Saturday, April 21, 2007

American Exceptionalism

From Google to 9/11 to the iPod to the UN to YouTube to school shootings, big things happen in this country that just don't happen elsewhere. Despite much anti-Americanism talked about in other countries' cultures, countless aspects of our culture are imitated around the globe. Despite this, there remains many things that separate us from other countries, differences that seem to be incapable of explanation, and thus attributable to American Exceptionalism.

I'd like to talk about one of those differences, but on a lighter note, since it's Saturday, so I will talk about soccer. This is the national past time of almost the entire world except for America. To the rest of the world it's referred to as football. From the start America wanted nothing to do with this game, so much so that we invented our own sport and called it football, even though there's only like one player per team that gets to ever touch the ball with his feet in that sport.

Soccer has been on the rise in the US due to the recent achievements of the US national team at the last two world cups. It should get another boost this summer when one of soccer's most famous players, David Beckham, makes the move from Real Madrid to the US, where he will play for the LA Galaxy (this is a team in the US professional soccer league, which is called Major League Soccer (The MLS) if I have lost you).

Now since Beckham is the best-marketed player in the world a lot of Americans probably think he is the world's best player. Of course, everyone knows he is a good player (some would disagree but let's be fair), but not the best (no would would disagree with this except maybe Posh Spice). So if we're not getting the best player in our league, we might as well know about who some of the best players are, if for no other reason than that watching them is extremely entertaining.

So this post is to provide you with a look at one of the truly best players in the world today (if you already know about this then it's a chance to look again). Last Wednesday in northeastern Spain a goal was scored that people will be talking about for a long time. This goal was scored by Lionel Messi, of FC Barcelona. Hear his name. Take a good look. This could be the day. Anyway, I'm not a sports commentator so I think I've done introduced it enough. See for yourself.


CapeTownDissentator said...

Never been more than a reluctant soccer viewer until I kinda got to like it during the last World Cup. I still see both sides of how poeple talk about soccer -- the stereotypical American view that it is just a bullshit sport is, I think, valid, and plus we got four major sports already and dominate golf, so let's just stick to those. The other side, however, is well demonstrated in this video, because this sport has some incredible atheletes and while I find about 86 of the 90 minutes boring those other four are spectacular. So, if you feel iffy about warming up to soccer, then watch some highlight reels on youtube.

BostonDissentator said...

So, according to you, the pro-soccer side of this "soccer debate" that you speak of is that each match, despite providing you with 86 minutes of boredom, also features 4 minutes of spectacular entertainment?

You are a rediculous person.

CapeTownDissentator said...

No, law school, the pro-soccer point is that it is played by exeptional atheletes. I'm on your side on this one, brotha, but you gotta understand that I can't just start liking a sport immediately, which is fairly uneventful (objectively) -- baby steps here. And I think that if more Americans would at least enjoy soccer highlights we may even finally start getting people interested.

And "rediculous" is spelled wrong, so I will thus think you are an idiot and will dismiss any point, no matter how valid it may be.

BostonDissentator said...

I really don't care whether Americans get interested in soccer. I just wanted to put up an entertaining video on a Saturday.

I am also not trying to get you to like soccer, immediately or gradually.

I also didn't mean to get into a debate, but there is no way I am going to sit idly by and let you say that soccer is objectively fairly uneventful.

Whose objective opinion are you basing it on? The entire soccer-loving world, or your own?

Watching soccer only seems boring to you because you're American and you were raised on other sports. Don't believe me? Let's compare eventfulness, then.

When a soccer game is broadcasted they show the first half, and we all know that the second half starts about an hour after the first half started. This means you don't really have to watch any of the commercials, so that alone makes the experience much more eventful than watching any other sport on TV.

Apart from them playing without commercial interruption, let's talk about what happens during play. Sure there is a pause for injuries or when someone gets knocked down and doesn't get up right away, or when the ball gets kicked out of bounds. This adds up to 1-3 about minutes per match on average.

Now think about all of the time in-between football plays and baseball pitches where nothing is happening, and soccer is more eventful just based on that.

Now you are probably going to want to talk about the scoreboard. I admit that when you're watching a game of soccer for the first time it is only super interesting when they socre. But this is because you're watching it for the first time, it's something totally new and you haven't become aquainted with other cool things that happen in-between goals, also you don't give a crap about what team wins, and you have never heard of, let alone developed an interest in watching certain key players to see what they will do when they get the ball. The same thing happens to anyone the first time they watch football or baseball, especially when you try it at an older age because you get so more impatient and less open-minded as you get older (ex: Santa Clause, Dick Cheney).

The hard part is not the sport, it's watching it for the first time before you know the players and the subtelties of the game, the same goes for every sport.

This is why if you, who know no teams/players and I, who does, both watch a game and it ends up being 0-0, I will be entertained and you will be bored. This is the only "objective" explanation.

Now even a big fan is always hoping that a game won't end 0-0 (although it's much better than their team losing for scoring purposes), but the fact that that sometimes happens just makes the goals and the high scoring games that much more amazing.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a game where Manchester United beat Roma 7-1. The Barcelona game where Messi scored the goal in that video in this post ended 5-2.

And the reason that it's interesting for the full 90 minutes is that a goal can come at any given time, even when you least suspect it, as in the video. At any given second, a team can score in a matter of seconds, and since there's not many goals, one goal changes the entire game.

And what that means is if you have a favorite team that you care about and you're watching them, the moments where the other team has the ball can be the most stressful and uncomfortable of your day, and the moments where your team has it can be the most hopeful and joyous.

BrooklynDissentator said...

you guys are funny. i saw that movie about the new york cosmos. hilarious stuff. if real soccer is anything like documentary soccer, then real soccer is very very entertaining. and roughly 100 minutes long.

LPB said...

Oh snap, he said you don't know the subtleties of the game! You can't take that kinda jive talking, capetown. Or can you?(note, he also spelled it subtelties).