American Soccer Fandom as Cosmopolitan Affectation

American soccer fan

Recently, Major League Soccer announced that it would be expanding into Atlanta. I like to tease soccer fans, because they’re so sensitive, so I took the occasion to get off a few good jabs at my soccer loving virtual friends.

I suggested that If Atlanta has any self-respect left as a Southern city, then soccer should fail here as the foreign sport that it is. I consider soccer an invasive species like the Asian carp. It threatens the native fauna like football, baseball, basketball, ‘rasslin’ and NASCAR. It’s been reported that Atlanta fans will be given a chance to make suggestions regarding the name of the new soccer team. Since I consider soccer an invasive species, I have a suggestion: the Atlanta Cane Toads. I briefly considered the Atlanta Kudzu, but I actually think us Southerners have grown kinda fond of Kudzu. It may be an invasive species, but it’s our invasive species.

I don’t really hate soccer per se. I think it’s boring, but it’s a legitimate sport loved throughout the world. But the key phrase here is “throughout the world.” It’s simply not an American sport outside of youth leagues. Because of heavy youth league participation, we’ve had soccer enthusiasts telling us that soccer is the next big thing for at least the last 30 years. I distinctly remember these debates in high school. But guess what, much to the chagrin of the soccer snobs, this hasn’t materialize, just as I told them it wouldn’t in high school. A people raised on the action and impact of (real) football, are just never going to shift their allegiance to a bunch of guys running up and down a field in shorts flopping like a bunch of girls at the slightest impact. Heck, we can’t even keep the younger generation interested in baseball, America’s pastime, because they considers it too slow.

And while I was mostly just trying to be funny and get a rise out of prickly soccer fans with my jabs, I was partially serious. I don’t hate soccer, but I’m suspicious of American soccer fans. I have always had the impression that soccer fandom in America is forced, like the native Southerner who likes hockey. It’s a type of banner waving, a badge that the fan is sophisticated and worldly and willing to break away from the confining restraints of little nuances like … oh I don’t know … PLACE OF BIRTH, unlike us ruffian yokel football fans. And for too many soccer enthusiasts, their support for expanding soccer in America always struck me as their way of forcing us backwards parochial Americans with our fanaticism for our home grown sports to become better citizens of the world. As my friend Tom Piatak once quipped, soccer is “the metric system in short pants.” Hey soccer fans, how’s that conversion to the metric system going?

It’s not a coincidence that soccer has become more popular in America in direct proportion to the immigration of people from soccer loving countries, and it’s no coincidence that soccer fans often extol the virtues of multiculturalism. Critics of immigration often accuse our Elites of attempting to import a new electorate because the old one is a bit too contrarian for their tastes. Likewise, soccer enthusiasts might be accused of desiring a new fan base because the old one is a bunch of knuckle-draggers too attached to our native sports.

That said, it was with great satisfaction that I read this Wall Street Journal article by an Englishman who confirms my suspicions about American soccer fans. While the source is surprising – the Wall Street Journal is usually pro-cosmopolitan, such attitudes are better for the global economy you see – the editorial is a must read. This Englishman senses the same thing I have always suspected; American soccer fandom is an elaborate cosmopolitan affectation.

But lately, I’ve discovered there’s a new scourge on my beloved game that I simply cannot tolerate: Americans.

Understand that I’m not talking about the vast majority of you, who still regard soccer as a distinctly European product of dubious worth, like espadrilles or universal health care…

The problem is your soccer obsessives. By my reckoning, they may be the most derivative, excessive and utterly ridiculous collection of sports fans on the planet…

He continues…

My biggest gripe is that all of this feels like an elaborate affectation.

Instead of watching the game in the time-honored way of American sports fans—by thrusting a giant foam finger in the air, say, or devouring a large plate of Buffalo wings—your soccer fanatics have taken to aping the behavior of our fans from across the pond…

The whole thing seemed to be less an expression of genuine fandom and more like an elaborate piece of performance art. Didn’t we fight a war so you guys wouldn’t have to take cues on how to behave from London?

… there’s a peculiar species of fan here [New York City – DP] whose passion for soccer seems to be less about 22 men chasing a ball up and down a field and more about its intellectual and cosmopolitan qualities.

Never mind that no other sport is so linked to the working class. For these fans, rooting for an English soccer team is a highbrow pursuit and a mark of sophistication, like going to a Wes Anderson movie or owning a New Yorker subscription.

Preach on my Limey brother!

See, the English agree with me. Excessive soccer fandon is un-American. All us red-blooded yokels must fight its pernicious influence lest we be swallowed up by the cosmopolitan Borg.

About Dan E. Phillips

Dan E. Phillips, MD is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Mercer University School of Medicine in Macon, GA. His work has appeared at such places as Lew Rockwell, Intellectual Conservative and Chronicles Magazine. More from Dan E. Phillips

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