Americans and Footb... Soccer - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Americans and Footb… Soccer

Americans and Footb… Soccer

Published June 18, 2010

It’s easy to forget, but football has a long history in the US. Back in the early days, before World War II, they were quite good, even reaching the semifinal in the first World Cup. It wasn’t until the post-WWII period that the Americans started to fall behind the rest of the football playing nations. Their last bit of glory until modern times was when England and the United States met in the World Cup was in 1950, and the US won 1-0. The man who scored the goal was a Haitian accounting student at Columbia University named Joe Gaetjens. Almost completely unknown in the US, Gaetjens was a hero in his native Haiti, and after moving back there got into trouble with dictator Papa Doc Duvalier and died in prison. Watch this heartbreaking 10 minute documentary about Joe Gaetjens.
The American right-wing has a love/hate relationship with football, they love to hate it. Every four years there’s a flurry of commentary from US conservatives about how football is a game for socialists, illegal immigrants and your mother is a whore. My favorite recent anti-football essay came last year and had nothing to do with the World Cup, just theologian Stephen H. Webb’s absurd xenophobia and chauvinism, How Soccer is Ruining America. Favorite quote: “As a display of nearly death-defying stamina, soccer mimics the paradigmatic feminine experience of childbirth more than the masculine business of destroying your opponent with insurmountable power.”
In the 1920s football was just about to turn into a major sport in the United States. Slate explains what went wrong. And don’t forget to check out the lovely video at the bottom of the article that makes fun of the often ridiculous norms of American sports television coverage.*
Also from Slate, an informative explanation of why Americans (and Australians and Canadians) use the word soccer.

* Yes, yes, I know that this makes perfect sense for sports with frequent, predictable stops and starts like baseball and American football.

Photo by wjarrettc.

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