Tuesday, July 10, 2007


So let's talk soccer.

The Sports Rumors blog has posted a point-counterpoint on the topic. Actually not a point-counterpoint - no one calls anyone else an ignorant slut, and the two posters aren't really disagreeing. Shaun wrote Step It Up Sports Fans, and guest blogger Colin wrote State of the USMNT Union Address.

Although I recommend both posts, I want to focus a bit on some stuff that Shaun wrote:

What is it with us Americans? Why do we not pay attention to soccer? The first sport that EVERYBODY plays in little league isn’t football, it’s not baseball, it’s not basketball either. It’s soccer....So why is it that as we get older, it seems like less and less of us continue playing the sport, and even fewer watch the sport on television....There is no question that the three major sports right now in the U.S. are football, baseball, and basketball. But why is soccer taking a backseat to professional hockey, NASCAR driving, and even the WNBA!...[H]ow are we more interested in watching 6’7 women blow two foot layups than we are in watching some of the most well conditioned athletes in the world battling it out on a field longer than that of football.

The reason is simple. USA Soccer sucks....We have so much money, so much research, so many training facilities, but countries that can’t afford to buy a happy meal are whooping us like we stole something. That’s the main reason no one gives a crap about soccer in this country in this day and age....

But this is where I have a gripe with two entities; Sports Networks (mainly ESPN, since they own everything) and the general public.

How often do you see soccer being shown or reported on ESPN. Other than the World Cup, ESPN does nothing to put soccer out there for the public....

The second gripe I have is with the general sports public. We ourselves should go out of our way to learn about the sport. We need to read up on it, refresh our memories with the rules, learn who some of the players are, and when it’s on T.V., be a man and watch a game of soccer instead of a rerun of Friends or Grey’s Anatomy....[J]ust because our country as a whole isn’t in the elite at something, doesn’t give us an excuse as sports fans to ignore it.

I disagreed with Shaun's basic premise. While my complete comments are here, I am sum them up as follows:

Americans like instant gratification offense, and soccer doesn't offer it.

Let me quote just a small part of what I wrote:

With the possible exception of a really good pitcher, we Americans do not like to watch defensive excellence. If an individual or team is displaying superb defensive skills, we label the game "boring."

I then (reluctantly) proposed an "American soccer" with a smaller field and no offsides rules, both of which would generate higher scoring games.

However, I should note that Steve Amoia questions my basic premise:

"Soccer is low scoring." If I had a dollar for every time that I heard a North American announcer or mainstream sports writer state that, I could fund Amoia FC. ;-) But when there are high scoring games, which as we all know are supposed to be more exciting, more American, and more acceptable, they hardly merit a mention on national and/or major market media venues. Why is that?

Let us look at the final scores of the quarterfinals this weekend from the Copa America:

Venezuela 1 x Uruguay 4...
Brasil 6 x Chile 1...

Mexico 6 x Paraguay 0...
Argentina 4 x Peru 0...

I wonder, however, if the semifinals and finals will be such high scoring affairs. If the last seven years of the FA Cup are any indication, it won't happen. If you look at the last seven finals, the highest scores were 3-0 (2004) and 3-3 (2006). The 2003 and 2007 contests ended with 1-0 scores, and the 2005 contest ended with a 0-0 score.

Frankly, while I for one admire defensive contests, even I am dissatisfied with a 0-0 draw that is decided on penalty kicks. And heaven forbid that someone who cheers a 50 point Kobe game would have to sit through such a defensive contest.

This point was made over a year ago:

The first round isn’t even over yet, and there have already been five 0-0 draws. Five matches in which nobody scored. In the Argentina-Netherlands match, there were a total of six shots on goal in the match (three a side). For those keeping score at home, that’s one shot on goal every fifteen minutes (and that’s only if you ignore “stoppage time”). There were nineteen total shots taken, if you include the thirteen that weren’t on goal. So barely over one shot every five minutes, on average. When Americans complain that “nothing happens” in a soccer match, this is exactly what we’re talking about....

Contrary to what you commonly hear, it’s not just scoring that we like. We like things happening. That doesn’t have to mean a score, it can mean a decent attack, a shot, a scoring chance, a big play, whatever. Incessant passing and jockeying for position with neither team truly attacking or defending does not constitute “something happening.” Imagine what basketball would be like if 85% or more of a game was spent at center court, with teams just passing the ball around. And there’s no shot clock. Ugh.

So this is what soccer is up against.


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