Why Americans Don’t Play Soccer, and Everyone Else Does Part IV

Richard Hershberger

Richard Hershberger is a paralegal working in Maryland. When he isn't doing whatever it is that paralegals do, or taking his daughters to Girl Scouts, he is dedicated to the collection and analysis of useless and unremunerative information.

Related Post Roulette

13 Responses

  1. Murali says:

    Even though I’m not really a sports fan, soccer is really popular in Singapore and the UK (My wife is a huge ManU fan) and I played rugby for a very short while in junior college (JC)* (that would be the equivalent of the junior year in high school)

    *In the old system, the O’level papers were conducted in november and marked in the UK. As a result we would only get the results at the end of march. So, schools would hold their own preliminary examinations, the results of which would determine what we would do from january to march the next year**. Like many typical underachievers who study at the last minute, there was a significant disparity between my results in the preliminary papers and the actual O’ levels (this disparity was also significantly contributed to by the fact that my secondary school was one of those that liked to set fiendishly hard tests to motivate the students into putting in more effort). I joined the rugby team in the JC I went to in the first three months. My new JC after that did not have a men’s rugby team and I had just fractured my ankle so I joined the debate team instead.

    **The school year starts in January and ends in November.Report

  2. Kolohe says:

    I leave as an exercise for the student the contemplation of how the game would be had the retained the feature of a new set of downs if sufficient yardage is lost.

    Did that rule go away before or after the forward pass was invented? That’s the obvious wrinkle to me in regards to retaining the lost yardage provision.

    Great work as always.Report

  3. Autolukos says:

    Great stuff.

    The notable difference is that under the Rugby Union rules of that day touchdowns did not score points. They merely gave the team making the touchdown the opportunity to score by kicking the ball through the uprights.

    Presumably this is why Rugby’s touchdown equivalent is called a try.

    The first problem is that it is absurdly dangerous. If the scrum collapses, which it frequently does, this drives the hooker’s head into the ground: an open invitation to spinal chord injuries.

    Collapsed scrums are not exactly comfortable as a hooker, but as opportunities for injury go the scrum isn’t particularly prominent in the modern game. Open play (particularly rucks) offers many more opportunities for heads to end up where they shouldn’t be than the fairly controlled scrum. Even within the scrum context, the really dangerous moment is not a collapse but the initial collision; with eight players from each team helping to drive forward, a head in the wrong place will find itself the focus of a great deal of muscle.Report

  4. Michael Cain says:

    If on three consecutive fairs and downs a team shall not have advanced the ball five yards or lost ten…

    What happened if there wasn’t ten yards to lose? Was there something like a safety?Report

  5. Michael Drew says:

    A parallel inquiry to how association football became the game of the world masses is how American football became the game of the American upper crust. Harvard, Yale. West Point, Annapolis.

    My understanding is that a set of male elders determined that the boys of that day (whatever day it was – the 1880s?) were becoming weakling milquetoasts compared to their forebears. So a game that would maim and kill a goodly number of them should be adopted and promoted to build strength and hardiness in the upper classes. A similar narrative has been told of the Boy Scouts and the drive for preservation of the Empire in Britain.

    Is this at all accurate? Driving around Saturday, Army-Navy gameday, I heard it on NPR reported that the game has been played annually since 1890. There is no other sporting event with such tradition maintained by the service academies, right? Were they setting up inter-academy track meets and such by 1895? Football seems distinct here. Why? Why was this sport so readily adopted by America’s elite institutions, and why did it so quickly take on such cultural significance around the turn of the previous two centuries? Did its entertainment value simply win people over? Or was there more to it, possibly even as part of a political or even policy agenda of some kind?Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Drew says:


      In Ken Burns’ documentary on baseball, there was an excerpted quote from Harvard’s President around the same time. The quote involved a Harvard pitcher who used the new fangled curve ball in Baseball (I think it was the curve ball.) The Harvard President dismissed the curve ball as ungentlemanly and akin to cheating.

      I wonder if football’s rise was because there were fewer opportunities for “cheating.” Less ways to do things to the ball for better pitches, etc.Report

      • Never heard of Deflategate?Report

      • Richard Hershberger in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        That was Charles Elliot. As it happens, I have a piece currently in submission to Baseball Research Journal showing that it is a garbled version of a quote actually from Charles Elliot Norton, his cousin, who was also a professor at Harvard.

        My take on it is that this is mostly a case of Norton noticing that baseball was a thing, and that it had changed since he was a boy, the previous time he has noticed its existence, and he disapproved.

        As for cheating in football, it was rampant. Note the discussion of offsides in this piece. Also, playing engaging in fistfights on the field. I’m not sure how common this was, but it certainly happened, and it was Harvard/Yale/Columbia/Princeton boys doing it.Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to Michael Drew says:

      No, this is pretty much backwards. The rise of intercollegiate football was a bottom-up development. The students were enthusiastic about it and organized everything. The faculty was decidedly queasy about the whole thing. The institutions were enthusiastic about “physical culture” and were adding departments and facilities for this, but they wanted it to be more controlled and gentlemanly and less of a distraction. Harvard in particular had periods where it cracked down on intercollegiate competition and banned it entirely. But there was a third group: the alumni. They were even more enthusiastic than the students about this sort of thing, and were a constant pressure group. Some things never change.Report

  6. Omer says:

    I saaw a url to your brief article on facebook, Marvelous infoReport