Saturday, July 01, 2006

World Cup Apathy

The first time I was aware of the World Cup was in 1994. I happened to be making my first trip to the UK to present some work on savings at the Institute for Fiscal Studies. It was a fantastic trip, and I recall that year that the US and Ireland were in the tournament and doing well, but the English were not. You would hardly know this from fans in the pubs. They loved the game, and I drank for free, just for the novelty of being an American there while the team was doing well.

Twelve years later, I have fond memories of my trip to the UK, but I really don't care about the World Cup. Andrew Seal posts at The Little Green Blog about why Americans don't seem to be able to get excited about the World Cup. I'm probably guilty of each of his criticisms, but the reasons given are not why I don't have more than a passing interest in the World Cup.

The single reason why I don't care is that I see too many players faking like they are hurt to draw a yellow or red card for the opposing team (or to secure a penalty kick at close range). Not everyone who winds up on the grass is faking it, but too many of them are, and obviously so. Taking a dive may not be unique to soccer, but the extent to which it is manufactured and the advantage it confers when successful do seem to be larger in the World Cup than in other sports.

The sport that almost uniquely captures the interest of the American fan is football. Look at the contrast. Football is built on contact. It glorifies defenses that dish out punishing tackles and offenses that can survive the beating and score. Penalties are discrete, measured events. (The exception is the long pass interference call, which is in my view the worst part of the game in the way it is called too frequently for incidental contact.)

I'd be a much bigger fan of the World Cup if they stopped faking it for a red card, got off the grass, and just played the game.


PGL said...

So you don't like players faking they were hurt too? You must hate the way our LA Lakers play basketball (I do too). But I was one of those kids too short to play basketball and not large enough to play American football. So I fell in love with soccer. OK, Team USA did terribly this year, Mexico is out, so GO BRAZIL!

Arun Khanna said...

Players have started faking more in recent years after Maradonna's hand of God goal. I still like soccer since I played it as a young boy, though I was never really good at it.
Over the years living in the states, I have grown to like Football.

PGL said...

During their match with Portugal, one of the UK players (last name Terry) came from behind a Portugese player who had control of the ball and tripped him. As soon of the Portugese player tripped over Mr. Terry, Mr. Terry starts calling for a card as he layed on the pitch faking injury. Exactly the kind of garbage Andrew complained about and more. I wish they'd give Terry a red card for this pathetic behavior. Sorry to disappoint UK fans, but I'm glad they are out. Given their foul behavior during the game including kicking a down player in the groins, I say the UK squad has to skip the 2010 competition.

MikeB said...


Anonymous said...

Well, isn't that a little akin to saying that I hate basketball because every player always appeals a foul call, no matter what, even when given that a foul is almost never, ever overturned.

While yours is an entirely valid criticism, it's a little premature to assume that that's the single reason you don't care about soccer. Or that others who care about soccer are oblivious of fake injuries.

While this might seem an all too blanket reason, culture obviously determines a lot of this. You don't like soccer because you didn't grow up in a soccer-crazed environment. Heck, you open your post saying that the first time you were aware of the World Cup was only 1994!

I don't like baseball because I don't consider most of the people who play the sport to be athletes at all. By the same token it amazes me that there are people who swear by Nascar and then consider Formula 1 to be boring.

The Goldfish said...

It has all to do with incentives.

The same way defenders have the incentive to try to break the attacker's legs outside the penalty area, attackers have the incentive to simulate a foul inside that area...

But you'll very rarely see a player jumping when no contact has been made (Cristiano Ronaldo in the semi-finals notwithstanding, and I could argue that his behavior there was an even clearer response to incentives, since the referees were encouraged to show less yellow cards, which those jumps would warrant, than they were showing up to that point in the Cup), and it is usually merely a way to show the referee, who may be dozens of meters away, that a foul had been commited.

Anonymous said...

Agree with prior posts. Grew up with NFL,NBA, and MLB. Now that I have satellite I only watch soccer(Euro and S. American). I dont have time for endless commercials and ridiculous stoppages and time-outs in our US sports now that I have options. As for diving, there are endless instances of diving in our US sports. My favorite is when the basketball defender "draws a foul" by flopping backwards on his backside for several yards for "charging" with essentially zero contact. How about when Shaq is barely touched, he throws both hands in the air and screams to elicit a no-contact foul.

Anonymous said...

Here's a theory on why soccer so so popular around the world, and not in the US. First, the obvious nationalistic identities of the fans. US sports fans rally around their city teams, but being an inter-city mobile society, we do not have such strong patriotic ties to our metro cities, and our support is more directed to the teams. (Pittsburgh excepted).

Second, and more important, Americans like winners, but also love to see the underdog overcome and become the winner. And in most "American" sports, there is ususally clear winner, by some margin of points. Yes, there are the many exciting examples of games between equally great teams that battle to the end, to be decided by a last second field goal or walk-off run. But there is usually a margin of some points.
Whereas the margin of victory in soccer is almost always a single goal, often on some penalty. Thus fans of the losing team does not need to regard themselves as truly having been the loser. But for that brief moment, we would not have lost. Psycohlogists should weigh in on the implications in this post-modern world where winning should not be important because it hurts the esteem of those who lose.

Anonymous said...

Most comments i red on this website are all a bunch BS the reason bieng why, is that americans have always wanted to be considerd different from there European relatives. and they just cant get over the fact that the world hates american football and loves European FOOTBALL. Oh come on american football derived from European FOOTBALL. reason why they have the same amount of players that can play on one field at a time, goals to achieve are the same (trying to score buy crosing the line with the ball between the bounderies, the length of the gaols are almost the same, the size of the field is almost the same, the cleats, the Knee high socks. i personaly think that no matter how hard you try to look from europeans your just the same people with no Reall FOOTBALL skills(soccer)and hate the fact that you are just loosers of the game. (im African by the way and i'm pround to be one)

Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.