Saturday, July 24, 2010


While not much of a sports fan myself, having been away from the United States for an extended time, I've recently realized why the sports that most of the world love just aren't popular in America.

We Americans like our sports much faster paced than everyone else.

For instance, take the recent FIFA World Cup football (soccer to Americans...). Two hours for one, single goal? That's nuts. That's boring! And that's hardly unusual in terms of soccer games, which are usually relatively low scoring.

The nearest equivalent to soccer we have in the U.S. is ice hockey, with typically low scores and it probably ranks last in terms of popularity among professional sports. If it didn't have regular fights, it'd probably be less popular.

Compare soccer to basketballs, another near equivalent in terms of game play. Both have the ball in almost constant movement as the teams move it up and down the playing field to get it into a goal, with the game's duration based on a clock. In basketball they update the rules on a regular basis to make it more exciting for spectators, including a 24 second shot clock, requiring a team that gets possession of the ball to make a goal attempt within 24 seconds or risk losing the ball. And looking at the FIFA world cup again, with 31 goal attempts, in two hours? Yawn!

Baseball vs. cricket, again two sort of similar sports, with bats and balls and similar ideas in terms of offense and defense.

Cricket has two main variants, test matches and one day international matches. Test matches take several days, while one day ones take, well, one day... From my experience watching them, they're slow and dull.

With one day matches, first one side does all of its offensive play while the other does all its defensive play, then they swap, with each "innings" taking roughly 3 to 4 hours. So, even if one team is much worse than the other, it still takes almost the full day to see them lose, especially if they're second at bat, when they may use the whole set of overs to chase the better team. By the end of the game both teams are tired and not playing at their best, so we never see a more even match up between them.

Compared with baseball, in which each team alternates offensive and defensive play, swapping each time there's three outs. Most games take between two and three hours, only going longer if they're pretty evenly matched.

With baseball we get to see each team play both offense and defense when they're fresh at the beginning all the way till they're tired at the end, so it seems like a more even and fair match between them.

So, overall, it just seems that American sports are geared towards a faster pace and more exciting entertainment. But then, I guess we're more accustomed to instant gratification...


  1. Come on, america does have american football which in my view is possibly one of the dullest, slowest sports ever. Controversial I know but how come 60 minutes of on field play takes like half a day. Oh I know it's so the TV channels can squeeze in a few more ad breaks.

    I would agree that American sport is generally geared towards instant gratification, but I'm not sure faster paced always equals more exciting entertainment. Most of the best sporting moments I recall are all about the drama and how it unfolds throughout typically very tight games.

  2. Ok, you got me with the American football thing... I've never actually sat through a game of that as a spectator (or a player, though I've sold food at the concession stand in college and I've done various roles when my high school TV class put the high school games on live television).

    But even with that, the team with the ball has to perform, move 10 yards in four attempts, or lose the ball. So it still has rules geared towards making for more exciting play, along the same lines as professional basketball's 24 second shot clock.

    Americans just don't want to sit and watch teams play too conservatively, we want to watch them make more attempts to score.