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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Why Football Has Historically Been Less Popular in America Finally Has Some Answers

Between 2012 and 2019, University of Virginia School of Law Professor G Edward White wrote three books on the relation of law to American history, beginning with the colonial years and ending with the turn of the 20th century.

In White’s words, the books were “long, dense, and largely intended for scholarly audiences.”

“I enjoyed writing them,” White said, “but I felt I needed a change of pace, and some ‘break’ from that kind of scholarship.”

Enter football.

An avid sportsman in his youth days at Phillips Academy Andover and Amherst College, White – who published 18 books before New, including one a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History – concluded that little was written about history. There was football in America.

During his previous respite from legal writing, White had written a book on the early and mid-20th century history of baseball and thought a comparable book on soccer might be interesting.

Why did football fail to take root in the United States while it spread from England to most of the rest of the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries?

And why did the game have a renaissance since the last decade of the 20th century?

These are the main questions that White sets out to answer in “Soccer in American Culture: The Beautiful Game Struggle for Status” (University of Missouri Press, 2022).

UVA Today contacted White to learn more.

Q. As someone who plays football, how disappointing it was that the game didn’t get the kind of popularity it had in other parts of the world, and the popularity of other sports like football, baseball, basketball, and hockey in America. ,

A. Very few students attended our games, which were often held on Saturday mornings, with a football game scheduled for the afternoon. When we traveled to Road Games, no one took the fan tour with us. Nor did the parents of the football players participate in the games – this was not a practice at the time. In all the years I played sports in prep school and college, my parents, who lived in the New York City area while I attended school in New England, never got into a sport.

But in both Andover and Amherst, the teams I played in had good equipment and good practice and playgrounds. I remember playing games at Wesleyan and Williams, our two major college rivals, and watching the audience comment on me from the sidelines. I remember some helpful comments from fans at home games. But overall we played in oblivion.

Q. Although football has had some renaissance here in the last 20 to 30 years, what have been the factors in your opinion?

A. With regard to men’s football, there is a combination of factors. The sport is being offered far more frequently in public high schools and colleges, resulting in a larger base of experienced players and knowledgeable audiences in the US population. This means the game can be trained better, played at a higher level and viewed with greater appreciation.

In addition, men’s professional football has eventually taken over as a traditional American entrepreneurial approach to sports franchising, in which clubs compete with each other and view their operations as profit-driven – meaning they are franchised. If clubs perform poorly on the field, and when a game is trying to establish itself in the US sports market and its franchises are yet to close to profitable, the gate doesn’t work well.

There is a greater need for an “overseas” approach to the organization of a soccer league, with self-imposed limits on salaries, the construction of soccer-specific stadiums, and the concept of league franchises being on-the-go with business partners. Area competitors.

Q. From a participation standpoint, where does football rank in relation to other sports currently being played in the US, and what is the breakdown of male and female players?

a. With regard to women’s sports, a key factor was the passage of Title IX legislation in the 1970s, which was interpreted as requiring public high schools and colleges to have women’s teams in a sport if they were to compete with men. teams were offered. Once high schools and colleges recognized that they would need to create equal opportunities for women to participate in sports, soccer emerged as an ideal sport for women that was relatively inexpensive, comparatively safe, and was able to be played by women at a higher level. The result has been a dramatic increase in women’s football at all levels.

Football is now the fourth most popular sport in the United States in terms of participation. [behind football, baseball and basketball], Although men still outnumber women in high school and college, the number of female participants has increased every decade since the 1980s.

> You write in your book that the rise of women’s football in this country has actually helped raise the men’s game. Can you explain how it appeared?

a. The development of women’s football has helped enhance the men’s sport in the US as the US women’s national team has had notable success internationally since the 1990s at both the World Cup and the Olympic Games, while the men’s national team has struggled. . As more Americans began to follow the fortunes of the women’s national team, interest in football as a spectator sport also increased, especially during World Cup competitions, especially among “casual fans”.

In the same time period, matches of first-class men’s European leagues such as the British Premier League, Germany’s Bundesliga and Spain’s La Liga have begun to be broadcast in the US, with those events increasing the number of familiar Americans. With football as a sport, it has led to the development of the men’s game to the point where [Major League Soccer] Has now expanded to 30 clubs and is looking to add two more in the short term.

> Do you think football will have as much cultural significance in America as it does elsewhere?

A. To compare the cultural importance of football in America and other countries, one needs to emphasize that football is by far the most important participation and spectator sport in much of the world. Football is played and followed by more people than any other sport in most of Europe, Latin America and Asia, and this trend is likely to increase with the development of women’s football.

In contrast, there are some sports in the US, such as American football, basketball, baseball, and even ice hockey, that have been played and followed over many years in a time interval in which football was markedly minor. It is therefore a major challenge for football to reach “mainstream” status in the US, as well as reach that status in many other countries. But I think mainstream status is a distinct possibility for football in this century.

I reject the theory that there is a limited “cultural space” for sports in any country. In any case, the digital revolution has expanded Americans’ ability to play and watch sports. Unless those organizing and administering soccer in high school, college, and professional leagues make serious mistakes—something that’s always possible (consider current owners of baseball franchises)—I think football will at some point be the current “major”. Games” will be included.

World Nation News Desk
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