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Soccer is succor fer succers

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Message Jim Arnold
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I love to play soccer. Some of my best friends play soccer. My nephew was an All-American, even. I didn't have the opportunity to play in school, but I coached my kids' teams, and I'd get the parents up after practice to give ourselves the rare, kicking chance for some exhilarating adult playtime.

But although soccer is a great sport, it's a terrible spectacle. Unless you're a veteran player, or you love a player, or you love the team that represents your country or locality, watching a soccer match is like watching glass glow. The only thing that saves it as a popular spectator sport is its standing as the currency for proving local and national superiority.

Chauvinism is, I believe, what explains why it has such a miniscule following in the U.S. Not that Americans can't be chauvinistic succers, of course. Soccer provides an opportunity for any and every nation to capture the World Cup, and thereby prove the genetic superiority of its citizens, but America's world cup of power and domination already runneth over. So Americans - except those for whom proof has to keep on giving - have no need of a symbolic proof. Who cares what the rest of the world thinks when you've already got the World Series (without need of a world) and the B-1 Bomber?

So here's the problem, and the reason soccer as-is will never catch on with most Americans: I haven't bothered to research it, but I'm guessing the average number of goals per soccer match is somewhere around 2. Ties are naturally common. In leagues and tournaments where tie-breaker rules are used, the only practical way to avoid a multiple-day marathon unto exhaustion is to have a shoot-off where the teams line up and take shots on the goalie until somebody comes out ahead. Imagine if baseball was decided that way - if after a 9-inning tie the teams had to line up for a homerun derby. Ridiculous.

When scoring is so difficult that a match often results in a tie or is decided by just one goal, it's often a fluke - a single mistake, a lucky break, or a bad call by an official - that carries the day. And the smart strategy when a goal is scored early is to slow the match down (even more than usual) and play defense for the duration.

There is a simple solution, though, and it will probably have to fall to the U.S. to introduce it, just because Americans have so little emotion at stake. It's a solution only traditionalists and goalies could object to: Just make the goal a couple feet wider. Maybe keep the same height, or you risk introducing the basic flaw of basketball - that it's probably 90% about player height. So experiment, and go for a goal-size that results in matches of maybe 8 scores on average. Then, because goals are easier, overtime to break a tie becomes a doable. More goals, more SCORE!, always a winner and loser, and more likelihood that the better team wins despite the flukes.

Americans will love it, and begin to pay to watch it. The succers won't care either way, as long as they can celebrate the glory of their favorite team (or remember when last they could). Forwards will love it - they'll get more goals. Even my nephew (a former striker and soccer-traditionalist) could learn to love it. My daughter will always dislike it just because I like. But it needs to be done. Then maybe we can use the momentum for change to do something about corporate personhood and political campaign financing. Those are important too.

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A former visitant of UC Santa Cruz, former union boilermaker, ex-Marine, Vietnam vet, anti-war activist, dilettante in science with an earth-shaking theory on the nature of light (which no one will consider), philosopher in the tradition of (more...)

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