Do Americans Undervalue Soccer?

Logan “Timber Joey” Mullen
Entertainment Editor/Resident Timbers’ Army Member

 

 

 

 

Photo Courtesy: Timbers Army Facebook Page
Photo Courtesy: Timbers Army Facebook Page

Did you know that the Major League Soccer playoffs began Wednesday? Probably not. But don’t worry, because you are likely not alone. For a country that takes tremendous pride in our sports and our leagues being superior to all others, we certainly treat MLS like the throwaway league it used to be.

And while it is a fair argument in saying that the MLS is the lesser of American sports leagues as far as drawing talent, it is far from what people perceive it to be since they last flipped on a game in 2006. And despite the argument against MLS being fair, to an extent, the blame has to fall on our perception as Americans about the sport of soccer.

Why do we detest soccer so much?

In its simplest form, Americans are people that enjoy either excess, or speed. This is also the reason that the World Series is seeing its lowest television ratings ever. If a sport is not going to have excessive scoring (i.e. football), than it better be fast (i.e. hockey). Soccer has neither.

Soccer is an art form, and in an age of the incessant desire for instant gratification, we do not want to watch over an hour and a half of a sport just to run the risk of it ending as a 0-0 draw, and that’s understandable, but watching soccer is an experience, not event. More than any sport that I watch (which is pretty much every sport), no sport tells its own story more than soccer. You watch your squad, the protagonist in this situation, try indefatigably to destroy this other side, and unlike any other sport, soccer can end with that lukewarm feeling of a draw.

A draw is ultimately the biggest downfall of the lack of interest in soccer in the States. We like a decisive outcome; a winner and a loser. Nobody likes the “participation award” feeling that comes with a draw, but sometimes it are draws that make things interesting from a standings perspective as the season unfolds.

On the other hand, the fan bases can be a bit off-putting, which is an absolute travesty. Many Americans attend professional sporting events not just for the sport, but also what comes with it, such as traditions like the wave and t-shirt tosses. There is next to none of that in soccer. From the first whistle of the half to the last, there are no promotional time outs or breaks really of any kind that would allow fan engagement other than watching the game.

To the traditional soccer fan, this is not an issue, as the soccer environment is generated by supporters groups, with chants, yells and a litany of other soccer related methods of showing support. This can be a distraction to a lot of Americans who want more than just sports when they go to see sports.

As Americans, we like to be the best at things, no matter what they are. In a sense, we are like the seven-year-old child playing wiffle ball in the yard. When he isn’t the best or a loss seems imminent, suddenly his mother is calling for him to come inside and his day is done. The United States are far and away not even close to one of the best soccer countries in the world—and we detest that fact; especially when it is European and South American countries that dominate us. As a result, once every four years, we get that hope that we will be the best in the world, and once that dream is crushed, trying to find a productive conversation about soccer is like finding a needle in a haystack.

There are a variety of reasons Americans don’t like soccer, and most all of them are understandable, but refutable. The common theme I see is that Americans are not willing to give the sport a chance because they are too firmly set in their ways. We have been bred to detest soccer because we didn’t create it and we aren’t the best at it, but it is time to mature and realize there is much more to the game than preconceived notions.

Let this be my challenge to you, watch part of the MLS playoffs, even if it is just one game. The stands will be packed, the energy will be through the roof and you will see some remarkable talent that you did not know was within our great country. It may be an awakening you did not know was possible, but believe me; it will be well worth it.

Logan Mullen can be reached at lmullen@springfieldcollege.edu

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