Does Football (You Know, the European Version) Have a Chance in the US?

When we as Americans talk about football, we refer almost always to American football – the kind marked by heavy gear like helmets and shoulder pans and even heavier sports legends like Joe Montana and Troy Aikman. It is the game we watch faithfully on Sundays during the fall, gathered around our high definition television sets with snacks and drinks.

In the arena of world sports, however, football has a different meaning. As in soccer. As in the most popular sport in the world that has never managed to hit center stage in the United States.

Many are beginning to predict that in the years to come, soccer (the “real” football) will gain popularity and finally gain the respect it deserves in America. But is this really the case? Will Americans come to accept it? Will we soon have a group of Hooligans of our own?

The answer is, unfortunately, probably not. For years, sports fans have been predicting the emergence of soccer onto the U.S. athletic scene. Still, besides David Beckham and Mia Hamm, few Americans will be able to name a player from the United States. We do not know where teams are located. We do not understand the draw of the game. And no matter how good-looking British imports David and Victoria Beckham are, we’ll be renewing our NFL Sunday Ticket sports ticket over the summer.

It is impossible to pinpoint a specific explanation for American culture’s resistance to this world’s most popular athletic event. We can, however, consider a few.

First and foremost, soccer’s failure to become a focus of American sports fans is largely a question of logic. Between basketball, football, baseball and hockey seasons, there isn’t really a down time in the world of professional sports that would free up some space for soccer. Furthermore, soccer is simply we’re just not historically used to. We may have played as youth, but the idea of sitting down to watch a soccer match is simply not an American tradition.

Other explanations become more abstract, but nevertheless possible. Our resistance to soccer may be a question of American exceptionalism. Traced back to Puritanism and the belief that America was the land of God, Americans have always possessed a certain attitude of difference with the world. As we use feet and the rest of the world uses meters, maybe we’ll stick to American football while the rest of the world enjoys soccer.

Seeing soccer really take hold in the United States would be wonderful. The idea of really competing on the world stage is thrilling, as is the hope that a new group of athletes would be able to truly showcase their talents. Groups of crazy soccer fans could bring a whole new mindset to the world of sports.

Such a scene is enticing, and maybe it will become reality. Until then, most of us will stick with what we already know until this whole “real” football thing catches on or blows over.

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