Polling The People

Why do you think soccer has not caught on in the U.S. like other major sports?

“I used to think that soccer had not caught on in the U.S. like American football, basketball or baseball because the kids were not raised with it. That is, enough people did not have the experience playing it, so there was not an appreciation for the elite professional’s talent.  I believe that has changed over the last thirty years as a majority of kids play soccer at one point or another, but there still seems to be a lack of demand for the professional game and for the accompanying media coverage.  While true fans might take offense at this position, it seems that there are not as many “highlight reel” plays, such as: dunks, quarterback sacks, and scoring opportunities.  Americans have become addicted to “adrenaline” in sports, and appreciating the finesse of skilled teams in a low scoring contest does not tend to attract discretionary dollars and the resulting media coverage.”

– Dr. Jay McCarl, 51, Gambrills, Md., McCarl Dental Group PC

“With the staying power that American football has, it makes it difficult for professional sports leagues such as MLS to achieve mainstream polularity.  The majority of Americans view soccer as a foreign game and not properly marketed such as the NFL.  A good majority of the players in MLS aren’t from the country and don’t relate to the culture as easily, making it even tougher for the fans to relate to who they’re rooting for.

Well what about the NHL, you ask?  Hockey is a foreign game and so are most of the players.  True, but for the most part, the players learn English quickly and Americanize themselves pretty easily.  Hockey, like soccer, isn’t a very high-scoring sport but over the past few seasons following their lockout, especially in the D.C. area, it is being marketed very well and appeals to fans. The sport, despite it’s low scoring nature, makes up for it with speed and hard hitting, which soccer does not.

Yes, D.C. United isn’t the highest grossing team in the area but it still should find a way to market it’s product like the Washington Capitals have. The Capitals may bring in more income than the United but despite the increase in merchandise and season ticket sales, owner Ted Leonsis said he is still losing money so money should not be an excuse on the United’s end.

Another reason for the lack of popularity might be the fact that team’s display sponsor logos on their uniforms as opposed to their own logos, which reeks of desperation from a struggling league and takes away from the “team” concept. The uniforms in the league are also boring and plain and most of the time, a fan can’t tell which team is which. Even when I see a United game, i think to myself, ‘Who am I watching? The Washington Volkswagons?’ ”

Jake Russell, 22, Mayo, Md., staff writer for thehogs.net

“Soccer has not caught on for a number of reasons in the United States.  First of all we pride ourselves on our individuality, soccer is a very European sport (spread to the rest of the world mostly by European imperialism).  Also being separated physically from other nations by oceans we developed our own unique sports. So part of it is pure separation from the rest of the world on a physical scale.  On a more modern/cultural note most Americans have a very self-righteous attitude towards the rest of the world, viewing ourselves as superior.  Anything viewed as non-American is viewed with suspicion so we get those chest beating, protein shake chugging individuals denigrating soccer as a woman’s sport (this view is hard to argue against sometimes with the falls some players take *cough* French National Team *cough*). In short we have a cultural problem, we think everything American is superior and anything “other” should be viewed with contempt. This view really is reinforced by the casual disregard which mass sports media treats soccer in the U.S.
For soccer to catch on in America cultural views have to change, we have to be more open to things that are not historically and culturally American. Until American’s don’t view the rest of the world as sissy soccer playing fruits soccer won’t catch on. If Europe can handle us shoving McDonalds and Disney down their throats we can learn to tolerate, if not love soccer.”

Rocco Praglowski, 22, Arnold, Md., 2009 Towson University graduate

“Most often answering a question has a lot to do with your perspective.  One’s perspective is shaped by experience, personality and individual worldview.  This is stated at the beginning because I will be pigeon holed as a baby boomer and stereotyped thereby.  As a boomer, I don’t ever remember playing soccer in my PE classes until late high school and then only toward the very end of the school year. As a result, my experience with soccer real time was nil.  Thought a few chums in college played in soccer clubs nothing generated story, history, competition or risk.  There was no wholesale “guy expectation” to excel at that sport.  It wasn’t part of the right of passage into manhood for me or my peers like a flag football game, a sand lot baseball game or a pickup basketball game.  Soccer was for a bunch of “foreigners” to play.  Even as my kids came to maturity, soccer only exceeded Lacrosse because no one knew there were two real sports where the players used sticks (only one Hockey was known outside the mid-Atlantic).  All that said, having tried in my 30 to “play Soccer” I gained tremendous respect for the sport’s athleticism requirements and my hopelessness.  I view those who excel with great respect, but I have no compelling reason to watch or keep up with the sport since none of my fellow tweeters, bloggers or friends except Dave Topp have the slightest clue when there is a game near by with any level of proficiency.   All that said, there seems to be a huge lack of adult tradition around soccer, no compelling conversation to capture the imagination, no urgency so if I miss a game I am out of the loop.  There is always potential that the talk of money and marketing might change things, but that is a long term investment year after year after year. Where are the stories of those who came from tough backgrounds and “made it” or “made it out” through baseball, basketball or football.  When China takes over the U.S. in the next decade or so, we will probably see a lot more interest in soccer.  Maybe even then the waning U.S. may field a World Cup Dream Team.”

Johnny Tatum, 56, Annapolis, Md., Connecting Pastor & Operations Team Leader at Bay Area Community Church

– – – – –

I purposely asked people not directly involved with the game of soccer.  No soccer journalists, players or die hard fans for that matter.  Opinions varied throughout, some were more logical than others.  I find it important to know what others are thinking, you simply can’t just talk to soccer fans and expect to have a good idea of the soccer landscape in this country. 

I hope to do this again, asking people their perspective on why soccer has not caught on in the U.S.  Hopefully continuing to show that it is and can be difficult to be a soccer fan in the U.S.

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2 Responses to “Polling The People”

  1. While this is interesting, I don’t see how useful it will be in putting together your modules. The point of the reporting posts is to use them as your online notebook for material that you will use in the modules. I can’t see much use for these interviews, as the respondents have no expertise on the topic.

    • Talking with experts is important. But when the question is why it’s difficult to be a fan, why not ask the non-experts? They are the ones who can say why they are indeed fans or what has caused them not to be.

      Experts will fill the majority of the research but when you’re looking at the struggles of fandom, you don’t talk to experts, you talk to fans, right?

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