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Monday, January 15, 2007 

Concours

I suppose I should weigh in on this whole David Beckham move to L.A. Galaxy. Honestly, I was so unsurprised by the announcement my first reaction was, "Who? Oh, right, for some reason they decided to make the soccer league team names the stupidest ever!"

I never really got the fuss about Beckham. Since my whole time in the UK he seems like a modestly decent player at best. If he was that great at one point I imagine he's past his prime; if so then this is a great move for him. I'd like to make ₤1,000 an hour when I'm semi-retired or whatever it is. I imagine he's going there to play in an easy league, make a boatload of cash, trot Posh around Hollywood, and set up his football camps.

I certainly hope he isn't going there with the specific goal of changing American's minds about soccer, because he'll fail. We just don't like it; we're just not interested; we're just not amused or enthralled or excited. Yes, we are the only country in the whole damn world, we know, but we don't care anyway. I certainly didn't like it when I lived there. We feel the same about soccer as we do about hockey (except hockey has the added bonus of seriously bloody fights): it's boring. American's live by score inflation. Just look at baseball over the past hundred years and see how scores have risen. We'll tolerate tampered balls and steroid oozing players for a little more action, hell yes!

I enjoy soccer now. The environment here is much more exciting. To be in a pub for a great match is one of my truly favorite experiences since moving here. Sure, I miss 35 degree afternoons and cold beer at Camden Yards. But at the same time I certainly look forward to attending my first football match. I bet it's awesome.

However, my point is, Mr. Beckham, while I like football/soccer, I'm not a typical American because a) I voluntarily left America and b) I'm so multicultural now I've even taken a shine to cricket. I'm not your target audience. And I think you're going to be hard up for an audience of any kind over there.

P.S. What I'm most curious about is people reaction to his voice the first time they hear it!!!! It's hilarious!! Doesn't match the exterior AT ALL!

Coming from Minnesota, where you have to put your name on a wiating list at least a season beforehand in order to get tickets, I can assure you that not everyone in the U.S. thinks hockey is boring.

I think the same can be true of soccer, especially in areas with strong hispanic influence, like Los Angeles. Soccer is the most popular team sport for kids to play in the United States (hence the term "soccer mom" instead of, say, "baseball moms"), so there's some room for growth there. I think the sport can become big in some areas. The trick, I think, is to not try to sell it as "This Is The Sport That Every Other Country Loves So Why Don't You?"

I don't think Americans in general respond well to being told that we should do something because everyone else does. We like to think of ourselves as rebellious and the argument for soccer phrased in the "everyone else is doing it" argument sounds like a challenge.

Of course he'll fail to make it popular. If Pele can't do it then he doesn't stand a chance but $1m a week isn't a bad way to end your career.

The reason it isn't popular in the US is down to one thing and it isn't the publics choice its money. The advertisers can't have a 45mins slot without having several breaks (HBO's model isn't going to work for sport)so there is no incentive to promote it. Much better to leave the status quo with sports that are well understood and easily monetised.


SJ

Right, Chris, I wouldn't mess with hockey in the Northeast or anywhere along the Canadian border. What I mean to point out is that out of the four main professional sports leagues (NBA, NFL, MBA, NHL) hockey is the smallest and least watched. It probably also falls below NCAA basketball. I think this is because it's incredibly difficult to watch on TV due to it's pace, noted by failed gimmicks used (remember when they put a chip in the puck and it would light up different colors at different speeds! Lame!)

What I'm curious about is when is that transition from soccer popularity with children dissipates to practically nothing when we become adults? Loads of girls play soccer but why did the WUSA go out of business so fast? And MLS has reportedly lost over $350 million since it's conception (not counting Beckham's contract). Where are all these soccer moms and why aren't their kids demanding to be taken to these games??

I hope I'm wrong, soccer's a great sport. I just don't see it happening in USA any time soon.

Hi Monica, started reading this by way of Mr. Cope, so I thought I'd say hello and contribute.

My students are elementary-school age and many of them are into soccer, so I keep expecting it to get popular once they come of age. I think the media might be a little slow on recognizing the audience they may have because they're too busy covering the "trad" sports, but I could be wrong.

I also saw tons of guys in their early 20s get really into the 2006 World Cup, now that I think of it.

I think the audience is there, but it's just not getting the recognition from Big Media.

Cheers and say hi to London for me. I was there last summer when they arrested all them terrorists what hate our freedom. Good times.

Yeah... soccer will never take off in America unless one of two things happens (this coming from a guy who would like to see soccer take of):

1. we somehow win the World Cup, which I guess is statistically possible, but seriously...

2. we start paying a boatload of cash to soccer players to get our most talented athletes involved(i.e. - $15mm/year contracts to our top players). Rugby and cricket probably fall into the same boat (I'm guessing if the NFL formed an all-star team and taught them the rules of rugby, I think they could have a field day at the World Cup). Or imagine Johan Santana bowling or Albert Pujols as a batsman...

Anyway, it's human nature to to follow the money -- and in America that ain't in soccer.

Anyway, for some amusing articles on why soccer won't take hold in the US (and answer some of the questions posed), here's one after the US did unexpectedly well after the 2002 World Cup and everyone was getting excited that soccer would NOW take off in the US:

http://money.cnn.com/2002/06/28/commentary/column_sportsbiz/soccer_popularity/index.htm

This is a hilarious article by Dave Eggers on why soccer won't pan out and it seems 88% of young americans stop playing soccer by age 10 (you really should read this!):

http://www.slate.com/id/2142554/

Hi Monica... First, thanks for the "b-day" shout-out! That was unexpected, yet very cool.

Now, onto the subject of Football. Which we all know is what we're talking about (silly Yanks and their "soccer" stuff).

The "anonymous" poster really did have a point. It's all about the advertising. Football (bollocks, okay Soccer) is a very fast-moving sport, rather like hockey, in that there aren't always organised breaks for a nice message about buying your next gas-guzzling S.U.V.

Soccer's only chance to get big in the States is to become 'like' hockey, where the refs decide to stop play, for generally no good reason.

I'm a bit older than some (in the blogosphere) but I remember playing soccer in school. I had season tickets to the Minnesota "Kicks" and later to the Minnesota "Strykers" when most Minnesotan's would say, "Yeah, that's the sport with the weird black-and-white ball, right?" I mean, this is back in the 70's and early 80's.

What happened?

Nothing. It's still not happening. Chris nailed a tonne of this in his blog entry about the whole "Beckham" event, but the only player that the Yanks know IS Beckham. He's a football (sorry, soccer) hero over here, and he's going to make MORE money, and be a bigger deal over here than he would if he stayed in Spain, or moved to Italy. It's a great career move for the guy, but like YOU said... It's hopefully not to change the Yank's views of the sport.

No money in it.

Wow... Sorry for going on like that. Man... It's been a long birthday. ;-)

Smiles,
T

I totally thought Beckham was the hottest man on the planet....until I heard an interview on ESPN. I am glad you brought that up.

I think they came to LA to be closer to the cult (TomKat really got to them).

Jazz

Beckham has never been particularly gifted with regard to foresight (consider his choice to spurn Barcelona’s advances who wanted to build a team around him, after having his head turned by the arms race of egos and fading stars that the likes of Florentino Perez were stoking at Real Madrid. Compare what Real and Barcelona have won in the meantime: respectively sod all and everything) or understanding certain concepts (his heroic gesture of resigning as England captain, when actually captain of a football team is merely a largely symbolic title assigned by the manager on a match by match basis, and not a job you can really ‘resign’ from). As a result of this – the bucket loads of money aside – I think Beckham is a man who believes his own hype, and does think he will make a difference.

The problem though is that he misunderstands the root of the lack of popularity of football over there, and it’s high profile here. The league in England hasn’t become big in the last 15 years because people suddenly started liking football. People absolutely LOVED football already: prior to stadiums becoming all seaters, a decent first tier club was pulling in 50,000+ spectators on a weekly basis. What happened was that a particularly romantic World Cup in Italy in 1990 made football fashionable (different from being popular) and middle-class friendly, and the advertisers duly followed, the clubs getting richer as a result and the league more prominent. Our league isn’t big or popular or home to the world’s best players because of the English’s love of the game – that hasn’t changed to any significant degree (and selling English football to foreign consumers now makes up a huge amount of the revenue anyhow) – but because the television companies and the media embraced it on a new level.

The MLS will find it faces a similar challenge. It can be as popular as you like with the average Joe, played by every kid in the whole country, but unless there is a seismic shift in the attitude of broadcasters towards it like we experienced in England, it will never be able to offer the wages to make any world class foreign players play there (at least, not when they are at their peak) or indeed any of it’s home-grown real talent want to stay. As a result, Americans with a real interest in soccer will always feel they are watching an inferior league – no matter how much they want to deny it – and no-one outside of the States will be at all interested in it. And that seismic change isn’t going to happen when there are three massive sports already established, all of whom (together – and this is key – with their sponsors) will apply plenty of pressure on the television companies not to devote any of the airtime that could be going their way to this silly soccerball game.

Jeez, this is why I never blog about football: I can go on and on, and get very up my own arse.

Even so, Football, (or soccer if you wish), and it's adherents still have a far more realistic view of their importance in society than American Football (for "World Series" read USA series) ... sorry to all those left-ponders out there but "soccer" has far more adherents worldwide than the US domestic sport...but why should I care, (except in a chauvinistic fashion) as I loathe both!

Your loathing of sport shows, cogidubnus; Gridiron doesn't have a World Series... ;)

Another problem with soccer is the secret clock. Only the referee knows when the game is over. The fans can't count down, "5! 4! 3! 2! ..."

what is this soccer thing everyone is talking about?

If you think about it, soccer is the most popular sport in the world and the world cup is the world's biggest sporting event. In 2002 a new world record was set when 49.2 billion people watched the world cup, making it the most watched tv event in history ever. The whole world literally watches the world cup final. US advertising is basically missing out on a huge potential audience. More fool them.

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