And if everything I talked about in Why the US Sucks at Olympic Lifting Part 10 weren’t true, it gets even worse. Again, no summary from last time, just read it if you didn’t already. Back into the fray about America as a country finally moving to sports.
Big, Dumb, Loud and Just Intensely Proud of It
Americans are not, by and large, a nuanced people. We like stuff, big, dumb and loud. Like our country, like our people. Like a Michael Bay movie. I was only half joking when I said that our culture is based around mom, baseball, apple pie, rampant obesity, Michael Bay movies and breast implants. It’s not really a joke.
We are a more or less ignorant (not the same as stupid) country; worse yet, we revel in our ignorance. Ignorant and proud, USA#1. Some appalling number of Americans can’t find their own home state on a map; most couldn’t locate a country in Foreignland ™ if their life depended on it. And they don’t give a crap about either.
Hell, look at my geographical blunders when I talked about the UK. I’m just honest about not giving a damn because whether it’s England, GB or whatever is irrelevant to my overall point. And they are all part of Foreignland ™ anyhow so the details don’t matter to me. I told you I was an American in ways that often make me feel dirty.
We are not huge on education (outside of certain ethnic groups that focus on it as part of their local culture) and we rank horribly compared to most countries in that regard. In certain communities such as the urban black community (and some areas of the south), kids who get educated are looked DOWN upon by their peers.
They are considered Uncle Toms who sold out to the white man or kids who wanted that ‘fancy book learnin’ rather than working on the farm like his pappy and grandpappy before him. Here I wish I were joking. Other countries realize that educating it’s populace is the path to global success; in the US we would rather see them play sports.
Science? Ha! Scientists are labcoat wearing nerds and folks like Jenny McCarthy or Oprah are as likely to sway public opinion about scientific matters as any researcher. Celebrities trump scientists here and there are still states arguing about Evolution vs. Creationism (or it’s new version Intelligent Design). In 2011. For the record, the rumor about the one southern state defining Pi as 3 was a hoax. But it wouldn’t have surprised me if it were true.
Down with Metric, We Don’t Want No Foreign Rulers
Here’s your trivia for the day: did you know that there are exactly three countries in the world that don’t use the metric system? Two are postage stamp countries you’ve never heard of that don’t matter; a full football stadium has a larger population. The third is the United States, the global superpower. We use the Imperial system (SI, and a quick pedantic note: it is NOT called the English system).
Note to the nitpickers: I know that a handful of countries officially use metric but still maintain elements of SI (i.e. miles in the Uk). This is not relevant to my point so please spare me the detail mongering on Facebook.
Outside of scientists (and American science journals have to use both Imperial and Metric units because of this; some only use Imperial), metric is unknown in this country with the exception of 2 liter soda bottles. And we’re perfectly happy being the only ones not to use it (again, some countries retain elements of it but mostly use metric, we don’t use metric at all). And the Imperial system that we do use is asinine: 12 inches to a foot, 3 feet to a yard, a mile is 5280 feet.
Don’t even get me started on liquids, I live in this country and can’t keep track of ounces, pints, quarts and gallons and what is how many of what. There’s no logic whatsoever compared to metric which is all just base 10 and Latin prefixes. Both of which are just too much for us to figure out.
And it’s not for a lack of trying. In the 80’s Reagan tried to switch us to metric figuring that kids just needed to be exposed to it early enough so that when they grew up it they’d get it (their parents were assumed too old, dumb and lazy to learn it). I’m old enough to remember when road signs had miles and kilometers and things like milk were marked in gallons and liters. And America simply would have nothing to do with it.
Because Americans knew that that metric is for scientists, stupid European countries and Communists; three things Americans have no time for. Nobody was willing to make the switch and it all got taken down once Reagan left office. Except for 2 liter soda bottles which hung around, probably because two is a number we can understand; it’s more than 1 and that’s better because more is better. In contrast, 3.7 liters which is what is in a US gallon is not a number we can understand.
And it even makes life harder in the US but we’re so damn egocentric and selfish we don’t care; we’d rather make our lives harder than submit to someone that’s not us. Especially Europeans. Because a lot of the products we buy like cars and bicycles and stuff come from Foriegnland ™ and they use metric. Which means that all the bolts on those cars and bike are metric. It can make getting replacement parts a real bitch.
Because of this our tool shops have to carry and sell both Imperial based and metric based tools (so socket sets have sockets both in 9/16″ and 15mm), so do our hardware stores. And bike shops and car repair places have to have full sets of both (or specialize in only American or Foreign made stuff) to cover merchandise from the US or EVERYWHERE ELSE. Basically because of the ONE country that won’t switch, they have to cover both. It’s just moronic on every level for the US not to switch to the global standard. But we’re not gonna because we don’t cater to anybody else in the world EVER.
By the way, the title for this section comes from a poster that hung in my high school in 8th grade. That was in 1984. I’m not talking about the 40’s or something where the above kind of pig-ignorance is almost excusable because nobody knew any better. This is modern times inasmuch as the 80’s were modern and that was the attitude. I love this country.
Life, American Style
The fact that we are big, dumb, loud people who live in a big, dumb, loud country has numerous implications; it permeates our entire society. To whit:
To the consternation of movie snobs, we like our movies big dumb and loud. If stuff isn’t blowing up constantly (or it’s not a chick flick), we’re not interested in it on average. And the box office receipts prove that. It’s capitalism like I said in the Why the US Sucks at Olympic Lifting Part 10: movie studios exist to make money and they know what makes money, and that’s what sells to the majority. They make what sells and what sells is what they make.
I personally thought that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was the best movie I had seen in years (I’m also the right 12 kinds of nerd to get the jokes) as did all of the other nerds; but it flopped at the box office because the majority didn’t get it. Therefore, by the only standard that matters (profit in a capitalist system) it was a failure and hence a movie like that will not be made again.
Even the big ‘nerd’ movies, mostly comic book adaptations make sure to hit all the big buttons for the general public to make the big bucks. Thor was not only a comic book adaptation but it was also big, loud and stupid (as was it’s lead). It had a buff male lead for the chicks to cream over and a hot chick scientist (hot girl + nerdy glasses = scientist) to give the guys a hardon. It hit all the demographics.
Studios don’t usually take chances because giving people what they know sells makes them more money with less risk. At most they make 10 movies they know will sell to bankroll something experimental that they expect to flop. Usually to keep a director happy with his or her pet project. But it goes even further than that: film snobs often argue that their art films would be popular if they were only shown and available. And they are utterly wrong.
You could put the ‘best’ foreign art film in the Metroplex 16 and the ‘worst’ summer action film in the same theater and you’d see a 10 fold or more advantage for the movie where shit is getting blown up or the female lead has a huge rack (or Ryan Reynolds is in it because he’s just dreamy). And double points if it has both explosions and tits. Because that’s what the majority want to see.
Subtitled movies mean reading and dubbing just looks weird (we’ll put up with it in kung fu flicks because the dialogue doesn’t matter and people are beating the ever loving crap out of each other) Who wants to bother with reading when you can watch BIG ROBOTS BEATING THE EVER LOVING SHIT OUT OF EACH OTHER WHILE MEGAN FOX LOOKS SEXY AND POUTS? The same people drinking imported Bolivian coffee at the poetry jam, that’s who. All 14 of them.
And when those 14 people can generate $100 million opening boxoffice, their opinion will count and their movies will be made and shown at the Metroplex 97 with $8 boxes of popcorn. About the only time artsy films are popular in the US is if they have a hot lesbian sex scene. And everybody will leave after that scene ends and go next door to watch “Stuff Blowing Up in Slow Motion 3: This Time It’s Personal”. Directed by Michael Bay.
To the consternation of food snobs, we are a fast food and convenience culture. Americans, on average, are not interested in gourmet anything or healthy anything (note again the failure of things like the McLean, a healthy fast food alternative; it didn’t sell and was discontinued because all capitalism cares about is what makes money and the majority didn’t want to buy it). We want it big, tasty and cheap (like 128 oz Super Mega OMFG That’s a Big Cup Big Gulps). You can get a 4 pound bag of M&M’s at Costco. Why? Because it’s America, dammit! We don’t really need it but Americans feel somehow better knowing that they could buy it if they wanted to. I know I do.
You could make gourmet food as cheap as anything McDonald’s sells and people would still eat the burgers. And since you can’t make it as cheap, why would you spend $20 for a tiny sliver of lean meat and veggies when $4 can get you a BigMac, Supersize fries and Mega soda? Because you’re rich and orthorexic, that’s why. But most people are neither.
Hell, even in other countries, the same pattern is showing up (as America ensures that the rest of the world is destroyed as well). This week’s Entertainment Weekly has an article about how action movies even we won’t watch (Pirates of the Caribbean 3) are just BLOWING UP overseas. American will bring the world around to our level no matter what.
When it comes to food, the majority eats this stuff by choice (the 4 hour waits for the first McDonalds in Russia are the stuff of legend), not because the good stuff isn’t available. Non-Americans were raised on food better than what we have and they still want to eat what we make. What the majority likes sells and what sells is what the majority likes. The end.
And I could come up with plenty more examples but I think my point is made. What the majority likes succeeds hence what succeeds is what the majority likes. And what we like is big, dumb and loud. Just like us. And that includes our sports.
Isn’t This Supposed to be About Sports?
And the same holds for sports which is the segue I’m finally making into the next part. We like our sports big, dumb, loud and simple and if you want to know what types of sports the average American mind is interested in, you need to look at the majority popular sports.
Because by definition the sports that are hugely popular are the ones that the majority watch because it’s that majority buying merchandise, tickets, watching TV (which makes money through advertising revenue), etc. Sports nobody cares about fail in a capitalist sense because there aren’t enough people interested in them to make it worth anybody’s financial while to either promote them, put them on TV, or worry about them. Sports is not only big business but a way of life in the US. But only certain sports make the cut and I want to look at some of them to one degree or another.
Certainly, traditionally the ‘big three’ popular sports in the US have been football, basketball, and baseball. All three have been part of American culture since the early part of the 20th century and are part of the American psyche. I’ll have a lot more to say about them on Monday and I’m going to assume that most reading this are familiar with them (note: American football is not soccer, which I’ll talk about at the end of the day) to at least some degree. Just in case not.
The Big Three: A Precis
Football is played 11 on 11 and shares some commonalities with rugby. You can be on offense of defense, the goal is to move the ball downfield to score a touchdown (alternately the ball can be kicked through the goalposts for lesser points). Unlike rugby, the action stops in what are called downs and if you don’t move the ball far enough in your four alloted downs, the ball turns over to the other team. It’s exceedingly violent, games last a long time and people will sit in the cold and freeze their asses off to watch 22 men try to murder one another in a game not unlike war.
Basketball is played 5 on 5 and there is continuous activity. The goal is to put the ball in a hoop about 10 feet off the ground and the ball can’t be carried, it has to be bounced on the floor (dribbled) or passed to a teammate, offense and defense constantly shift for reasons I won’t explain. It’s rough and there’s lots of shoving but it’s not violent in the same sense as football. The scoring is extremely high which we like.
Baseball, the American past-time, is played 9 on 9 but it’s strange; it shares some commonalities with cricket. Mostly guys stand around in a field doing nothing. The pitcher throws the ball at absurd speeds (90-100+ miles per hour) and a guy holding a bat tries to hit it. If the pitcher throws the ball past the batter three times in the right place, the batter is out. If the pitcher throws it 4 times in the wrong spot, he gets to walk to first. If the batter hits a ball into the air and it’s caught before it hits the ground, he is also out. If it’s not caught, he tries to get to the base before the ball gets there where he can be tagged out and the goal is for a runner to get around all 4 bases to score a run. Every 3 outs they switch sides and the game lasts 9 total innings. Baseball is an oddity among sports and I’ll talk about it more below.
Other Sports in America
But the above three, while traditionally the most popular, mainly since they have been around the longest are far from the only popular sports in this country. Looking at those says as much about the average American mind as anything else when it comes to our sporting likes and dislikes.
Make no mistake, I’m not saying that they are globally popular in the US, this goes to my previous comments about their being local pockets of culture in the US because of our geography. Certainly they are popular enough to make oodles of money for their promoters and be shown all the time on TV. Hence they ‘win’ in a capitalist economy. Which says a lot about the American mind in terms of what’s popular. What succeeds is popular, hence what is popular succeeds, remember?
They all fit a certain ‘mold’ of sports in the US and are very popular. The sports I want to look at are NASCAR, Pro Wrestling, Drag Racing and Mixed Martial Arts. I’ll also look again at baseball and then at golf as two oddities of popular sports in the US which don’t seem to fit the mold.
NASCAR is a sport that baffles foriegners, especially when we say that we think their sports are boring. It’s an automobile race, one in which brightly painted cars go around an oval track for hours. And we say their sports are boring. But NASCAR has something critical to American sports fans: the chance for death. Sometimes NASCAR cars crash or explode. That and the ability to drink beer for 3 hours makes it worth watching to us. This is NASCAR and just look at the stadiums; 100% filled to capacity to watch cars go fast and turn left on an oval for 3 hours straight.
NASCAR is big loud cars going around a track really fast and sometimes they blow up. AWESOME.
Professional wrestling (i.e. WWF) is absolutely monstrous here (Old joke “What has 32 legs and 32 teeth?” “The front row at a professional wrestling match.”); since Vince McMahon took over it is a multi-million dollar grossing sport. And, no, it’s not fake and nobody will ever convince me otherwise (Elvis is also not dead; I told you I was a southerner).
And what is pro-wrestling at a fundamental level? Two or more men beating the ever loving snot out of one another. WWF even adds the element of good vs. evil as guys beat the crap out of one another: there are good guys and bad guys and the bad guys usually wear black and have beards.
In the 80’s, there were a lot of ‘foreign’ wrestlers like The Iron Sheik, Boris Badanoff and others. They were gross caricatures of everyone that people in the US hated on a country wide level (i.e. Middle Easterners and the Russians). They were the bad guys, they actively antagonized the crowd. And they always got beat by a God fearing American (usually after trying to cheat earlier in the match) like Hulk Hogan or Macho Man Randy Savage. Or Hacksaw Jim Duggan, a redneck who carried a 2X4.
WWF also adds another important element to sport: hot chicks in skimpy outfits who sometimes chick fight (in team sports you have cheerleaders to provide T&A). But at the end of the day, it’s steroid fueled monstrosities engaged in a simple good vs. evil physical and dramatic battle (pro-wrestling is effectively soap opera for guys) and hot chicks in tight clothes…what’s not to love? In road cycling and many winter sports it’s the guys wearing the tights. Who wants to watch that? Not Americans that’s who.
Ask yourself what country except the USA could dream up drag racing? Stupidly big loud cars racing really fast for a short distance (and it’s just horribly destructive to the environment, the tires are used once, it kicks up an amazing amount of pollution; and we don’t give the first shit as Americans). And sometimes they blow up or flip over (the same applies to that high speed boat racing, those things flip for no reason at all and it’s AWESOME). This is drag racing.
Most motor sports in the US are like this (auto racing overseas is about finesse and skill, in the US it’s about noise and explosions). Google up mudbogging to have your mind blown; this gets prime time coverage on ESPN. Or let’s talk about the true wonder that is the truck and tractor pull or the monster truck car crush. Ok, my non-American readers have no idea what I’m talking about. This is Gravedigger, perhaps the most well-known monster truck doing what monster trucks do which is to be big, loud and stupid. And to wreck shit. It is ridiculously popular in the American south.
I’m going further with this, in college the Simpson’s did a bit about monster truck rallies (Google it) and something called Truckasaurus, a giant robot dinosaur that spit fire and ate cars. My three roommates (all from California) and I (a southerner born and raised) all thought it was funny. They thought it was funny because it was the Simpsons and the joke was good. I thought it was funny because I knew that (as they didn’t realize then) TRUCKASAURUS IS REAL.
Mixed Martial Arts
Hell, ask yourself what is arguably the fastest growing sport of recent years if not of all time in the USA? Mixed martial arts. And what is it? It’s two half-naked guys beating the ever loving shit out of one another in a ring until one gives up or is beaten to a bloody pulp. It’s WWF made real, every guy’s wet dream of a real life Fight Club. And getting into it is as simple as showing up to get the crap beaten out of you. If you’re dumb enough to step into the ring, you can play.
It’s a sport that every wannabe badass white guy can try at least once (until they realize that getting the shit beaten out of you is not as fun as it looks); the clothing sales alone are making people absolute millions because the people who don’t want to have someone beat the shit out of them for real still want to look like they are in involved in the sport.
Exceptions to the Rule
That’s the majority of sports that Americans like, big, dumb, loud and hopefully destructive or violent. Of course, there are exceptions. Let’s look at a couple of them.
Baseball is one and I agree, it’s stunningly boring to watch yet traditionally popular. But keep in mind that it is a long standing part of our culture (such as it is) at least among certain groups. Until about the 80’s, the reality is that any male of a certain age is likely to have played baseball in little league; we were raised on the sport even if it doesn’t really fit the mold of most of our popular sports. Kids of a certain age grew up wanting to be baseball players; now they want to grow up to be Brock Lestner (and in their wet dreams they are as bad as Fedor)
I’d argue that we watch because of that tradition and out of inertia; mainly going to a baseball game is an excuse to get drunk and yell obscenities at other fans and the players. Mainly a lot of people were raised on the game so it’s part of our psyche even if it is dull as dirt to watch. It is worth noting that, in the presence of many others sports that were gaining massive popularity in recent times, baseball was dying in this country.
As detailed in Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports baseball was in a huge slump in the 90’s. Everybody was sick to hell listening to a bunch of primadonna millionnaires bitching about not making enough money to play a game and attendance was at an all time low. The American public had gotten fed up with a game that was boring, where no records were being set, and the players were all a bunch of whiny little bitches.
And then it changed. Why? Because a bunch of steroid fuelled monsters started smashing home runs like it was batting practice, challenging decades old records for the most home runs in a seaseon. McGuire, Sosa, Bonds were the big guys of the day, Giambi and Canseco were muscle bound freaks.
Baseball went from being a game played by a bunch of pasty unmuscled nobodies to a sport destroyed by a bunch of real life gigantic action figures. As every baseball player knows ‘Chicks dig the long ball’. So do dudes. Fast glove, good hustle? Nobody gives a damn anymore except the handful of old-time purists. We wanna see balls getting knocked into the stratosphere by men who are bigger than life. Baseball (and BALCO) provided that and the sport was reborn.
Basically the sport was dying on the vine because the old traditions and teachings had been lost and other sports were more exciting than watching 9 guys stand in a field and pick their nose for 3 hours while nothing happened (and the winning score was 1-0). You can sit at home by yourself and drink beer and yell obscenities at the TV (or post them to Youtube), no need to go to the ballpark. And it was rejuvenated when it returned to being big, loud and stupid like everything else in America.
Golf is another counterexample to the above, a boring as hell sport that’s watched almost exclusively by the rich white assholes who play the game. Said rich white assholes having immense disposable income that they will throw away on clubs and balls in an attempt to dominate other rich white assholes on the green. ESPN shows it because they make their money off of advertising because of the large bank accounts of said rich white assholes.
It’s one of those minority exceptions in a capitalist system where a niche succeeds because of the monetary income of that niche. It’s still not a majority interest sport because most Americans are not rich white assholes. It’s simply that the rich white assholes who do play it have a disproportionate amount of the money in this country that they are willing to piss away. So while MMA sells shirts at $12 a pop to 100,000 wannabe fighter assholes, golf sells $1200 BigBertha drivers to a few thousand rich white assholes. Both ‘win’ the capitalist game.
But the above gives a broad view of the sports that are popular here. And as I’ve been arguing what the majority likes succeeds, hence what succeeds is what the majority likes. So let’s look at the above in aggregate, in terms of what Americans like in their sports in general terms.
The Nature of American Sports: Part 1
Americans, on the whole, don’t get subtle sports with confusing rules. We need our sports simple, big, loud and preferably violent and the examples above more or less indicate that (not that even the more complex sports like baseball, where nobody really understands the infield fly rule, or football are ones that are part of our long-term culture and we are raised on them so we get the rules).
But when it comes to some of the ‘weird’ foreign sports, we just don’t get them. We don’t understand things like cricket, I’m not even sure it has rules. It seems to revolve around a bunch of guys in silly gear standing around, throwing a ball at a post in the ground and games can last like 12 days or something. Next channel.
Pool, perhaps better described as a game than sport, is an interesting example because modern Americans (big, dumb, loud and proud of it) show very strong tendencies in their pool choices. Snooker we do not understand at all, it’s simply pool with too damn many balls on the table (and why are some of them un-numbered) and the table is way too big. It’s a nuanced game for nuanced people.
Straight pool is a game of finesse and subtlety (it’s only popular with purists), 8-ball a game of strategy and skill and is what most learn and many play. But 9-ball, 9-ball is a game for bangers, a game where you can get by on luck sometimes; just knock the shit out of the low ball and you might sink the 9. It’s insanely popular in pool halls for a reason because it lets big, dumb, loud Americans hit the balls as hard as possible and sometimes get rewarded for it.
One of the few non-American sports we are really into is rugby. But it’s a combat sport (effectively football without the pads) and we like to see people (especially terrifying chicks) trying to straight-up murder one another. Americans like the idea of sports where straight-up murder is on the docket. Or where folks might continue playing with concussions or a broken leg (football is like this too). Boxing is another good example of a murder sport we love. Foxy boxing is just hot.
I’ll come back to soccer below.
There are other sports that we are into as well that aren’t exclusively American and don’t exactly fit the mold of the above sports (nor are they nearly as popular) but that we watch nonetheless. Track and field and swimming are two of them and I’ll talk more about both next week since they are also two sports that the US kicks ass at internationally. But we will watch them at certain times (mainly during the Olympics). And there are a few others but I’m not trying to be comprehensive; just get the general point. Mostly they are time fillers when the stuff we really want to watch aren’t on but we just need a sports fix.
And the key to every sport Americans get or watch to any sort of degree (I’m not talking about the niche stuff that 14 people watch) is that we can get our heads around them and I’ll detail the requirements below. The sports that fulfill those requirements we will watch but only until football season starts or if we can’t find something more interesting (like mudbogging on ESPN 8, THE OCHO!) to drink beer to.
The Nature of American Sports: Part 2
For the most part, Americans are a simple people with simple tastes. And the sports we like as a majority have to fulfill several key requirements which I’m going to describe now.
You need guys in clearly delineated uniforms or logos of some sort (so you can root for someone and against someone). At the very least you have to be able to tell them apart; put them in lanes or something. They need to be locked into a battle of physical effort or will. Almost without exception it has to be head to head competition; sports where guys alternate or we can’t tell who’s in first (and hence who’s not in first) tend lose our interest. Even in golf where guys go sequentially the score is easy to follow, the guy with the lowest score is winning and everybody else is losing.
Because it needs to be easy for us to know who’s winning or losing for reasons I’ll explain tomorrow. A scoreboard is nice, the bigger number is the team that’s winning (except in golf but only rich white assholes watch that anyhow). Sports where it’s just who’s in front (auto racing, running) works too because then it’s obvious who the leader is: the guy in front of everyone else.
If someone has a chance of getting ruined during the event, that’s double bonus points. Even in baseball you sometimes get to see an outfielder go through the wall chasing down a fly ball. That’s highlight reel material. So is a a guy flipping into the dugout; or a base runner plowing into the catcher at full speed. In other sports it’s even more obvious. Football is a death sport, so is rugby. All auto racing has the potential for the cars (and hence people inside them) to literally burst into flames or explode. Double bonus points for any sport that has this.
Do you honestly think people watch NASCAR for the racing? Or drag racing for that matter. Because I can more or less assure you they watch it as an excuse to drink for 3 hours and see the crashes and big explosions up close and personal. Hell, I’ll watch the highlights for the explosions myself. Sometimes the fans die when cars crash and parts go flying into the stands. Both competitor and spectator gets ruined: that’s triple points. It’s the same reason we watch air shows: sometimes the planes crash into the stands, killing dozens or hundreds including the pilot.
Watch track and field on TV sometime it’s pretty telling to what we do and do not ‘get’ as sports because track and field actually includes events Americans get and events Americans don’t get. Pay attention and you will notice that they spend almost no time on the jumps or throws and keep going back to the running events. Because we get the running events, sprints and distances (though the distances are too long for most of us to stay focused so they’ll jump and just show highlights) but we don’t get the throws and jumps.
Because in those events folks compete one after another and it’s too hard to know who’s winning or losing. Multiple attempts, skipping heights, why did that guy get flagged for stepping over the jump board and, oh screw this, just show me cow chip tossing until the sprints are back on. The TV coverage will show one guy jumping over a stick (usually the American) and then go back to the hurdles (another event where people can get ruined by clipping a hurdle) or sprints.
It’s compounded by the fact that most of the top guys all have foreign names that we can’t pronounce and they all look the same to us. We can’t follow high-jumping or pole vault because it’s a bunch of foreigners from Foreignland ™ jumping over a stick one at a time and you don’t have a clue who’s in first. At least the shotput is kind of grunty but it’s not enough; and the girls are terrifying (see below). If networks focus on those events, folks change the channel and valuable advertising revenue is lost.
We’ll watch swimming for the same reason, at least during the Olympics and if an American is dominating. It’s a bunch of guys racing head to head in lanes and first guy to touch wins; the guy in front during the race is winning and everyone else is losing. It lacks the someone gets ruined effect; if someone drowned ratings would soar. We can grasp the concept of swimming. And the chicks are in bathing suits so that’s good. They are a little bit musclely though.
But diving, we don’t really get diving. It’s a bunch of guys doing ballet in the air and they go one at a time and it’s too hard to know who’s winning because of how it’s scored with all of those confusing multipliers and what do you mean you throw out the highest score, that’s the one I want to keep. Gymnastics is the same and only the pedophiles will watch the girl’s events. And it’s mostly foreigners so they all look alike to us and their names sound the same (clicks and whistles).
I think you get the concept I’m trying to present.
The Nature of American Sports: Part 3
It helps if the sport has stuff going on constantly; yes baseball is an exception to this but I explained why I think that is above. It has to be fast and moving constantly or we get bored and go look for something else. Football is good (long time outs bore us and the game has actually been changed to cater to showing it on TV, because ad revenue is too high to lose because fans get bored waiting for instant replays to get examined), basketball is great because it never really stops. And the scores often hit triple digits which we like because big numbers are better than small numbers.
Hockey is good but it was better when they let them fight; boxing on ice is a sport we can get our heads around because guys get ruined. We’ll even put up with the low scoring nature of it because it’s just consistently violent. Even without fights, guys get slammed into the boards and jack each other up and it makes that great bang sound. And getting hit with a slap shot has just got to hurt like hell. Other sports, where there is a lot of nothing going on for extended periods, we just change the channel. Again, see below for my comments on soccer.
Men, the majority consumer of sports will also watch sports with hot women in them but it’s rarely for the glory of athletic competition. Let’s just say that women’s beach volleyball is not watched for the athleticism. It’s hot tanned chicks in bikinis grunting. Women’s tennis is the same, buff chicks in short skirts making sex noises.
You might note that while bodybuilding is almost never shown on TV (nobody but other bodybuilders wants to see muscled up men or women that look like men in baby oil parading around in their underwear), women’s figure, fitness and bikini is. And it’s because men can jerk off to it (the same probably goes for the Miss America contest). A lot of women’s sports are like that (and I’ll come back to gender issues when I start talking about Ol’ing): men will watch ones where the women make us horny. But the women have to be feminine or Americans lose their erection.
And god forbid a sport where there can be a tie. Every team sport in America will go to multiple overtime or sudden death because you need a winner and a loser. Baseball games will last hours until someone wins and nobody is leaving until it happens. The same for our other sports. I’m sure someone will dredge up some obscure exception to this but I can’t think of a single popular American sport that can end in a tie. Overtime, tie breakers, sudden DEATH, that’s American sports because someone has to win (so that everyone else has to lose).
Which Brings Me to Soccer
People debate why soccer is not popular here like they debate the OL’ing issue; all 223 people in this country who care about the sport don’t get why most Americans won’t watch it or understand the sheer pageantry of watching 22 guys in funny shorts run around for 90 minutes accomplishing nothing. Now I’m going to tell you why we don’t like soccer.
First, it’s boring as hell; it’s 22 guys in funny outfits running around a pitch for 90 minutes with nothing going on. And two of them just stand in the same place doing nothing most of the time. The low scoring nature contributes, a game where 1-0 is a rout is not something we’re interested in (baseball, oddly, get a pass on this). Nothing happens and nobody scores. And nobody here cares. Foriegners counterargue that NASCAR is boring. I agree, but cars blow up sometimes and that makes it worth sitting around for 3 hours just in case.
Because if I want to watch 22 people run around for 90 minutes and not score a goal I can go watch pee-wee soccer at the park and get the same experience; hell the score is usually higher in the pee-wee leagues. At least there are hot soccer moms at the park and sports logic decrees that elite athletes should score MORE points than little kids, not less. And it’s not even violent like hockey to make us overlook the lack of anything happening.
Second, we don’t like the players. Not only are they Europeans (see point 3) but we see them as pansies. Soccer has a tradition whereby, if another player so much looks at you sternly, you have to fall backwards as if you were hit with a sledgehammer to try to get a foul called. It’s not only not violent, it’s anti-violent; guys go down like stuck pigs before they get hit (which is why that one guy who headbutted the other guy was so awesome). Even baseball, which is equally as boring, often turns into bench-clearing brawls if the pitcher beans someone. And they have bats to beat each other to death with if it gets serious.
In soccer you get a yellow card for tripping a guy or breathing on him too hard such that he falls down. And a red card if you do it two or three times (nitpickers relax, I DO NOT care if this is not technically correct). Ooh, scary, a colored card. In our football, you mess with someone and their 300 pound teammate flattens you on the next play; in European soccer, you get a playing card for your collection and get sent home when you do something naughty. We collect cards here too: it’s called Magic the Gathering. And it’s not a sport either.
About the only thing soccer has going for it in terms of violence is that sometimes the fans go nuts and riot and tear stuff up. But we can see riots by going downtown in any big US city, we don’t need to sit through 90 minutes of nothing for that. So it’s not enough.
Third, soccer is something Europeans like and Americans dislike most things European on principle (I dislike all things northern on principle as well; I’m a southerner and chowder eating Yankees can all suck it). Rugby gets a pass on this because the players get concussions and break bones and keep playing and are just downright terrifying (that’s just the chicks) and it’s a murdersport. And it’s kind of like REAL football which we really like. Strike three for soccer.
Finally, soccer games can end in a tie and everybody accepts that and goes home without knowing who won or lost. They shake hands, say good game and go home. And that’s just a bunch of Un-American bullshit. In this country, you have to have a winner and a loser, that’s the point of sports and competition at a fundamental level. The goal is to win, and make everyone else lose. Without that, there’s no point in even playing.
And that’s why we don’t like soccer: nothing happens, nobody scores, there is no violence, it’s played by effeminate (in our minds) Europeans and the games can end in a tie. And Americans won’t stand for all of those in the same ‘sport’. If guys fist fought, we’d watch it. If the scores were like 80 to 65, we’d watch it. If they’d go to sudden death instead of allowing a tie, we might watch it. But in the aggregate, we just won’t. And as I’ll talk about tomorrow, the ONLY reason any American males cares who that one soccer chick is is because she got partially naked on the field. We’ll watch that.
And that’s my grossly overgeneralized (yet mostly correct) look at the sports that Americans get/will watch/are popular and the ones that they won’t and why this is the case in terms of general sporting principles. But there is one more thing I need to look at, a critically important factor of sports (and the athletes) in America that I will talk about tomorrow.
- Why the US Sucks at Olympic Lifting: Notes to the Nitpickers
- Why the US Sucks at Olympic Lifting: Part 14
- Why the US Sucks at Olympic Lifting: Ol’ing Part 9
- Why the US Sucks at Olympic Lifting: Part 21
- Why the US Sucks at Olympic Lifting: Part 13