Caution: High Sports Content
Between the years 1989 and 2001 I followed football (soccer) with the commitment and dedication of the true fan. If it is on TV I am watching. I followed that up by reading analysis, commentary and insider information to avoid being that non-passionate casual fan. From the year 2001 on, I was introduced to a new version of football, in which the ball is not round and hardly ever touches the foot.
In the country where I temporarily reside, all the attention is directed toward football while soccer is almost ignored. I would not be a true sports fan if I neglected this phenomenon that is capturing this population. For someone who follows anything from the Winter Olympics (especially Curling) to Jordanian under-17 ping-pong tournaments, I had to get involved.
Now, that the world cup fever is reaching epidemic levels, please accept the following points explaining why American football has better entertainment value than soccer, from an objective observer who continues to follow both sports with passion:
1.The Disappointment Factor.
The actual entertainment value of the game compared to the initial hype and anticipation. Soccer games never live up to expectations. In fact, the exception is for a soccer game to live up to its hype. Throughout the years, big tournaments finals, power houses head-to-heads and sometimes even complete tournaments leave us disappointed. Football games however, with the exception of the SuperBowl which is ridiculously over-hyped, live up to their billings at a much higher rate. When you watch a game offering two good teams you are guaranteed a high level, highly entertaining game.
2. Complexity of the Game
Soccer is a sport for the simple mind (simple rules and simple theme leads to simple watching). Following football with its complex playbooks and specific technical rules requires actual knowledge and sharper observation. As much as we like to mock the average American for his “ignorance” (because they do not care about the location of Iraq or the capital of India) their athletic entertainment requires more brain power than ours.
Each position on the football field requires a different “type” of player with a very specific job description. Football requires 22 to 33 different specifically-trained athletes ranging between 170 to 400 lbs, performing highly specialized tasks. This is a product and a reflection of the highly specialized “American system” compared to the know-it-all, can-do-it-all attitude, popular elswhere.
4.The Game at the College And the High School Levels
While Europe has its sports academies and “junior” club teams, the U.S. has high school athletics that prepares kids for performing at the collegiatelevel and thereafter professionally. American colleges produce the best athletes in the world, proven by their medal totals in any international sporting event. Colleges produce professional-ready athletes by subjecting them to a very competitive and disciplinary system, while offering them a chance to earn an education, forming an ideal "farm system". Add to this the fact that the revenue from football finances all other on-campus sports through its phenonmenal revenure generation, and you van see how essential football is to American sports in general . High school football is religiously followed and attended to across the country, for its competeiveness and the collective effort the whole community exerts and the pride it generates .
5. The NFL Draft
While soccer trades and transactions are fun to follow, it does not compare to the pro-football draft. The annual influx of talent from the college game to the pros, keeps the game fresh with young athletes in their top physical shape (the average service time for a football players is 5 years). The two-day event featuring 300 of your favorite college players beingselected to play for the professional teams is must see TV, and is an unmatched event for the sport enthusiasts.
6.The Physical Nature of the Game
Soccer is supposed to be a contact sport. Soccer players are often being carried on a stretcher, to return seconds after reaching the sidelines. Football players are referred to as " the modern day gladiators". Those top notch athletes are colliding at full speed between 40 to 60 times per game. The apparent heavy armor seemingly protecting the players (a helmet, shoulder pads and sometimes thigh and hip pads) loses their significance when you realize the amount of momentum and kinetic energy exchanged between two 250 lbs plus bodies colliding at the speed of a world class sprinter. A typical football injury report (issued weekly) includes (concussions, torn muscles and ligaments in the legs, arms, chest, back, ruptured spleens, bruised internal organs and torn sternums).
While football keeps trying to establish equality and maintain competitiveness among all participants, soccer keeps selling its soul to drug lords and corrupt politicians, allowing big-market clubs to spend money freely, allowing them to acquire every star or potential star. The result is a few dominant teams stacked with elite players rotting on the benches, while lower revenue teams are deprived from their talent. Football was aware of this problem and solved it through limiting college scholarships and installing recruiting laws for colleges, and by the successful hard salary cap for the pros.
One cannot deny the soccer advantages; the continuous uninterrupted action without the multiple stoppages and the commercial timeouts, the deep tradition, the simplicity, availability, and feasibility. Unfortunately for every (Senegal vs. Sweeden) 2002 second round game one have to sit through a thousand snooze fests (Go Greece Euro'04 champs) . From a technical unbiased, and an “un-Americanized” point of view Football is “miles” ahead of soccer. No wonder they stole the name.