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Kicking Around Some Theories on Soccer

August 07, 1993

I'm left puzzled by Bob Oates' jingoistic commentary in today's Sunday Times ("Common Heritage, Uncommon Fate"). After proving to everyone's satisfaction that American football and soccer no longer have a single thing in common, he proceeds to advance a series of meretricious arguments, intent on showing that the reason for this condition is that our football is a "better" game than soccer, being the Manifest Destiny of unfettered capitalism and smart Princeton boys.

In the service of his argument, Mr. Oates contributes the most inane remark I've ever read in serious sports commentary: " . . . Those 19th-Century Americans concluded that it was senseless to go on playing a game with the least-skillful parts of the body--the feet." Least skillful for what? Can you throw a soccer ball as far as you can kick it? How would those "gravity-defying adventurers" he admires in basketball accomplish those leaps without their feet? Is basketball an inferior game because you are not allowed to tackle the point guard?


Hermosa Beach


So football was started by a bunch of rich kids "who had the leisure to do it"? Maybe what really happened was that a bunch of wimpy Ivy League brats--who probably couldn't play soccer any better than they can now--"invented" a game not as rough as rugby, since you could wear pads and later helmets, but complex enough to keep the rabble out so these "brains" could win at something physical . . . until, of course, the rabble figures it out, and there goes Ivy League football. Meanwhile, America is unable to compete, much less win, at the world's most popular sport.

Hey, Bob, maybe in your next column you can write a prayer, an American prayer, and ask the Almighty to make the '94 World Cup a failure, and maybe soccer will just go away, like anything else we have trouble mastering.


Los Angeles


Please own up, Mr. Oates, the media simply do not want soccer to be popular here. Television very rarely reports soccer and when it does, it usually is something negative, such as hooliganism. This highly fluid game just does not suit the heavy demand for advertisement, and networks are reluctant to change their ways.

Until the media gets behind the game and allows it to be viewed and reported to the multitude of people that have a strong interest in the game, then Mr. Oates is right, the big leagues will be off-limits. However, it will not be because American football, the great game it may be, is intellectually and dramatically superior to soccer. There is enough room for both games to be enjoyed by this vast, multiethnic public.




Bob Oates doesn't seem to appreciate that soccer in America, like other sports, is in evolution. Soccer in America is at the same point in its evolution as major league baseball was in the late 1800s, or pro football in the 1920s, or pro basketball in the 1930s. This World Cup is simply a milestone, albeit a large milestone, in the American soccer evolution.

What the World Cup will do is make soccer a bigger part of our culture and demonstrate to all American sports editors, sports directors and corporate sponsors that the U.S. soccer community is large and steadily growing. Anyone who expects--or fears--anything more is being quite unrealistic.




I take exception to Bob Oates' short article ("Child's Play") on soccer.

Soccer is a game for our youth, through high school and college and as adults. Our oldest son was introduced to soccer as a freshman in high school in 1970. He lettered in high school and college.

John is now 36 years old and plays in an over-30 soccer league every Sunday. He is in great physical condition and is able to run for 90 minutes each week.

His classmates, who played football, basketball and baseball, have become couch potatoes with bad knees and the like.


Sun City

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