People like soccer’s offensive ineptitude

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Hard as it can be for Americans to believe, Steve Sailer says, people like soccer’s offensive ineptitude:

In the American cool weather game, scores have gradually risen as competence increased. In the 1970 NFL season, for instance, teams scored 3.5 times per game: 2.2 touchdowns and 1.3 field goals. (I’ll ignore point-after-touchdown conversions as vestigial.) That was 2.4 times the 1970 World Cup scoring rate of 1.48 goals per team per match.

By the most recent year, NFL teams were up to 4.1 scores per game (2.6 touchdowns and 1.5 field goals), while World Cup teams were down to 1.05. Hence, the NFL now sees almost four times as many scores as the World Cup.

Yet, both enterprises have flourished extravagantly over the last four decades. In a world that smugly congratulates itself on its purported increasing diversity, tastes in spectator sports have been homogenizing: football in America and soccer elsewhere.

It seems likely that the two kinds of football, in their different but both triumphant evolutions, are giving the people what they want. Hard as it can be for Americans to believe, people like soccer’s offensive ineptitude.

The appeal of high-scoring American football — with its action, expertise, and comebacks against the clock — is as obvious as the appeal of American summer movies.

In contrast, low-scoring soccer fulfills other human desires: such as, to not lose. Americans find it derisible that of the first 48 World Cup games, 14 ended without a victor. (As General Patton noted, “Americans love a winner.”) But that means that 65 percent of the time, fans avoided the national humiliation of defeat.

Bad offense also keeps hope alive throughout the match. If, say, England takes a 1-0 lead in the first four minutes, you can always hope their goalie will muff an easy one. Moreover, the narrowness of the margin gives you more excuse to complain that the referee cheated you.

The lack of proficiency also makes each of the few goals seem more epic, more worthy of being carved on the player’s tombstone: “Scored goal against Honduras in 2010 World Cup.”

Finally, low-scoring games are easy for fans to talk about because there isn’t much to recollect: a couple of goals and your favorite coulda woulda shoulda moment. In contrast, NFL games average eight scores, and, honestly, who can remember all that?

American games, such as baseball, tend to be described best statistically. Yet, humans don’t naturally like to think statistically. They like to think in narratives, and attribute outcomes (if they win) to the proper workings of moral justice, or (if they don’t) to sneaky villains, for which soccer is perfect.

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