Standard Discussion: Futbol in the US

So the World Cup is over. Espana beats Nederland. I was going for NED because of my love for the color orange, not to mention my undying support for any country that has legalized it. (And I hear tell of a district colored by red lights, as well?) But alas, I lost whatever bet I made in my head, and therefore should be expecting a visit from my mind bookies shortly.

Anyway, like a lot of ‘Mericans, I bicycle-kicked my way up onto the bandwagon, lured in by the drone of the vuvuzelas and and excuse to drink with friends at 10:30 EST. But now those Bloody Marys and noon Guinesses have left an awful hangover. So, with American Football preseason games a good month away, I have some time to reflect and ask you fellow Standards the following Standard Discussion Question:

What will it take for Futbol–even if it’s just MLS–to take hold in the US?

I have some ideas, like setting up the cameras so they can close in on players in action, the use of instant replay, and perhaps actually stopping the clock instead of this weird, arbitrary way of adding time to the half. There also must be a better way to monetize the sport–if that sounds evil, it kind of is, but that’s the only way to get it on TV, which is the only way it would survive. In short, I hesitate to say it, but if it’s to become popular in America, it needs to be Americanized to some degree. Let the European-ness of it sneak in the back door, like a drunk Frenchman who … you know, let’s not go down that road.

My fellow fellows, please, sound off.

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3 Responses to Standard Discussion: Futbol in the US

  1. standardjeff says:

    StandardDave,
    I have to say that I had no love for either team playing yesterday. I rooted for the Netherlands as well, but only because I was sitting at a table filled with rabid España fans. Germany, my Cup favorites, played a more exhilarating game against Uruguay on Saturday, which sadly, I’m sure nobody watched. (in the US, who cares about the 3rd place match?)

    Here is my theory of why Football has not caught on in the US: The US’ rejection of Football goes back to when the US was essentially an isolationist country and it started embracing domestic inventions, like its own sports, as part of an effort to develop a national identity and heritage distinct from ‘old Europe’. Being a British invention, Football was off the menu.

    Americans love American things, it’s as simple as that. After this Cup, I actually think there will be a backlash against the sport. The US team did fine, but not well enough to lock-in supporters. If anything, America’s defeat by a tinny African team probably did more to reinforce biases held by skeptical viewers. For on-the-fence fans, 4-years is a long time to wait.

    Interesting factoid: The sport was actually canceled in the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles due to significant lack of interest by the host country… despite the US soccer team’s 3rd place finish in the first Cup tournament in 1930 (BTW, this was the US’ best ever showing).

    I think that if Football is to takeoff in the US it will only be due to increased immigration from Latin America and Asia. I don’t think it has to do with any lack of advertising, success of the team, or the stoppage clock. The sport has a completely alien (aka international) culture that American sports fans just can’t (or won’t) accept.

    Maybe what is preventing the sport’s popularity here is the following (I’m sure that this list can be expanded):

    1. We didn’t invent it.

    2. it’s not encouraged as a male sport in US culture (see above).

    3. The US likes bravado and overt displays of masculinity in sports (see above)

    4. Lack of geographical knowledge. The Olympics are easy for Americans to grasp, since our main competitors are from superpower countries that we fight Cold Wars with (Russia and China). The World Cup is dominated by middle-powers and developing countries in the ‘global south’, which I think many Americans have a hard time dealing with.

    If I am right, no inclusion of the instant replay will change American’s attitudes about the sport.

  2. Standardchuck says:

    I agree with everything the both of you have said, even without reading the actual words that represent your thoughts.

    There are three suggestions that I would like to make in regards to making soccer more America-friendly.

    1. Change the rules to include either a hockey-like blue line rule or abolish offsides. There’s nothing more unfriendly to Americans than not scoring. That’s why we go to Europe, to score.

    2. Increase the amount of substitutions from three to infinite. This allows us to increase the importance of the coach to the game. Think about the pitching substitutions in baseball. That’s all a coach’s decision, and they’re epic to the game. More substitutions would allow for fresh legs at all times of the game, especially during overtime.

    3. Add a new role to the game: the enforcer. One player on each side gets to punch/tackle/attack others. We need to see retribution for all of the games misdeeds. Your team has a flop happy schmuck? Well, our enforcer is going to slap some balance into him. Your team likes to elbow, like those loser Netherlanders? Well, our enforcer is going to break some arms. Oh, can you imagine the actual fist fighting when the two enforcer meet at midfield like gladiators of old? We who are about to die playing soccer salute you!

  3. standarddave says:

    Okay, first, I was one of the three Americans who watched the Germany/Uruguay match. Great game–best I’ve seen all Cup.

    Moving on … StandardJeff, I think you’re overthinking it. Sure, Americans see the game as a little too European, but since we all played it as kids–at least on the East Coast, I don’t think you’re correct that it’s not at all fostered here and that it’s completely foreign. Sure, American Football is regarded as much more masculine, especially in the corn-fed flyovers, but it’s not as if the game or its rules are truly alien to us. But maybe having played it as a kid is the problem: To quote comedian Daniel Tosh, “Why would I be interested in a game that I mastered when I was 7?”

    That said, I still see some of your point. It’s still a “foreign” game that we call something else. (Did you know, by the way, that “soccer” comes from an extension of the “association” abbreviation?) But I still argue that if it were to be made more “interesting” by American standards–and look, you have to admit that some of the rules are plain silly–it could take of here.

    First of all, we’d need a breakout star that’s not a washup from England. Someone like Landon Donovan is a start. He seems like a good all-American guy and a potential ambassador for the sport. But the overexposure machine needs to get its gears in motion or else he’s going to be drowning in a sea of Mannings by late august. If only someone had a picture of him in South Beach with a supermodel. Right now, he’s divorced from a b-list actress. Give us a reason to feel like he’s better than us other than his paycheck and the fact that he’s 5’8″ and was nailing a Maxim model.

    It would help, too, if–and I’m not suggesting this change, just saying–the World Cup was held once a year or every two years. We certainly seem to be able to get into the Olympics like you said, Jeff, but those little countries that get lost in the superpower wars would have a chance at exposure, and would be fresher in our minds when the next televised matches come around.

    That and hitting. Good call, Chuck. I think a lot of people–soccer fans included–see the sport as a refuge for skinny weaklings who trip and cry every time someone brushes against their shin. Granted, you can see in the replays that occasionally someone is getting stabbed by a cleat directly under the patella, but come on, let’s think of Italy here.

    Compare this to football, where a 225-lb man can get crushed by two 300-pounders (not including pads), then get up and throw again … or not, you don’t always know. There’s that sense of invincibility, or other-ness, superhuman power, whatever you want to call it, that makes football seem like a “real” sport. It’s also one reason why we like hockey, despite the low-scoring games and the dominance of Borat’s extended family.

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