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June 15, 2006

Soccer Surge

By Brian Beutler

Last night, Matt mused that soccer owes its ascendance among intellectuals to its statistical simplicity vis-a-vis other often-complex sports like baseball: "I've been puzzling recently over the apparent upsurge in intellectuals' interest in soccer. I don't think I really understood it, though, until I read this Frank Foer post noting that "[s]occer is largely immune from sabermatrics and other instantiations of mathematical nerdiness."

Perhaps. But if we make the I think not-unlikely assumption that by "upsurge in intellectuals' interest in soccer" Matt means "my and other bloggers' upsurging interest in soccer," I think it's pretty clear what's actually going on. After all, there was plenty of soccer going on around the world, say, three weeks ago, but way back then, in the heady days of May, there was nary a high-falutin' word to be read about it. Then suddenly this funny international event called the World Cup came around after four years of hibernation and started putting obscure countries into athletic competition with each other, and--as the past four years has brought on a media revolution--pundits and other elites found they had near-infinite copy space to devote to it. In 2002, there were probably 45 issues of the New Republic and probably 11 issues of the American Prospect and each might have been able to squeeze in one article about the tournament each. Now they can (and TNR does) devote an entire blog to the topic.

There's just no new soccer-mad zeitgeist here. And after July, it'll fizzle off the blogosphere and we'll hear almost nothing about the game for another long and sad four years.

June 15, 2006 | Permalink


OK, then explain the popularity of NASCAR: drive fast, turn left. The winner is the guy who gets there first. Not much complexity there, but I don't see the wine-and-cheese crowd camping in the infield at Talladega.

Posted by: Rick | Jun 15, 2006 11:03:52 AM

I think a significant part of the current love affair with soccer among American intellectuals is that its not an American sport. Or, stated more positively, because it is an international sport.

Posted by: slickdpdx | Jun 15, 2006 11:08:04 AM

I think it's because the American team is slightly less of a joke than it's been in years past. I mean, we now routinely qualify, which wasn't true a decade ago. We get trounced as soon as we start playing, but we're capable of getting the invite.

Posted by: Kylroy | Jun 15, 2006 11:28:28 AM

If the left blogosphere after the Cup and NBA Finals suddenly develops a passion for Go, it would be evidence in favor of Matthew's hypothesis.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jun 15, 2006 11:34:40 AM

I watch three sports regularly: NFL, MLB and NCAA men's basketball. The seasons/playoffs overlap nicely, so there'a always a game to look forward to, but there are rarely conflicts. This wasn't a deliberate decision through my life, and I don't claim these three are the best -- my sports viewing habits just evolved that way.

I don't find it particularly "sad" to not spend time watching soccer, or NASCAR, or NHL, or PGA, or NBA. People watch what they want to watch, so don't try to convince them your favorite sport is better.

Posted by: PapaJijo | Jun 15, 2006 12:25:34 PM

As far as NASCAR goes, I have been under the apprehension that the payoff for major fans was the gearheadedness of this/that engine vs another engine etc...

Posted by: talboito | Jun 15, 2006 12:30:48 PM

I think theres an easy explanation for it.

1.American broadcast has figured out that there is a handy timeslot that soccer can fit in.
2.Other corporations have figured out that theres a large 'unexplored market' full of people that havent yet purchased any soccer paraphinalia.(sp?)
3. They advertise the heck out of it, and all the people at the water cooler, (or wine bar take your pick), talk about it because it was flashed in front of them enough times to make it stick.

..like you said itll go away... when the returns dont match the price of the ads.. then the whole topic will fade away. ..thankfully.

Posted by: david b | Jun 15, 2006 2:20:02 PM


Do you watch FSC (and I don't mean Fox Sports Channel)?

Posted by: Randy Paul | Jun 15, 2006 9:48:17 PM

Here you can leave your mark

Posted by: cherly | Jul 5, 2006 9:21:28 PM

Hello All,

What do you think, if Zidane was not to hit Materazzi in that finals game would the outcome be different? Would the French have enough strength to actualy score?

I believe that nothing would have changed!



Zidane Game

Posted by: Zoka | Jul 25, 2006 11:42:12 AM

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