them out. If you don't like soccer, that's fine, but why trash those who enjoy the game?

Anonymous on :

@JW - I have lived in the UK since 1999 and in Italy, Germany, and Belgium also. I've seen, read, and sometimes been the butt of what I consider a LOT of anti-Americanism. It's not the dominant theme perhaps - but a major one. Anti-Europeanism in the US has not been much of a problem until the past few years when the 'Jacques and Gerd' show went on the road complete with a soundtrack of massive demonstrations chanting slogans about 'war-criminals'. That got the attention of many people in the US. Strangely it did not create a favorable impression.... My impression is that many Europeans measure themselves and their societies against the US. for better or (frequently) worse. The reverse is not often true.

Don on :

Oops - that last post was me. I'm not sure how it happened.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

> global sports as baseball and basketball put down by > Europeans [b]Got an example???[/b] I have not heard of anybody putting down baseball and basketball. I certainly have not heard of anybody saying something like: [i]Americans like baseball, because they are nihilistic, socialistic and full of injustice.[/i] Or something like the [i]The US obsession with basketball indicates their defeatist attitude[/i] etc.

Anonymous on :

No examples. I've heard it living in the UK once or twice in personal conversation, not in the sports pages. It's meant to wind me up I think - but it doesn't work. Being called a war criminal or a Fascist used to upset me - but not anymore. Much less insults to a sport. Such things say much more about the person saying them than I could evr hope to do. You know?

joe on :

grc Would you say the same thing about say Tony Judt or Mark Leonard?

pigilito on :

Nah. The reason Americans don't like soccer is that it's a sport where Frenchman are knocking down Italians. How hard can that be, for goodness sake? Perhaps if Klinsi coached the US squad for several years...

Don on :

One more comment: I think Atlantic review is reading the wrong 'media outlets' (actually just talking heads flapping their lips). I suggest visits to the espn and/or cnnsi websites for more balanced and respectful commentary about futbal. There is a considerable quantity of the Wordl Cup on these web sites.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Don, this is not about soccer, but about condescension other cultures and nations! However, if you want to discuss soccer coverage in the US, check this Wall Street Journal article: [url=http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB115205934369497935-p7zzoDIaTTMsg18YJAeHQhPCU50_20060803.html?mod=tff_main_tff_top]Fans Say ESPN's World Cup Coverage Deserves Penalty "The World Cup is generating record television audiences for soccer in the U.S. But some die-hard fans think the coverage deserves a red card. Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN and ABC have been hit with complaints from soccer devotees that their telecasts are unsophisticated and mistake-ridden. The popular Web site Big Soccer has a thread titled "Pick your favorite insane thing said by the announcers so far." A major gripe: ESPN selected an announcer, Dave O'Brien, who had never called a soccer game before this year to serve as the tournament's lead play-by-play man."[/url]

Anonymous on :

I think I would agree, JW. It is condescension. But from my POV the condescension mostly began over here. What you are objecting to is the return fire.... ;)

JW-Atlantic Review on :

I guess you are right. It is mostly "return fire" but I still don't like "collateral damage" and "indiscriminate force" directed against everyone.

Don on :

I fail to see how this kind of thing really hurts anyone, JW. I'm trying very hard not to be too callous about everyone's hurt feelings about this and other matters but the fact is that I've built up a carapace of waxy feathers over the years to slights like this - and far, far worse! Like a duck. So the acid runs off my back these days without etching tender skin. I wasn't born with that metaphorical carapace of feathers. I grew it in response to a steady stream of acid rain coming from points left - not least from points across the Atlantic. I can't see how one goes through life without it.

Ralf Goergens on :

Soccer is a manly sport: "Look Ma, no hands!"

joe on :

What happened to racism?

Don on :

Racism? Why it's alive and well in the US, of course. But not in the more enlightened countries in the UE or Canada, of course.... ;)

ADMIN on :

Please note that by default the comments in this blog are threaded rather than linear, i.e. some of the latest comments and responses to comments are not at the bottom, but in the middle. At the top of the comments section you have the option to change the view from threaded to linear, which enable you to see the latest comments at the end of the thread.

Pinkerton on :

Great article! Now, if you don't mind, here is my American perspective on this. For one thing, I don't lend much credence to any news article or blog concerning this matter. The reason I feel this way is that it is obvious that each article I have read, be it blog or main stream media, it was obvious that the purpose of the article was to try to convince someone that their opinion is fact, and not opinion at all. In fact, most articles I've read have been nothing more than the garbage you hear from the "shock jocks" you hear on radio stations. I don't know if the World Cup was more visable to the US this year or if I just have seen more written about it because I have been checking out the European blogs. However, for an example, I will tell you what I saw on one blog. The thread was headlined, "Why Americans don't like soccer". Here are the reasons, which in my opinion was laughable. 1) It's a team game and we only like individualistic games. (baseball, grid iron football, basketball aren't team games???) 2) We don't like uninterupted play (no interruption in soccer while they are coddling players who are knocked down or tripped???) 3)We like game stats (true, but I seem to remember hearing stats about many of the World Cup soccer players and teams). 4). Fair play, according to this blog, Americans don't help a player up that he had knocked down or fouled (very untrue, obviously this guy hasn't a clue and hasn't watched American sports) 5) Americans don't like sports that have average size people on the team (really??? I haven't seen many 6'8" or 350 pound baseball players lately!) My point is, that the European blogs have been doing nothing but trashing American sports during this World Cup Series. I've read that our football players are a bunch of sissies for wearing helmets and padding, our baseball is boring and a waste of time, our soccer team sucks because we don't know anything about the game, again, they were called sissies. Lucky for me, I can see past the garbage on these blogs and articles and realize that soccer is fast becoming a major sport in the US and I can't help but wonder if that is something that is upsetting to the Europeans. Perhaps they are afraid that we will excel in a game that they like to call their own. But if you want to talk about condenscending, read some of the French blogs. They're filled with it!

Don on :

"My point is, that the European blogs have been doing nothing but trashing American sports during this World Cup Series. " This is way too general, Pinkerton. I could give you a list of blogs which do nothing of the kind - starting with Atlantic Review. It does happen, I know. So? Why worry about it?

joe on :

JW if you believe this is in fact return fire and I do not off hand disagree with that.... Please stop being a force multiplier for it/

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Force mulitplier? Please name one Anti-American post in the Atlantic Review.

Pinkerton on :

Joe: I'm not particularly "worried" about it. I just think it's good to see both sides of the coin. I don't think you could put your head in the sand and pretend that Americans aren't being bashed by Europeans. I certainly didn't accuse the American Review of doing such a thing and I'm not quite sure why you feel the need to challenge me with your list of blogs that don't trash Americans. My comment wasn't meant as a challenge or a derogatory view of all European blogs. Relax, it was just an observation. JW had some very good points in this post and I think he always does a great job of covering every story in a fair manner. Perhaps my statement at the beginning of my original comment gave the false impression that I meant that the Atlantic Review was one of those blogs that I give little credence regarding the World Cup Series. That wasn't my intention at all and I apologize if I wasn't careful in how I worded my comment. Chalk it up to trying to comment while total chaos was going on around my desk and computer. I was speaking of some of the other blogs that I have looked at during the period of the World Cup, not the Atlantic Review. Again, I can just speak to what I have read on other blogs, and there seemed to be no love lost for Americans or their soccer team. And there was a LOT of bashing of American sports. Many Americans don't understand soccer or rugby, and many Europeans don't undersand the game of baseball or grid iron football. Certainly not a reason, in my view, to bash or compare one as better than the other. I'm glad soccer is becoming more popular. It may give us Americans something to share and have in common with the Europeans, and that is great! No?

Pinkerton on :

Ooops, sorry, in my above comment, I accidently put "American Review" instead of "Atlantic Review". I'm sorry about that JW!

Anonymous on :

One of the major reasons why Americans complain so much about Anti-Americanism is their superiority complex. Everybody else accepts or shrugs of criticism, but Americans invented another -ism for criticism against them: Anti-Americanism. They can't stand criticism. They want to believe that their country is the best in the world in all kinds of fields. Their mega egos can't stand criticism because their superiority feeling as leader of the free world and beacon of hope and master of the universe would be compromised.

Anonymous on :

Balls. Utter hunkum, bunkum, and bluff.

Pinkerton on :

Anonymous I find it interesting that while chastising Americans for not accepting criticism, you gave no criticism, but only insults. You claim we (I am American, so I guess you are speaking of me) have mega egos and a superiority complex. It sounds more like you are the one with the mega ego since you seem to be so sure of yourself in this assessment without being able to distinguish the difference between constructive criticism and insults. Of course, that is just my criticism of you, and I must assume you will just "shrug it off" since your not an American. Just a thought, maybe it is listening to people like you, that give us that feeling of superiority.

benji on :

hi folks! my english is not too good but i tried to understand all of your comments here and i have to say that it was a waste of time. why can't you just ignore some really bad journalists. if they don't like soccer and think they have to write an article in which they talk in a condescending way about the people who like it....why would i care!? they are talking bad about other people from different countries because of what sport they like?? i don't belive that the majority of the baseball/football/basketball/hockey fans would ever think like that and i can't help myself;i have to ignore it. finally i have to say that i had a great time with soccer fans from all over the world (one of the best parties was in gelsenkirchen with american fans after their game against the cech rep.) and i can't wait to watch two nba games and one nfl game during my yearly stay in the us this december. go cavs, go browns!

Jonathan Jones on :

The simple fact is that soccer is an inferior sport to American football. The commentator who used the term "Sisyphean" to describe soccer nailed it. There is a lack of observable progress in soccer; all scoring is serendipitous. Strategy accounts for comparitively little, and tactics are nonexistent. Americans are used to the mind games and building drama of American football. Soccer owes its popularity to nationalism and the fact that it is very cheap to equip and field a soccer team -- not to its entertainment value. The reason some are compelled to "bash" people who like soccer is that we're genuinely searching for a reason why soccer is popular, when other plainly better sports exist. I personally don't ascribe psychological reasons to the phenomenon. As I said above, the reasons are economic and nationalistic.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

"The simple fact is that soccer is an inferior sport to American football." That's a "fact"? So you think your arguments stands up to a rational analysis? "The reason some are compelled to "bash" people who like soccer is that we're genuinely searching for a reason why soccer is popular,..." Do you bash everything that you don't understand? Soccer is the most popular sport of the world. Americans are the exception. Americans don't understand the "beautiful game," as it is sometimes called in the Anglosaxon world. Hardly anybody in this world plays "American football," but I would never bash this game or describe it as boring because it is constantly interrupted. I would not do that, because I don't understand it fully. If I don't understand something and I know that many others love it, then I just stay quiet.

Jonathan Jones on :

"That's a "fact"? So you think your arguments stands up to a rational analysis?" I think if I had really argued the point, it would. As it is, I just stated the fact with little support. "Do you bash everything that you don't understand?" The reason I put "bash" in quotes is that I disagree that it is bashing. Granted there is bashing, but not by the people I was speaking of. What evidence do you have that I don't "understand" soccer? "Soccer is the most popular sport of the world." I told you why this is (economics and nationalism -- not because it's the best game in the world). "If I don't understand something and I know that many others love it, then I just stay quiet." That's nice of you, but not really applicable to me. As for soccer, any time a European brings it up, I am willing to discuss it. I don't feel compelled to "stay quiet" to protect their feelings.

Kenson on :

I love how culturally threatened Americans feel by soccer, and hence their obsession with bashing it. Soccer is by FAR the greatest game in the world. Its the most watched, most money making, most wealthy, most discussed, most followed and most respected game. Its superiority is proven by the fact that it towers over all other sports in popularity.

Jonathan Jones on :

...because popularity always indicates quality? McDonald's will be happy to hear that.

Kenson on :

Jonathan, the fact that you are equating sports to fast food does not speak highly of your intelligence. Neither does your arrogant and ignorant bashing of soccer. Trying to bash and insult soccer is like trying to insult heterosexual sex. 95% of the people on this planet like soccer and heterosexual sex. You are never going to convince them that they are boring, so why even try? You just make yourself look incredibly out of step with the majority.

Jonathan Jones on :

I guess I should expect that a soccer fan wouldn't understand the difference between an analogy and an equation. Their inability to understand the subtleties of superior sports appears to carry over into other realms of thought. And once again you cite popularity as proof that soccer is great. And once again I'll provide an analogy to demonstrate why popularity doesn't indicate quality: Britney Spears.

Pat Patterson on :

Judging from the passage of time between posts here I can only assume that this conversation is taking place between Earth and a spaceship travelling away from the Sun. the farther apart the longer the transmissions and responses take. Besides the truly universal sport is baseball and the proof is in the number of bats sold in Britain. Of course the yobs are getting the bats because they make great weapons for all of "celebrations" that occur after that self-described beautiful game, soccer.

Janio on :

@ Johnathan Jones: LMAO @ you bringing "Britney Spears" into this wtf???? Soccer is the greatest sport on the planet. PERIOD. If there was a better sport, more people would watch that sport instead. But there isn't. Therefore soccer = greatest sport according to the COMPLETE MAJORITY = dominance in sport greatness. Its incredible how americans like "Jonathan Jones" feel threatened by "sawker". They KNOW that soccer dominates the world AND THEY HATE IT with the same passion the KKK hates non-whites.

Jonathan Jones on :

Wow. Who can argue with logic like that? I'm just glad you took the time to restate the same point a third time. It wasn't convincing the other times, but through sheer repetition you have forced my feeble brain to accept your claim. Popularity equals quality. Wow, I guess I should buy Windows Vista after all. And to think I was going to skip this popular product!

Janio on :

How more simple could it get? You are saying that soccer isn't a good sport. But if it wasn't it wouldn't be watched by billions of people. If there was a more entertaining sport to watch, people would watch that sport instead. The MAJORITY chooses to watch soccer instead of baseball or american NFL or sumo wrestling or cricket because that majority believes that soccer is the greatest. Period. I don't know how I could say it any simpler.

Jonathan Jones on :

You couldn't state it more simply; nor is it necessary! On the contrary, as I have gratefully noted, your relentless repetition of the point has inexorably changed my mind. Your great discipline in not adding any new supporting material to the argument has borne fruit. I know know that anything that is popular is of high quality. As a result I will be renting all available Vin Diesel movies at my earliest opportunity.

Janio on :

Are that that thick? What is "quality" entertainment? What YOU PERSONALLY find entertaining? No, it isn't. People have a choice on what they want to watch. The majority CHOOSE soccer. Whether that is "quality" according to YOUR tastes is not relevant. Your subjective tastes are not relevant. Same with certain popular movies or music. "Vin Diesel" or "Britney Spears" or "Microsoft Windows" may not be your personal favorites, but they are to many people who consider them quality in the field of action movies, pop songs and Operating systems. Hence they achieve great popularity....Also if you are going to compare soccer to an actor or singer, soccer would be the most popular actor of all time and the most popular singer of all time worldwide...which is neither britney spears nor vin diesel. If you aren't going to judge what is a entertaining sport by the number of people who are ACTUALLY ENTERTAINED by it, what do you suggest?

Jonathan Jones on :

I suggest it be judged by how interesting it is. By the same token, instead of judging McDonalds by the number of people who enjoy eating it, I suggest it be judged by how enjoyable the food is. Instead of judging Britney Spears by the number of people who find Britney Spears' music entertaining, I suggest it be judged by how entertaining it is. Instead of judging Windows Vista by the number of people who find it useful, I suggest it be judged by how useful it is. Instead of judging Vin Diesel's movies by the number of people who like to watch them, I suggest they be judged by how watchable they are. Are you detecting a pattern? Can you make the leap of logic required by the analogy, or do you need more help? Perhaps just a bit more repetition is in order: McDonalds is some of the most popular food in the world. Yet anyone who thinks it is the best food in the world is sadly ignorant of better food. Britney Spears makes some of the most popular music in the world. Yet anyone who thinks her music is the best in the world is sadly ignorant of better music. ... Soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world, Yet anyone who thinks it is the best in the world is sadly ignorant of better sports. Popularity DOES NOT IMPLY superiority. A person who decides what is enjoyable, beautiful, or worthy based on popularity is eschewing one of his most precious God-given rights: freedom of thought. And most likely, living a bland and vulgar life -- the very antithesis of culture.

Janio on :

Dude, first stop comparing sports to mcdonalds and britney spears and operating systems. Sports are not food, they are not pop idols and they are not computer programs. They are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. Your analogy is fucking retarded, sports have LITERALLY NOTHING to do with operating systems or tween music. NOTHING so just drop the irrelevant "analogies" that make no sense WHATSOEVER to begin with. Second, you are yet AGAIN saying that your personal subjective opinion is somehow right, and everyone else is wrong. You said that we should judge a sport by "how interesting it is". Who judges that SUBJECTIVE quality of whats "interesting"? YOU? fuck out of here, more people find soccer interesting than any other sport. Period. Your individual subjective opinion does not matter. Its like a homosexual saying that anal sex is better than heterosexual sex because he prefers it personally. Get out of here...you are free to do and watch whatever you want, but please don't insist that heterosexual sex and soccer are liked because people are "sadly ignorant" of better alternatives. People know of other sports, and they WILLINGLY CHOOSE to watch and follow soccer instead. No matter how culturally threatened you feel by this as an American, it won't change. Soccer will always be more watched that any american sport because it is inherently more entertaining than any other option and hence people watch it instead of other sports. The only reason you think your american sports are better is because they are AMERICAN, its blind pride and patriotism (what this article calls a belief in US "cultural superiority") that prevents you from admiting to what almost the entire planet agrees on. Opinion of billion fans >>>>>>>>>>> your opinion.

Álvaro Degives-Más on :

Janio, I'd really appreciate it if you'd tone down the invectives. It makes more engaging reading material, and moreover, it would much better serve the appeal of your arguments. Having said that: although you repeatedly insist in distinguishing sports from other broadly appealing "cultural" manifestations, I'm not sure how you define "different". Furniture and food are usually also quite different things, but there's a hierarchy of needs, according to which furniture goes below food. Stretching that point, and while sports do serve a broad sense of hunger for relaxation, a rather antique diversionary axiom comes to mind, something about bread and games. It is that instrumental ability for abuse that which suggests to me treating sports with a great deal of caution, beyond a mortal's understandable reverence for the divine greatness of Maradonna, Zidane, Ronaldinho or Cruyff.

Janio on :

I aplogize for any cussing. First of all neither mcdonalds nor britney spears are the most popular foods and singer in the world. The most popular food would probably be some sort of pasta or pizza. The most popular musicians of all time are the beatles. So if you are going to compare soccer to food, then soccer would be like pizza and the beatles, except much bigger than both. Most people love pizza and the beatles and soccer. TO say these billions of people are wrong to find soccer entertaining is not INCREDIBLY ignorant its downright arrogant, prototypical "ugly americanism". If there was a more entertaining sport, more people would watch that sport instead. But they don't. They CHOOSE soccer, and in the end of the day the prettiest girl gets the most eyeballs.

Manuel Girata on :

WTF is "baseball" ???????????/ WTF is "american football"?????????? whatever they are, they are irrelventant and real football = the real best sport.

Álvaro Degives-Más on :

Well I surely commiserate with the author of the entry here, what with being an unconditional fan of FC Barcelona myself in a country where the average person surmises it's the name of a train station or something... But I'm a bit amazed also, aside from amused over the never ending lexical tiff over football and American football (which is popular only in [i]part[/i] of [i]North[/i] America, I might add) that somehow here "culture" and "sport" are thrown into the same bag, and then mercilessly clobbered. If someone were to suggest to me the idea that Brittney Spears and David Beckham encapsulate "cultural icons" I'll gladly wave McCain's [i]white flag of surrender[/i] in that contest and leave the arena discreetly in search for higher grounds. I'd like some more meat on that skeletal "culture" term, first. And just as in the case of "national identity" debates -- particularly popular in immigration debates, a truly [i]international[/i] sport in politics -- I suspect that it's more about smoke and mirrors than culture proper. "Culture" is a fantastically convenient and probably therefore gladly co-opted loincloth term with a degree of popularity that I suspect is inversely proportional to the degree of understanding of what culture actually entails. Which is, more seriously, why I believe this "superior culture" survey stuff is better suited as a control group for the real thing - consumer outlook - rather than a who's the bigger, badder feel-good Überchampion contest.

Pat Patterson on :

I might add, to "discreetly," run like hell from getting involved with those type of comparisons. But it should be noted that Beckham had the same type of bad year in LA that Spears did.

Elisabetta on :

First, the superiority of Anglo-Saxon sports is obvious: cricket, baseball, tennis, rowing, netball, football (OZ, US), soccer, ice hockey, basketball... Second, association football was invented and developed by the English, our cousins, and all continental types and third worlders have absolutely no claim it other than inventing national federations to ruin the sport and creating corrupt bureaucracies--FIFA, the International federation for hockey, basketball. What is ice hockey without body checking and fighting? A fucking girls sport like handball. Third, Americans perfer sports with quantifiable statistics. Soccer is not amenable to that pursuit. Sky and the BBC with player odometers and shooting percentages helps, but soccer has a more intangible dynamic that resists objective qualification. Fouth, as soccer is played currently, it is not a gentlemanly game. Klinsi lolling around the pitch for Tottenham bitching like a girl for a penalty was disgusting. the Azzuri including Materazzi in their starting 11 is another example. The guy could not play for Everton and his sole purpose was to engage in those "dark arts" that Argies and the Latins find indespensible in sport and daily life.

Álvaro Degives-Más on :

Indeed, the representation of Anglo-Saxon superior football teams will be sorely missed at the Euro 2008 venue... For a list of greatness on a global scale, feel free to consult [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FIFA_World_Cup#Winners_and_finalists]this list[/url].

Elisabetta on :

Read what I wrote. Nothing wrong with international soccer. Just perhaps the way it is played these days seems uncouth and dishonorable to many Anglo-Saxons. See the Portugal-Netherlands collective hissie-fit in Germany 2006.

Álvaro Degives-Más on :

I'm willing in principle to accept that you read what you wrote, even though I'm less certain what highlighting cherry picked incidents has to do with demonstrating your allegation of "Anglo-Saxon superiority" in a given sport, all the more when said assertion flies in the face of reason. Tangentially, a diversion into "ethics" ("sportsmanship", yada yada) doesn't do your point a service, either. I'll preempt even more subjective nonsense, such as possible appeals to the aesthetics of traditional styles of play of national football teams, with a denial ex ante: "superiority" is a specific claim, which asks for a rational and explicit case made for it. Else, it's one more plea to emotional disorder amidst an already staggering excess of visceral and irrational notions in a world demanding greater intelligence for its longer term interests. Also, FC Barcelona rules.

Elisabetta on :

To recap for the back of the class, I said the superiority of Anglo-Saxon sports is obvious, which does not necessarily equate with the statement that the Anglo-Saxon superiority in sports is obvious.

Álvaro Degives-Más on :

Sadly, neither [i]who[/i] you believe you are or [i]where[/i] you believe you are is pertinent to backing up your amazing claim. Try again. F for effort.

Pat Patterson on :

I think what Elisabetta was driving at, that possibly with the exception of jai alai, bull fighting, dwarf throwing and tennis, is that the majority of major sports of the world all owe their creation, nurturing and codification to the Anglo-Saxon world. Then the French sports authorities do what they do best, take them over. And that fact that the little countries can play them so well makes their creators all over with goose bumps. We invent the games so that the ADD nations shoot goals instead of each other.

Álvaro Degives-Más on :

That's arguably a gallant secours, quite worthy an entry in a poetry contest but, outside the realm of fiction, hardly a substitute for establishing a basis for claimed "superiority". On the other hand, the logical extension of that proffered rationale might well be that these mythical creatures referred to as "Anglo-Saxons" have some difficulty bringing a half-baked idea to port, n'est-ce pas? A more contemporary analogy, say: staged in a Babylonian setting comes to mind. Together with something other perhaps more appropriate, concerning location in a hole, and discontinuing the digging effort.

Pat Patterson on :

Ah, the if Aristotle said so then there can be no further argument riposte plus one incredibly inept reference to Iraq. To put it bluntly the major sports of the world, the various forms of football, baseball, basketball, volleyball, athletics, tennis(I was being charitable above as the type of tennis originally played in France is considered badminton today) and others were either invented in England or America(hence the catch-all identifier as Anglo-Saxon) or reintroduced from antiquity. Plus the use of the word codification was used in setting up the rules of the game not necessarily who ends up as its arbiters or promoters. In fact that famous johnny-come-lately, Baron de Coubertin, visited England in 1861, specifically to see the various "Olympian" games of Britain. Which in at least one setting, the Cotswolds, had been in existence since 1610. Yet one could argue that continental Europe, most notably the French have excelled in helping to spread and make superior English and American sports while having a rather woeful level of superiority in mastering those sports.

Álvaro Degives-Más on :

Even more awesomeness. Pat, you seem to be a well-read person, so I took it that by pegging a Sumerian pendant in the same air that spun a thread knitted into a fabric of "superiority", on the mere merit of invention, would adequately disabuse the silliness. It's the inherent equation between invention and superiority that which eludes this somewhat protracted thread. Of course I appreciate the contemporary retrofitted ancestral intent of invention to avert wars by means of literally ludicrous Gestalt therapy. Just don't mistake my amusement for assent, or less so: conviction. Citius, altius, fortius are measurable claims. That is where "superiority" in their limited sense can be verified. To seek such establishment on the principle of inventions can't but lead to the logical conclusion that, eventually, you're owned by the ancient Greek. Such drama.

Pat Patterson on :

Except the motto of the Olympics is in Latin! And you might want to check your use of Sumerian and Akkadian interchangeably since the Akkadians replaced the Sumerian speaking inhabitants of that area and then proceeded to build Babylon in the 24th Century BC. The Akkadians did not take kindly to being referred to as Sumerians and usually solved that problem by building mounds of skulls from those of sloppy scholarship.

Álvaro Degives-Más on :

Speaking of [url=http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20080329/fob4.asp]skull and bones[/url]... But I take it we can agree at this point that the "superiority" nonsense here bears none more than the ancient Roman wish to borrow a sense of sophistication. Old games.

Tom on :

This is prompted by the posts of Jonathan Jones, above. It's going to be long, sorry. (But quite engaging, of course!) I'm a regular dude. I was raised in the decidedly non-elite outskirts of Charlotte, North Carolina. I like chicks and beer and hard rock. I vote conservative. Not only did I not grow up with some European fetish, I couldn't have told you much about the world past the line on the map where the blue of the Atlantic Ocean starts. I was raised around sports like every other kid in my neighborhood. In other words, if this were an experiment, I'm about as much of a control figure as one could find. There's no big external factor biasing me in any way. And here's the deal: I absolutely LOVE soccer. Far more than gridiron football. Does that somehow mean soccer is a "better" sport? Of course not. But it also means that the claim of "better" can't be made for American football. Consider me a guinea pig. I'm thoroughly acquainted with both sports. I grew up in an environment where both were accessible to me and neither was pushed onto me. And I simply prefer watching soccer. I like the pace and rhythm of the game. I like the extraordinary technique and athleticism on display. I like the 90 straight minutes of tension and release. I like the nuanced strategy that leaves ample room for improvisation. I like the grit and grace and gorgeousness of it all. It's not about the sport's "culture." I don't own team scarfs or jerseys or any of the other frills that many Europhiles lap up. Like I said, I'm a chicks-beer-rock sort of guy. The end-all-be-all for me is the gameplay, period. The attraction is not any more complicated than that. I watch the NFL, and a good bit of college football, but on Saturdays and Sundays my TIVO is humming with a swarm of soccer matches, both European and MLS. The arrival of Fox Soccer Channel and Gol TV earlier this decade was a godsend. The notion that American football is inherently "superior" is baffling to me. It's such an odd assertion. Not odd that a given individual would prefer it; rather, that it would be proclaimed as if it's actual, demonstrable fact. We're talking about [i]things people like[/i] here. We're not talking about 2+2=4. To prevent this long post from getting even windier, I'll add some thoughts in a follow-up.

Tom on :

Another lengthy one for ya: A recent post I saw on some blog or forum shed valuable light on a key aspect of all this, one I'd never quite gotten my head around: Americans have certain ideas about soccer, the argument went, because of the [i]unique, odd nature of American youth soccer.[/i] The AYSO was founded in the 1960s with a very specific aim: to foster an egalitarian, non-competitive environment for youth exercise. Soccer was introduced to American kids, in other words, on a very distinct social/political plate. Because a larger soccer infrastructure did not meaningfully exist in the United States at that point, that was fine. There was no broader loss involved in molding soccer into an "everybody gets to play for fun and exercise" activity. It's not like we were denying ourselves the vehicle for grooming pro players, as with the established sports, because there was no real pro game here anyway. There was no perceivable harm in taking this particular sport and shaping it to this new egalitarian/exercise end. But what it's meant is that several generations of Americans have now been raised seeing soccer through a certain lens: as something anybody can play, as something where skill and athleticism aren't real priorities, as an activity less than a sport. When soccer defenders speak of Americans' "ignorance" about soccer, this is a big part of what they're getting at, even if they don't consciously realize it's what they're getting at. They intuit it. It's why they get frustrated with the mind-numbing claims of soccer being "soft," or unathletic, or easy, or boring. But once you realize the backdrop, it makes sense. I mean, of [i]course[/i] that's how soccer is seen by many Americans, because it's the bizarro soccer atmosphere they were immersed in growing up. The AYSO and its descendants took the world's game -- the game of yobs and hard-asses and master athletes -- and turned it into organized ring-around-the-rosie. There's a reason "soccer mom" culture is a uniquely American phenomenon. The nature of American kids' soccer, in other words, has been very bad for the game's image here. And that's a very convincing argument.

Jonathan Jones on :

Hey Tom, just wanted to pay you the courtesy of letting you know that I read your reply. I don't have much to say, other than a few brief points: 1. Your ring-around-the-rosie hypothesis is one I hadn't thought of, and there may be something to it. For the more provincial among us, it might have a significant biasing effect. For the rest of us though, I think the main turn-off is constantly hearing from Euros and Third-Worlders of their resentment and contempt for our national sports. 2. I believe that you love soccer. But I don't agree that this proves anything about the relative merits of the two sports. 3. I wonder if you're one of those people who is biased against certain things just because they are popular? If you're honest with yourself, is the fact that few people (in our part of the world) can "appreciate" soccer a contributing factor to your liking it? 4. I have to admit that I have a tendency towards provocative posts, as a form of entertainment. I try to be ambiguous about whether I really believe what I'm posting, and sometimes I'm not sure myself. My original comments were an attempt to draw out some interesting replies. They have finally borne fruit. Thanks.

Tom on :

Jonathan -- thanks for the thoughtful response. Glad to see you're still checking in on this thread. Couple of responses: [i]2. I believe that you love soccer. But I don't agree that this proves anything about the relative merits of the two sports.[/i] I agree. It doesn't. But that was my whole point: that it's not possible to "prove" anything about the relative merits of two sports. If American football were inherently "superior," then I -- being in a position to adopt it as my favorite -- would be an American football lover. But, yep, that's right: Hey, what suddenly makes [i]me[/i] the ultimate arbiter of various sports' worth? Nothing. And that was the aim of my post -- to show the absurdity of making assured empirical claims such as "The simple fact is that soccer is an inferior sport to American football." I was commenting less on the merits of the sports themselves than on the merits of making assertions about merit. Follow? [i]3. I wonder if you're one of those people who is biased against certain things just because they are popular? If you're honest with yourself, is the fact that few people (in our part of the world) can "appreciate" soccer a contributing factor to your liking it?[/i] No. As I said in my post, none of this is about the game's culture for me. (And in America right now, that culture is soccer-as-punk-rock -- i.e., a non-establishment insiders' realm. For me, that's mere happenstance. And anyway, I'm eager to see soccer keep growing.) It's simply about the gameplay. That's it. I prefer the action itself. That's it. I'm no anti-popular snob. I tried to convey that with the whole "chicks-beer-rock" thing. I drink Budweiser and eat at the Olive Garden and love the Beatles/Zeppelin and live and die by Tar Heels basketball. And I prefer soccer to gridiron football because I find it more enjoyable to watch.

Jonathan Jones on :

See, now you're the kind of guy who could be a credible ambassador for the sport in the U.S. You have convinced me that none of the usual explanations apply in your case. You can't help but be intimately familiar with American football, having grown up in the South. You are a reasonably intelligent and worldly fellow. You have no ulterior "cultural" motives. Soccer certainly isn't "just what you grew up with." Yet you prefer soccer. You're the first case of a soccer apologist I've ever encountered of which I can say all of these. Others were simply biased by nationalism, anti-Americanism, aversion to change / insecurity, or mere ignorance. I find myself wanting to hear the gory details from you about what you find appealing in soccer (esp. that is absent in American football). And you're also rare in that you have actually made a start at this in your post above. "I like the extraordinary technique and athleticism on display." I assume you're referring to the inverted goal kicks and the aerobic running, respectively. Anything else? "I like the pace and rhythm of the game." "I like the 90 straight minutes of tension and release." This is the part I like the least. I would describe it as at various times frenetic, hypnotic, or grueling. Can you elaborate? "I like the nuanced strategy that leaves ample room for improvisation." This really interests me since it seems to be where soccer falls far short of American football. So much of the action in soccer is random and serendipitous. Teams seem to win more by persistence and luck than by ingenuity and guile. [And far too often, there is no winner at all.] There is not much specific preparation one can do in advance to outsmart a particular opponent. In all of these things, it bears a distasteful analogy to socialism vs. capitalism. I take the "ample room for improvisation" part to be a reference to your dislike of the overly-scripted nature of American football. My view is that there is plenty of improvisation in American football -- the first casualty of any war being the plan -- at strategic, tactical, and athletic levels. Certainly there is the latter in soccer -- a certain amount of improvisation is inherent in the difficult task of attempting to maintain control over a bouncing ball without using one's hands -- but how much strategic improvisation is possible when gameplay never stops, and the coaches are stuck on the sidelines? "I like the grit and grace and gorgeousness of it all." Grace I can see. Grit I have a hard time with ("flopping" at the slightest hint of contact to gain unfair advantage seems to be pandemic in the sport). Gorgeousness -- could be interpreted a lot of ways. What is aesthetically pleasing about soccer? I've heard soccer called "the beautiful game", and there must be a reason. Please enlighten me. As for American football, there are just as many instances of aerial ballet, but the ballerinas are a decidedly more diverse troupe. There is also the beautiful brutality of a proficient running game blasting its way inexorably across the territory. And there is the satisfaction of clearly seeing a superior strategy at work, with consistent effect (often leading to lopsided scores). And there are breathtaking moments when a trick play is afoot, and the divine inspiration of pulling it off. And there are cheerleaders. Thanks for your reply.

James on :

Sounds to me like you feel unnecessarily threatened by soccer, and therefore have this need to defend american football against world football. AS far as "soccer apologists" go, I don't think the biggest/richest/most watched/most played/most loved/most respected sport on the planet needs too many apologists, although there are several billion of them. But in the end, there is no "superior" sport. Sports are a social networking good, people choose the sport of their choice not for any rules or structure, which are ultimately arbitrary, but because they watch and discuss sports with other people. Soccer isn't popular in the US for the same reason American football isn't popular anywhere outside the US. There is no social circle for soccer in the US, and there is no social circle for american football outside america. ultimately anybody who hates either soccer or american football would love it had they grown up in a region where each is a respected sport. I think the whole "soccer/football vs american football" is ultimately based on pointless jingoism and has little to do with the sports themselves.

Álvaro Degives-Más on :

To be frank, the whole notion of a "superiority" of a culture based on a pastime activity (which we've institutionalized naming it a "sport" as opposed to "entertainment" and making it Really Big Business in the process) just sounds like bovine caca to me. In fact I'm wary of the larger idea of "cultural superiority" to begin with, as it smacks of "ethnic superiority" and similar rot. Unless one very narrowly defines "superiority" as an expression of a more quantitatively based measure; the "social success" of US based cultural activity, by that standard, would be hard to deny, looking at the enormous reach of Sillywood movies, TV shows, music, etc. And certainly, basketball has enjoyed a lot of success on the Eastern side of the Atlantic. But that's where another, quantitative argument against "superiority" arises: the lack of appeal at a scale comparable to football. The European basketball league is peanuts compared to the NBA; level of play is generally awful, too. And as football isn't popular in the US, as you rightfully point out and illustrate with that "ring around the rosie" abuse, I think there's more of a basis to call the whole "superiority" p-ing contest at best a stalemate, but in fact more of a silly futile exercise to fit a square peg into a round hole. Just as there's a reason that American football doesn't cut it in Europe (it's more of a curious circus act enjoyed by cultural would-be snobs than attracting a serious following there) it is logical that football doesn't become popular in the US: each brings a wholly different mindset along, and those real-world activities don't translate as well as two-dimensional, easily ported superficial icons, like music, movies and TV shows. After all, those are embedded and encased in clearly defined constraints (literally, on a screen or from speakers) that play out better in one's head, than in real life. Football doesn't fit in the US as well, and American football doesn't fit in Europe. End of the story. It's just a preposterous proposition to seek demonstrations of "superiority" among very, very closely related cultural siblings / cousins.

Álvaro Degives-Más on :

Afterthought: Formula 1 racing is clear and convincing evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that "European culture and sport" is vastly superior. I mean, NASCAR, c'mon - why do they even bother with steering wheels!? ;-)

Alex de Greenlaw on :

As an Australian who follows Australian Rules Football and Cricket I found this article quite funny and well written. Just two points, I find it very odd that anybody would use the statement 'Our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior' in a cultural study. Ultimatley it has two mutually exclusive points so how would someone that did agree that their people are not perfect BUT also felt that their culture is not superior answer it? Also the World Series is named after the World newspaper that sponsored it. Funny article, and some good ideas.

Pat Patterson on :

Interesting claim about the World Series being named after the New York World newspaper. Especially since the series went through a variety of names from 1892 till it was officially called the World Championship Series in 1903. Abner Doubleday would take teams on world tours to both spread interest in the game and to find the best teams the world had and play against them. There is no mention of any sponsorship by the World nor any claim that the series was named after them either in the archives or Cooperstown.

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