Soccer unappreciated, underrepresented in America

By Thomas Hair

Online Copy Editor

Try to go through your daily routines for an entire week, or even a single day, without seeing or hearing anything about sports. Even if you have always been disinterested in sports, it will surprise you how much they are intertwined in everyday American life.

It is no secret that Americans as a whole are fascinated by sports, with football obtaining almost religious levels of devotion from some. This enduring fascination has led to the development of a notorious sports culture in America – one more lucrative and diverse than any other in the world.

I have been an avid sports fan since infancy. I relish being able to watch football, basketball, baseball and all other popular American sports at any time. I relish being able to discuss these sports with equally enthusiastic fans at school.

Lately, I have taken a keen interest in a different sport, one not popular in America and not easily followed here, soccer or as it’s known just about everywhere else in the world, “football”.

Soccer is easily the most played, most watched and most popular sport in the world, with only one exception: the United States.

Fulham Football Club, crest featured above, is difficult to follow in America as one of the lesser known Premier League Teams. Photo by Thomas Hair.

I have made quite an effort over the course of the past year to follow the English Premier League (the world’s most popular soccer league) and my favorite team in the league, Fulham FC.

I was captivated by the EPL’s intensity and excitement from the moment I watched my first match. I was captivated by the chanting crowds, the revered traditions and the multi-tiered system of promotion and relegation – something completely new and intriguing to me.

However, being a professional soccer fan in a place like Coppell is anything but easy. In fact, it is probably among the worst places to be for someone just beginning to delve into “The Beautiful Game”.

Without purchasing expensive television channel packages, it is nearly impossible to watch professional soccer consistently here.  With no way to view matches on television or online, I have spent many a late night hovering over my computer screen watching the ESPN live updates for the entire duration of Fulham games.

However, my enthusiasm for professional soccer isn’t shared by others, to put it lightly. Family members deride it as “so boring” and friends give me puzzled looks when I tell them “that thing on my shirt” is the Fulham FC crest.

People all over the world go crazy for soccer. Yet in the United States, where there is a seemingly endless capacity for sports, soccer simply cannot gain any traction. Why is this? Why don’t Americans share the rest of the world’s passion?

After asking several sports fans at CHS why they do not care for soccer, the overwhelming majority simply claim that the sport is “too boring”. To me, this response indicates a lack of understanding of how the sport works.

To one who does not pay attention to the intricate nuances of the game, at first glance a soccer match may seem like it consists of nothing but endless kicking of the ball in random directions. Often, this first glance is all an American gives the game.

However, soccer is a thinking man’s game. There is always a purpose to what’s happening; teams spend a lot of time testing for weaknesses and gradually shifting players into position to set up a goal. Accordingly, when a team’s painstaking efforts finally do result in a goal, it makes the moment that much more glorious.

Young boys play soccer near the St. Rose de Lima church site in Leogane, Haiti, January 4, 2012. Two years after Haiti's most horrifying 35 seconds, seeds of progress are evident across this battered nation where a devastating earthquake left 300,000 dead and some 1.5 million homeless in its capital and surrounding cities. (Patrick Farrell/Miami Herald/MCT)

Therefore, when people attempt to inform me that soccer is unpopular in America because it’s tedious or dull, I find it very hard to believe. America’s distaste for soccer is as old as the nation itself.

In the years leading up to the American Revolution, folks on this side of the Atlantic Ocean sought to distance themselves from their hated rulers in Europe.

In the 19th century, this mentality is what prompted Americans to reject soccer (European Football) as it was becoming a global phenomenon. Instead, Americans severely altered the rules to form “American Football” which remains our nation’s preferred spectator sport to this day.

Americans are a proud people that prefer their own handiwork and inventions, and habitually resist foreign ideas. This verity even comes into play in the realm of athletic competition.

The three most popular sports in America (football, baseball and basketball) were all invented in America, by Americans. In contrast, the two most popular sports in the rest of the world, soccer and cricket, are virtually unrepresented here.

As much as I have come to appreciate soccer as a magnificent sport, I know it will likely never grasp a sizable foothold in the United States. The nation’s capacity for sports is filled to the brim and dominated by various incarnations of football, baseball and basketball.

Learning to appreciate soccer has been a demanding but rewarding experience that has required a great deal of dedication. I wish my fellow American sports fans could see soccer for the beautiful sport it is. I wish my fellow Americans could see the rabid excitement that makes leagues like the EPL so fascinating.

However, the way things stand now, I’ll have to continue my struggle to keep up with professional soccer and my Fulham Cottagers without the comforts of American media coverage.

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