“No, It’s Not Sissy Ball” – In Defense of Soccer

By Sabrina Völz

Cred­it: Steven Depolo

As most of you have prob­a­bly noticed, the Unit­ed States is not among the coun­tries play­ing in the World Cup for the first time in 32 years. There is cer­tain­ly a pletho­ra of expla­na­tions – or excus­es – cir­cu­lat­ing that revolve around the ques­tion why (men’s) soc­cer isn’t as pop­u­lar as oth­er sports in the U.S. Watch a few of the YouTube videos on the sub­ject with your class and have learn­ers col­lect the argu­ments and excus­es. A num­ber of them are just plain sil­ly, so divide the stu­dents in groups and have them see who can give with the best or wit­ti­est counter argu­ments. Here’s my list:

⦁ The game is low scor­ing and slow. (Hey peo­ple, base­ball doesn’t get into dou­ble dig­its too often either.)

⦁ Soc­cer oth­er­wise known as “sis­sy ball” is a sport for girls. (It’s a sport for girls and women, stu­pid. Women and girls play bas­ket­ball, too, and that hasn’t stopped any­one from pick­ing up that orange ball and shoot­ing some hoops. Besides soc­cer is a bru­tal sport, just ask Scott Sterling…)

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⦁ Amer­i­ca, as a com­pet­i­tive nation, doesn’t like tie games. Not only is a tie not fath­omable, it is impos­si­ble in the big four Amer­i­can sports: foot­ball, base­ball, bas­ket­ball, and hock­ey. (True, but maybe it’s time to take a chill pill and embrace the gray area. Divid­ing every­one con­tin­u­al­ly in “win­ners” and “losers” does not fos­ter sportsper­son­like con­duct in a coun­try plagued by cul­ture wars.)

⦁ There are too few Amer­i­can-grown soc­cer role mod­els, so the sport doesn’t attract the young. (Show some Amer­i­can opti­mism, will you? Have you for­got­ten the old Amer­i­can adage, “If at first you don’t suc­ceed, try, try again?” And if that doesn’t work, adver­tise more. Take this adver­tise­ment for the ESPN 2014 FIFA World Cup Com­mer­cial. Soc­cer is cool.)

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⦁ Amer­i­cans already have four nation­al sports and no real soc­cer tra­di­tion. (Okay, you got me on this one. But in a coun­try of 325 mil­lion peo­ple, are you real­ly sure that there is not enough room for one more nation­al sport? And besides, if we didn’t turn so many Mex­i­cans back at the bor­der, we would have a splen­did team. Sor­ry, Germany.)

When fin­ished with that exer­cise, explore the mean­ing of sports metaphors. Eng­lish is full of them. And final­ly ask your stu­dents to explain the spir­it of soc­cer in “Live it Up” and do a close read­ing of some screen shots. (You have to be pret­ty cre­ative to explain why there are hors­es in that video.)

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And now enjoy the game and watch the rest of the World Cup!


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