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This Thing Europeans Call Football

An American’s cultural journey toward the world’s most popular sport.

June 27, 2014

The first thing that throws me about soccer is that the clock counts up rather than down. In almost every clock-based U.S. sport — football, basketball and hockey — the clocks count down.

A clock that counts up raises a host of complications. You have to do subtraction every time you want to know how much time is left in the game! And the clock keeps moving as you do your subtraction! Dang.

You soccer-loving globalists may smugly say, “Of course! You Americans are too dumb to do simple math.” Although there may be a bit of truth in that retort, it ignores the greater truth.

You don’t know whether or not the game will end, even as the clock counts up to 90 minutes.

It’s called injury time?

A soccer game doesn’t have to end when it is supposed to end. The referee can extend the game at will! To us Americans, this is indicative of the fast and loose approach to the rule of law that pervades so many soccer-loving countries.

As in soccer, so in life

More broadly, I think soccer is a paradigm for life itself outside of The United States. The game starts, you run your heart out, not much happens and, as often as not, you end up in the same place you started.

The game, like life, ends on schedule — give or take five minutes. The game often ends in a tie — another wasted life.

As a paradigm for life, it is a perfect reflection of day-to-day existence in all the hot and humid places where soccer is practiced.

Like soccer, life itself in these countries is grueling and unrelenting, drenched in the sweat of hyperkinetic energy.

Like soccer, life is often chaotic and harshly competitive, marked by oppressively low opportunity to score — to succeed.

Baseball, the American way

Compare this to the United States’ summertime sport of choice, baseball. Baseball can be considered a paradigm for life in the United States.

The game unfolds at a slow and leisurely pace. Players stand around for hours on end, shagging a couple of fly balls and chewing tobacco along the way.

They can be quite portly, whereas almost any successful professional soccer player today looks like a perfectly sculpted six-pack of muscles all around the torso.

In baseball, conveniently enough, each team essentially spends half the game sitting in the shade. Strategy unfolds in slow motion, so that intellect and athleticism fuse in a way that is unknown in the soccer world.

No, there is none of soccer’s hyperkinetic energy in baseball.

There are, however, statistics, statistics and more statistics. Through statistics, fans are able to deal in percentages and assess the odds of opportunity — to exercise their minds in sophisticated ways.

The lessons they learn from baseball are often then applied rationally to the fans’ own lives in a deliberate fashion, rather than the chaotic approach that is characteristic of the soccer-loving world.

Also worthy of note in these tumultuous times, unlike soccer fans, baseball fans don’t riot. They watch intently, drink beer and crack open peanuts. After doing this for about two hours, they stand up — the seventh inning stretch — and then sit back down again.

Go Team USA

This is like all of life in the United States — comfortable and essentially voyeuristic.

You globalists may see it differently. You may say that baseball is indeed like life in the United States — lazy, gluttonous and overly regulated.

Well, yeah. That’s what makes the United States so much better than the soccer-loving world. That’s what makes so many people from the soccer-loving world want to come to the United States.

The United States cannot and should not allow soccer to invade our culture, to undermine our American way of life and turn us into mindless and manic soccer-zombies, driven to run full out for our entire lives without stopping to think about things — to enjoy the sunshine.

In closing, I’d like to say, Go Team USA!


Baseball is a paradigm for life in US, soccer for life elsewhere. One is hyperkinetic, the other hyper-statistical.

Life in soccer-loving countries is grueling and unrelenting. Life in the baseball loving US is slow and sedentary

Baseball players can be portly - like beer-drinking Americans. Soccer players show a six-pack of muscles.

The clock counts up in soccer and down in US sports, so Americans have to perform subtraction.

A soccer referee can extend the game at will - indicating a fast and loose approach to the rule of law!

Soccer fans riot, Baseball fans don't. They watch, drink beer and crack open peanuts.

Lazy, gluttonous and overly regulated, the US is better than the soccer-loving world. Go Team USA.