Maria has a really good post on the subject:

The soccer scolds don’t understand that American football is something that grew up organically, out of a specific culture, at a specific time and place. That doesn’t make it either superior or inferior to soccer, it just makes it our game. Those hundred-year-old chants and ancient rivalries serve the same purpose as all other cultural traditions: they build valuable social capital.

I think the importance of this is hard to underestimate. In some ways, football is successful simply because it is successful and thus has significant social capital built behind it. By most standards, indoor football is a tweaked version of regular football that is in many ways more entertaining. But it’s not football. It doesn’t have the hundred years of tradition. It’s hard for any sport, even a superior one (which I don’t believe soccer to be) to break in.

On a sidenote, one of the things that is the death knell of soccer in this country is Title IX. Kind of ironic since many of the most ardent supporters of soccer are also ardent supporters of Title IX. But Title IX lead to a contraction of male sports in college and men’s soccer was decimated (the SEC has only a couple schools that support it!). If soccer were to become a major sport, the most likely way it would do so is through coverage of college sports. With the conferences setting up their own networks, minor sports like volleyball and women’s soccer are likely to start getting some actual airtime. But men’s soccer is almost nowhere to be found. I doubt women’s soccer will take off for a variety of reasons but mostly because women’s basketball has been given so many chances to succeed and never has. This isn’t a knock against Title IX, which I largely support, but just an observation.

Her story about learning the rules of football is fascinating. I had no interest in football (despite, or because of, my obsession with baseball) until around the sixth grade. I learned about the game through Madden Football for the Apple ][e. A very, very different game than its counterparts. The thing that was hardest for me to wrap my head around was the fact that a season only consisted of 16 games. Baseball had 162. What kind of season was only 16 games?! The teams only play each other twice?! Though since being introduced to college football, I discovered that was actually one time too many.

In addition to what I learned from computer games, my friend Clint and I would start playing imaginary games outside. We would rotate quarterback and receiver, though we always did better when I threw and he caught. I had played imaginary football with my friend Frank before, so I knew the basics about four downs and all that pretty early on. But there’s a world of difference between pass-catch and contemplating 22 players on the field with different rules as to what they could and could not do, learning different plays, and so on.

Anyway, what I discovered from a video game perspective was that football was way more fun. Not just in terms of playing the little red and blue sprites on the field of green pixels, but there was also a cerebral world to it that was mostly lacking in baseball. The great thing about baseball was the statistics. I’m a statistics guy (hence my recent endeavor to create a statistical model for comparing the NCAA football conferences against one another). But football was strategic. Play-counterplay. What is the defense thinking? What is the offense thinking? So much time thinking for slices of action. It was the perfect sport for me.

The biggest knock against football is the fact that there is so little actual gametime and so much time in between. It’s a matter of taste. You can reduce a football game to under 15 minutes if you tried, but have you ever tried? It takes a lot away from the game. To me, the difference between football and basketball is the difference between a suspense thriller and an Jean-Claude Van Damme flick. I almost always prefer suspense. Half of football is about “What happens next?” That’s part of the enjoyment. Some people don’t get that enjoyment. Such is life.

I try to catch Southern Tech Packers athletics every time I go back to Colosse. I catch an average of a couple of football games and a couple basketball games and a single baseball game a year. They all have their plusses and minuses, but I mostly watch the others due to the connection with my alma mater while football I will watch whether I have a stake in the game or not.


Category: Theater

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One Response to Football Genesis

  1. Peter says:

    The biggest knock against football is the fact that there is so little actual gametime and so much time in between. It’s a matter of taste. You can reduce a football game to under 15 minutes if you tried, but have you ever tried? It takes a lot away from the game. To me, the difference between football and basketball is the difference between a suspense thriller and an Jean-Claude Van Damme flick. I almost always prefer suspense. Half of football is about “What happens next?” That’s part of the enjoyment.

    Breaks in the action are an unavoidable and perhaps beneficial part of football. The thing is, given the sport’s status as Television’s Whore, the breaks are more numerous and FAR longer than they could possibly need to be.

    The NBA’s going the same way, to an ever-increasing extent.

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