Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism

Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism

Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism

Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism

Synopsis

Soccer is the world's favorite pastime, a passion for billions around the globe. In the United States, however, the sport is a distant also-ran behind football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. Why is America an exception? And why, despite America's leading role in popular culture, does most of the world ignore American sports in return? Offside is the first book to explain these peculiarities, taking us on a thoughtful and engaging tour of America's sports culture and connecting it with other fundamental American exceptionalisms. In so doing, it offers a comparative analysis of sports cultures in the industrial societies of North America and Europe.The authors argue that when sports culture developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, nativism and nationalism were shaping a distinctly American self-image that clashed with the non-American sport of soccer. Baseball and football crowded out the game. Then poor leadership, among other factors, prevented soccer from competing with basketball and hockey as they grew. By the 1920s, the United States was contentedly isolated from what was fast becoming an international obsession.The book compares soccer's American history to that of the major sports that did catch on. It covers recent developments, including the hoopla surrounding the 1994 soccer World Cup in America, the creation of yet another professional soccer league, and American women's global preeminence in the sport. It concludes by considering the impact of soccer's growing popularity as a recreation, and what the future of sports culture in the country might say about U.S. exceptionalism in general.

Excerpt

The story of this book begins on Saturday afternoon June 21, 1986, when I boarded a plane in Frankfurt on my way home to Boston after completing a lecture tour in a number of European countries. Having been caught up by the World Cup of soccer then being played in Mexico, I bought a number of German newspapers to saturate my interest in the impending—and much anticipated—quarterfinal game between Brazil and France, which I was to miss on account of my transatlantic journey. Needless to say, all papers bristled with detailed pregame analyses and massive previews of the match between two of the best teams playing in that tournament. Upon my arrival in Boston, I proceeded to ask the immigration officer the result of the game that had just ended in Mexico. Whereas the equivalent immigration officer in any European country would have obliged me with delight, this Boston-based officer completely conformed to the expected habitus of the average American male sports fan by looking at me with a mixture of amazement, estrangement, incredulity, and perhaps even some hostility while professing his total ignorance of the event, let alone the outcome, with equanimity bordering on pride. In the corner of his glass booth, however, I detected a small television set broadcasting a Saturday afternoon game between the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles then being played at Fenway Park. The officer's demeanor became much more friendly when I asked him the score of this game, and he informed me that the Red Sox were enjoying a comfortable lead in the late innings with their star pitcher Roger Clemens (“The Rocket”) well on his way to winning his thirteenth game in a row in what was to become a very impressive personal fourteen-game winning streak (in a superbseason culminating in Clemens's garnering the first of his still unprecedented five Cy Young awards). When I arrived at home later that afternoon, I managed to catch the last few minutes of a tapedelayed and abbreviated telecast of the France-Brazil game that NBC had advertised with much fanfare as one of its new (and few) international features in its competition with ABC's Wide World of Sports in the summer lull between the NBA playoffs and the beginning of football season that—with all the exhibition games—had gradually encroached on much of August. I was compelled to resort to a number of cross-Atlantic telephone calls that evening to indulge my need to discuss France's victory over Brazil (on penalty kicks)—and the latter's relegation from the tournament—with a bevy of knowledgeable friends in Europe, since the hand-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.