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Dan Levy
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Dan Levy

The host of On the DL with new episodes every weekday.

Structure v Fluidity. Grit v Pretense.

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One soccer match isn't going to change the world. At least one soccer match involving the United States of America isn't going to change the world.

And following the US victory over Spain -- the number one ranked team in the world who hadn't lost a meaningful international match since the knockout round of the 2006 World Cup -- one soccer match still isn't going to change the way this country thinks about soccer.

Football
rules this country. Not futbol. Why? Because Americans are rigid. We need structure in our lives. The two most popular sports in America are baseball and football, because they both are founded on structure. Nine innings. Four quarters. Three outs. Four downs. We need that in our lives.

Most of us set an alarm for the same time every day. Most of us have the same breakfast or buy the same coffee and newspaper (people still 'buy' newspapers, right?) every morning. Most of us have the same commute on a train that comes at the same time every day. Most get to work at the same exact time and take our lunch breaks at the same restaurants. Most make the same commute home for dinner at the same time every day and watch the same shows every night at the same time.

Structure. That's what Americans need. That's why football works. First down. Second down. Third down. Kick. Every so often, if we do everything right, we'll score.

Soccer is fluid. Sure soccer has whistles, but play never really stops. There's a kickoff, then 45 minutes later (plus stoppage time) they break and do it again. If a goal is scored in that time, the ball is brought back to midfield and reset. Then fluidity continues.

And think about how many rules there are in football. There are at least 20 different penalties that can be called on any play. Offsides, encroachment, neutral zone infraction, illegal formation, false start....and that's BEFORE the ball is even snapped!

In soccer there are basically three penalties. A foul. A hard foul which gets you a yellow card. A reckless foul which gets you a red card. That's it. Two yellows and you get a red. Any form of red and you're ejected. Oh, and yes, only the goalkeeper can use his hands. If you use your hands, it's a foul. If you use your hands inside area surrounding the goal, it's a red card.

That's basically it. Go play. And that scares the heck out of most Americans.

"Go play? Wait...you mean we can just go....play? We can do whatever we want. There aren't formations where we need to stand completely still for five seconds or a flag is tossed at us? There aren't coaches telling us to run five paces before cutting to the left, then right, then left again? We don't stop play when we're close to the goal to bring in other players for a special 'package'?"

As free as we think we are, Americans are entirely too structured. That's why we gravitate toward sports like football. It's what we know.

Okay, fine. You want to know the real reason why soccer won't pass football in this country, no matter how many times the US beats a team as talented as Spain. No, it's not the lack of scoring (football fans always forget that a 21-14 football game is really just 3-2). No, it's because soccer fans are pretentious. Read the first few graphs of this opinion. Don't you just want to kick me in gut? (Note, old soccer player meme... you'd probably want to punch me in the gut. Sorry.)

Soccer is the world's game. More soccer matches are played on dirt fields and city streets than all other sports combined. But for some reason, soccer became a sport for yuppies. Soccer became uppity in America. Soccer became something the wimpy kids did. I can't tell you how many times I got made fun of as a kid for playing soccer. It became a stigma...I couldn't be tough because I was just a soccer player. People still have that view of the game in this country, and it's the snooty American soccer fans who perpetuate it. Talking with their faux British accents. Calling games matches and fields pitches.

But the question remains, is soccer rejected in America because the fans are uppity snobs (myself included) or are fans uppity snobs (myself included) because soccer is rejected?

I think it's been this way far too long for that to ever be answered. And frankly, it doesn't matter anymore. The US is one game away from beating Spain and Brazil in back to back matches in a big international competition. And one thing all Americans can agree on...we like winners.

If the US Soccer team starts consistently winning on the world stage, people will come around. Will DC United draw more fans than the Redskins? It's not going to happen. But more people will care if the US Soccer team can compete for (and win) the World Cup than whoever wins the Super Bowl next year. Get on the bandwagon now, just remember to keep your hands to yourself.

And sometimes, it's kinda fun to be uppity.

By Dan Levy  |  June 26, 2009; 12:05 PM ET  | Category:  Dan Levy , NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Comments

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I think you have a really good point. And while I enjoy both football AND futbol, I always figured that the reason American's love football so much was the violence.

I am almost ashamed to admit that the hard hits are what I love to much about football.

(almost)

I'm not sure why people love watching baseball so much. Maybe it is the structure. It certainly isn't for the action.

Sarah

http://sarahandthegoonsquad.com
http://draftdaysuit.com

Posted by: GoonSquadSarah | June 26, 2009 1:39 PM

I think you have a really good point. And while I enjoy both football AND futbol, I always figured that the reason American's love football so much was the violence.

I am almost ashamed to admit that the hard hits are what I love to much about football.

(almost)

I'm not sure why people love watching baseball so much. Maybe it is the structure. It certainly isn't for the action.

Sarah

sarahandthegoonsquad.com
draftdaysuit.com

Posted by: GoonSquadSarah | June 26, 2009 1:40 PM

I think you have a really good point. And while I enjoy both football AND futbol, I always figured that the reason American's love football so much was the violence.

I am almost ashamed to admit that the hard hits are what I love to much about football.

(almost)

I'm not sure why people love watching baseball so much. Maybe it is the structure. It certainly isn't for the action.

Sarah

Sarah and the Goon Squad
Draft Day Suit

Posted by: GoonSquadSarah | June 26, 2009 1:41 PM

I think you have a really good point. And while I enjoy both football AND futbol, I always figured that the reason Americans love football so much was the violence.

I am almost ashamed to admit that the hard hits are what I love to much about football.

Almost.

I'm not sure why people love watching baseball so much. Maybe it is the structure. It certainly isn't for the action.

Sarah

Sarah and the Goon Squad
Draft Day Suit

Posted by: GoonSquadSarah | June 26, 2009 1:41 PM

Hey, so when it says your comment didn't post, don't believe the hype.

Wow.

Posted by: GoonSquadSarah | June 26, 2009 1:43 PM

Fantastic point about the sport being viewed as a game for the "weak" kids... it's sad because it's an overwhelmingly false stereotype, but it exists all the same; and if it persists then America's best (and most prideful) athletes will continue to ignore the game.

I think you're missing something in regards to the "lack of offense" argument. While it's true that 3-2 ='s 21-14, how many football games have 4 or fewer "scoring events" that happen within the course of a game? I don't think I've ever seen a major soccer match with an over/under higher than 4. If the NFL suddenly turned into a league of predominantly 13-10 games, ratings would go down.

Also, because of the structure our American game provides, comebacks are MUCH more likely. Either you are aggressively trying to score or the other team has the ball. It is extremely risky to sit on a lead too soon in football, but everybody knows that once the Italians get a 2 goal lead you're in for 40 more minutes of "packing it in"... it's basically the NBA pre-shot-clock.

Posted by: k_mathis | June 26, 2009 2:40 PM

"American's like structure"?!?

All of us??

Try this, as long as we're generalizing: American's don't like change. American's don't think about the why's of their sports, they just follow along.

Posted by: JkR- | June 26, 2009 4:08 PM

Nazi Germany likes structure too. They also LOVE football.

The Soviet Union LOVED structure...loved football.

Sociology fail.

History fail.

Sports fail.

REDUCTO AD HITLERUM FIRST!

Posted by: arswift24 | June 26, 2009 4:21 PM

Soccer is for weaklings. I love it.

Anybody who believes that should take a look at USMNT central defender Oguchi Oyewu and tell me whether they think he looks like a weakling.

Posted by: Juan-John | June 26, 2009 5:37 PM

Soccer fans are pretentious? Not half as much as baseball fans. George Will and Ken Burns, 'nuff said.

Posted by: dm100 | June 26, 2009 7:38 PM

Best column I've read on this topic. Lends the subject the proper gravity. Kudos.

Posted by: wichne | June 26, 2009 10:56 PM

Rugby trumps both. I cannot imagine a more boring game than soccer - running around a field in your underwear to no effect. US football - ten minutes of action interrupted by 50 minutes of advertising and so-called "athletes", mostly overweight fat men, padded head to toe. Rugby on the other hand, combines the few virtues of it's two sister "sports" in one exciting package.

Posted by: kettke1 | June 27, 2009 2:35 AM

Kettke1, I've played all three codes of football, like all three more or less equally, but I can tell you that Americans will never accept something as strange and so common as a lineout.

Posted by: spidergoose | June 27, 2009 9:13 AM

I say "all three," of course there are at least six variants of football. (Aussie, Canadian, Gaelic... Rugby League, Calcio? Ok, eight.)

Posted by: spidergoose | June 27, 2009 9:15 AM

Hilarious, but have to say I think it is the American football fans (and writers!) who are uppity snobs. They are threatened by soccer's popularity and by something they don't understand and therefore perpetuate the view soccer is for weaklings.

But buried in there is a very important point: competitive youth soccer is too much confined to the upper middle class. It has become very expensive and not nearly enough is being done make it possible for young athletes with less economic means to have access to the higher level of soccer. That is the fault of the soccer community. We've become lazy because there are so many people willing to pay the high dollar.

Posted by: hyds | June 27, 2009 10:12 AM

Hilarious, but have to say I think it is the American football fans (and writers!) who are uppity snobs. They are threatened by soccer's popularity and by something they don't understand and therefore perpetuate the view soccer is for weaklings.

But buried in there is a very important point: competitive youth soccer is too much confined to the upper middle class. It has become very expensive and not nearly enough is being done make it possible for young athletes with less economic means to have access to the higher level of soccer. That is the fault of the soccer community. We've become lazy because there are so many people willing to pay the high dollar.

Posted by: hyds | June 27, 2009 10:12 AM

Where does the Washington Post find these disciples of Jim Rome?

Posted by: Jeffreymsoltz | June 27, 2009 10:14 AM

First, Futbol is Spanish for Football. In English soccer is still called Football.

Second, it's true the U.S. will not embrace soccer until we become a powerhouse. We will not become a powerhouse until our best athletes and black kids adopt the sport instead of playing basketball and American football.

The reason we tradionally played basketball, American football, and baseball is because we invented those sports and not soccer.

Our sports stress size and athleticism over skill and team. Being individualists and hero worshippers our sports are typically dominated by one key player like a quarterback and pitcher who can single handed win or lose games. Our pro sports have plenty of breaks in action that enable commerical opportunity. Our sports have constant scoring and little or no drama and tension to feed our need for instant gratification.

Our media threatened by Americas rightfull place atop all things and our need to be the best at everything assaults soccer as violent, rioting, and boring and not worthy Americas participation. Afterall its a girls game played by third world rioting hooligans without enough sense to pick up a football with their hands.

Posted by: ram_xxx_ram | June 27, 2009 11:04 AM

First, Futbol is Spanish for Football. In English soccer is still called Football.

Second, it's true the U.S. will not embrace soccer until we become a powerhouse. We will not become a powerhouse until our best athletes and black kids adopt the sport instead of playing basketball and American football.

The reason we tradionally played basketball, American football, and baseball is because we invented those sports and not soccer.

Our sports stress size and athleticism over skill and team. Being individualists and hero worshippers our sports are typically dominated by one key player like a quarterback and pitcher who can single handed win or lose games. Our pro sports have plenty of breaks in action that enable commerical opportunity. Our sports have constant scoring and little or no drama and tension to feed our need for instant gratification.

Our media threatened by Americas rightfull place atop all things and our need to be the best at everything assaults soccer as violent, rioting, and boring and not worthy Americas participation. Afterall its a girls game played by third world rioting hooligans without enough sense to pick up a football with their hands.

Posted by: ram_xxx_ram | June 27, 2009 11:08 AM

First, Futbol is Spanish for Football. In English soccer is still called Football.

Second, it's true the U.S. will not embrace soccer until we become a powerhouse. We will not become a powerhouse until our best athletes and black kids adopt the sport instead of playing basketball and American football.

The reason we tradionally played basketball, American football, and baseball is because we invented those sports and not soccer.

Our sports stress size and athleticism over skill and team. Being individualists and hero worshippers our sports are typically dominated by one key player like a quarterback and pitcher who can single handed win or lose games. Our pro sports have plenty of breaks in action that enable commerical opportunity. Our sports have constant scoring and little or no drama and tension to feed our need for instant gratification.

Our media threatened by Americas rightfull place atop all things and our need to be the best at everything assaults soccer as violent, rioting, and boring and not worthy Americas participation. Afterall its a girls game played by third world rioting hooligans without enough sense to pick up a football with their hands.

Posted by: ram_xxx_ram | June 27, 2009 11:11 AM

"No, it's because soccer fans are pretentious."

Dude, just come down to Lot 8 at 5:30 before the next United home game. Free Beer and Free Food from the Barra Brava and Screaming Eagles . . hang out, have fun.

Then come watch the game with us . . . we will quickly kill the notion that we are pretentious.

Posted by: delantero | June 27, 2009 11:36 AM

This has to be one of the craziest pieces of logic i've ever seen..... 'Soccer fans are uppity snobs'? Have you ever been to a soccer match? The majority of the fans are middle/lower-middle class while in Football, you're required to be fairly middle class or above just to afford a single ticket.

As for the rest, Soccer (or Association Football to name it correctly) is here to stay and yes, probably over time, it will replace Football (or American Football to name it correctly) as the number 2 sport behind BASKETBALL -- a very fluid sport.

Posted by: MadiganT | June 27, 2009 10:34 PM

I think you hit the nail on the head, Dan: some people hate soccer because soccer fans are PERCEIVED to be snobs.

And unfortunately, some of us are snobs (I'm a soccer fan...I like to think I'm not a snob). You're right; the Euro-speak thing ("pitches", "boots", etc.) is out of control. And any discussion of how soccer is superior to American sports almost always results in condescention.

But I think the reality is a bit different from the perception. DC United, for example, has a very large Latin, predominately working-class fan base. I don't think anyone who sat with the Barra Brava for one match would be able to sustain the impression that all American soccer fans are snobs. And most of the American soccer fans I know aren't people I would consider snobs.

Here's a good soccer-snobbery litmus test: ask an American soccer fan who is their favorite MLS team. If they launch into a diatribe about how inferior the American game is (some words and phrases to watch for: "tactical understanding", "creativity", "flair"), in spite of the fact that most soccer fans around the world support local, less-than-Champions-League-caliber teams, then you are talking to a soccer snob.

Posted by: jsm91 | June 28, 2009 2:06 AM

I think you hit the nail on the head, Dan: some people hate soccer because soccer fans are PERCEIVED to be snobs.

And unfortunately, some of us are snobs (I'm a soccer fan...I like to think I'm not a snob). You're right; the Euro-speak thing ("pitches", "boots", etc.) is out of control. And any discussion of how soccer is superior to American sports almost always results in condescention.

But I think the reality is a bit different from the perception. DC United, for example, has a very large Latin, predominately working-class fan base. I don't think anyone who sat with the Barra Brava for one match would be able to sustain the impression that all American soccer fans are snobs. And most of the American soccer fans I know aren't people I would consider snobs.

Here's a good soccer-snobbery litmus test: ask an American soccer fan who is their favorite MLS team. If they launch into a diatribe about how inferior the American game is (some words and phrases to watch for: "tactical understanding", "creativity", "flair"), in spite of the fact that most soccer fans around the world support local, less-than-Champions-League-caliber teams, then you are talking to a soccer snob.

Posted by: jsm91 | June 28, 2009 2:07 AM

Also, people who mock other people for computer-caused double posts are snobs.

Posted by: jsm91 | June 28, 2009 2:09 AM

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