Soccer is boring
April 5, 2012 6:30 AM   Subscribe

Soccer's Heavy Boredom: It's true. Mostly nothing happens. Why do we keep watching?
posted by josher71 (140 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Because it proves which country is better than which other country. Baseball only does that at the city level and besides is even more boring, unless you like watching men chew gum and scratch their balls.
posted by DU at 6:35 AM on April 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


I've wonder about that for a lot of televised sports. Golf, for example, or baseball -- two things my dearly departed father used to adore watching. They put me to sleep. (Though, I'll admit, actually going to a ball park is an entirely different experience.)
posted by crunchland at 6:38 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


See also: baseball
posted by Blue_Villain at 6:39 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


And ties? You bet!
posted by shothotbot at 6:40 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Because it proves which country is better than which other country.

It sounds like you're talking about the World Cup, which is only a small part of the soccer world. The regular season matches are inter-city. Heck, even within London I'm sure you've heard of Arsenal and Tottenham and Chelsea. But thats just the ones you've heard of.
posted by vacapinta at 6:40 AM on April 5, 2012


No, football is not boring. The end.
posted by mr.marx at 6:41 AM on April 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


Can't agree that nothing's happening just because it's not part of the immediate build-up to a goal. Particularly when you factor in the entire context of a match, cup or league (to leave international representative matches aside), it all matters, even grinding out a nil-nil. So you're always watching something happening; some dead rubber late season when you're safely but unspectacularly mid-table could still well be the chance to watch the new youth talent being blooded.
posted by Abiezer at 6:41 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The nothing provides a good contrast to something. And when something does happen it's exciting.
posted by mazola at 6:42 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Soccer? What is this soccer you're talking about?

If you're talking football, the thing is, as with any spectator sport: you need to be involved to make it compelling. So that Chelsea Champions League game I had on before the Apprentice came on was only mildly diverting, as I only had a mild preference for them to win, but had it been Liverpool or Aston Villa (yeah, right) then it would've been an edge of my seat thriller.

On the other hand, if you watch a lot of football it can actually become a bit like what David Mitchell describes here.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:45 AM on April 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sumo wrestling is dull.
posted by Artw at 6:47 AM on April 5, 2012


Incidently, if football were as boring as the original article wanted it to be, why can I spend most of my Monday and Friday nights looking at three middle aged men talking about it?
posted by MartinWisse at 6:47 AM on April 5, 2012


His argument is slightly undermined by using as examples Stoke v Wigan (arguably the most boring of English premier league teams*) and Alan Hansen's Liverpool (slated for making use of back-passes to the goalkeeper, a move that was essentially eliminated from the game 20 years ago).

*Though personally I like watching Stoke, because it can be fun watching so-called anti-football play "proper" football teams like Arsenal. And because Stoke fans are getting really good at trolling fans of proper football teams. (e.g. singing England rugby songs because they're seen as a a rough, violent and unskilled team).
posted by Infinite Jest at 6:51 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Apologies from the States. We are really well past this. Also, three-month old Grantland piece?
posted by stargell at 6:51 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Soccer players are hot.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:51 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Football is only boring if you don't know what to look for. All those stretched when nothing's happening? Something's happening.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:52 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


StretcheS. Dammit.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:52 AM on April 5, 2012


Sports fans tend to focus on individual: Messi dribbling through defenders, Jordan making a spinning dunk, and Woods mashing a 320-yard drive. Occasionally focus is on a combination: turning a triple play, long bomb from quarterback to wide receiver, the pick in basketball. To be enjoyed, soccer, hockey, and basketball have to be viewed as fluid, sometimes coordinated action wherein the awareness of the location and probably activity of each team member and of the opposing team members is key to probing and developing likely opportunities of scoring. Since those new to a game focus immediately on individual play and scoring, basketball is the most accessible of these three. Hockey, because it is blazingly fast and has fights (!) attracts it boutique clientele. Soccer can be played by just about any kid growing up, requires only a ball and a field, presents immediate challenges to coordination and awareness, and has very simple rules, attracts children, who grow into fans in full awareness of the intricacies of the sport.

I'm almost never bored during a soccer game.
posted by Mental Wimp at 6:53 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, I've watched Formula One, each and every single GP, since 1992, so don't come tellin' me which spectator sport is borig. Bah.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 6:53 AM on April 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


What is this fucking asshole definition of boring? Here we are on a web site where people will go practically orgasmic over the most obscure, minutiae-heavy, arcane, takes 12 years of postdoc work to even crack the surface, wait 30 years for research to come together shit (and I mean that respectfully) but you throw a colorful uniform on some people and unfortunately get a huge crowd of booze and semi-fascist fans watching and the intricacies and beauty of playing out a long, complex strategy a la chess at the highest level is suddenly BORING?? Fuck you.
posted by spicynuts at 6:55 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Golf, for example, or baseball -- two things my dearly departed father used to adore watching. They put me to sleep.

Golf on TV is for afternoon naps. That is why the announcers whisper.
posted by srboisvert at 6:55 AM on April 5, 2012 [31 favorites]


And then Stoke got a money infusion and bought Peter Crouch and actually got quite far in the Europa League and then Crouch scored perhaps the best goal of the season two weeks ago.

Which still doesn't justify Stoke buying him, cause it's his mug next to Wayne Rooney's in the dictionary under overrated, but did make for a nice football moment from a team everybody always says can't play football.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:56 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Apologies from the States. We are really well past this. Also, three-month old Grantland piece?


Take to Metatalk if you disapprove, please.
posted by josher71 at 6:56 AM on April 5, 2012


How is Crouch overrated? He's out of the England team despite being arguably the best striker at the international level after Rooney.
posted by josher71 at 6:57 AM on April 5, 2012


Even that spanish announcer from the Simpsons would sleep through most NBA games.
posted by OHenryPacey at 6:59 AM on April 5, 2012


spicynuts: "What is this fucking asshole definition of boring? [ranty rant] Fuck you."
Did you RTFA?
posted by brokkr at 7:00 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've given up on trying to convince football haters why football is a great sport. It has everything necessary for a great game, including everything the haters say it doesn't:

It's a very tactical game. What formation do we use? How do we we dissect the other team? When, why, how or do we sit on a lead? Do we attack, or defend and look for breaks?

The athleticism needed to play at the upper levels is incredible. If you haven't seen a match live, there's no way you can appreciate the speed of every player on the pitch.

Play is non-stop. 'Nuff said.

The low-scoring argument is just horseshit. If a goal was arbitrarily worth 6 points, would that make football more legit?
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:02 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile, if you want a proper boring sport, which is neigh incomprehensible as well and where the commentators rather talk about the nice cake a Mrs Trellis of South Wales has sent them than about whatever isn't happening on the field, cricket is the sport for you.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:02 AM on April 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


American xenophobia.
posted by incandissonance at 7:02 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


despite being arguably the best striker at the international level after Rooney.

And that's Crouch and Rooney being overrated.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:03 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, if you want a proper boring sport, which is neigh incomprehensible as well and where the commentators rather talk about the nice cake a Mrs Trellis of South Wales has sent them than about whatever isn't happening on the field, cricket is the sport for you.
Burn the heretic!
posted by Abiezer at 7:03 AM on April 5, 2012


Sorry, meant to say English striker.
posted by josher71 at 7:04 AM on April 5, 2012


As an adult who has recently started teaching 2nd graders, I've tried to start checking myself when I call anything "boring." Kids call things boring all the time. "I had the most boring weekend," they'll say, "all I did was go for a walk and swim and ride my bike and play board games." Sometimes I try to give them a little perspective, but then again, they don't have a full grasp of their world yet. They don't really get "boring."

So when people casually drop, for example, "baseball is boring because hey look chewing tobacco and ass-scratching," I kind of wince. Sure, boringness is subjective, and if baseball bores you, so be it. But boring is a weird, loaded word. In baseball, for instance, there's a shitload of stuff going on at all times. If you choose to be bored by it, go ahead. But you could also choose, if you'd like (no pressure!) to say, "wait a second, millions of people are NOT BORED with this exact same experience. What am I missing?"

Same with soccer/football, which I think this dude in the article explains pretty well.
posted by ORthey at 7:05 AM on April 5, 2012 [19 favorites]


Abiezer, after the rain subsides.
posted by Gyan at 7:05 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I used to think soccer was boring until I developed an appreciation for the players' athleticism & coordination. The hard ones, like faking a left move then going right, or passing with a backwards kick. (Sorry, I don't know the terminology!)

Also, this:

fluid, sometimes coordinated action wherein the awareness of the location and probably activity of each team member and of the opposing team members is key to probing and developing likely opportunities of scoring.

When I watched just for the scores, I was bored, & in fact rarely saw goals b/c I gave up too soon. It's the stuff between the scores that's as much, if not more interesting.
posted by yoga at 7:05 AM on April 5, 2012


I was a serious American Pro Football fan for years; then, I became bored with the sameness of the game; the pathetic macho ethic (destroy your opponent, physically); the 98 IQ ex-jock, overly concussed announcers; the getto image of a lot of the players; the Christians kneeling before the game and after touchdowns; the absurd ticket prices.

I watched my first World Cup about a decade ago, and got hooked. I got hooked on the subtle beauty and physicality of the game, and many other things that simply resonate. Next to baseball, it's my favorite sport. I don't even watch the Superbowl any more, unless my local team is playing - and even then it's kind of a letdown.

I played and understand a lot about American football; it's far more boring than Soccer.
posted by Vibrissae at 7:07 AM on April 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


saying something is boring is akin to saying you just don't understand it.
posted by any major dude at 7:07 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Only boring people get bored.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 7:10 AM on April 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've wonder about that for a lot of televised sports. Golf, for example, or baseball ...

I'm not even joking, but sometimes I just like the color green.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:10 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, anyone who understands the fine points of baseball can never be bored. Essentially, what the more physical (and ultra macho/ghetto) games of basketball, pro football, and hockey serve as a jolt for my boring fellow Americans. Baseball puts every one of those games to shame; I have played all of them, at fairly high amateur levels. No comparison.
posted by Vibrissae at 7:11 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would have been glued to the TV hoping for a replay of every single goal linked in the article, and hunted Youtube afterwards. The skills displayed were enormous!

Disclosure: fanatic football (English, Italian, Spanish, etc.) fan.
posted by francesca too at 7:12 AM on April 5, 2012


saying something is boring is akin to saying you just don't understand it.

I think that's the point the article makes. Once you've played soccer you begin to appreciate how each action contributes to the whole, which makes the kruft in between goals much more meaningful, and therefore exciting. Because soccer isn't broken in to discrete attack/defense phases by the rules (such as baseball and football) and doesn't have frequent stops and starts punctuated by frequent scores (such as basketball) it's easy to dismiss the actions of the players that lead up to the goal as 'boring'.

This is true, at least for me. I've never played soccer and can't stand watching games because it seems like nothing is ever happening. I can appreciate how someone would like it, so I won't call it a bad game, but it is boring for me.
posted by codacorolla at 7:13 AM on April 5, 2012


It is true that long scoreless spells can frustrate even the most ardent fans. For example

LOWLY German outfit Magdeburg failed to find the net for five consecutive
games.

But rather than boo their own players as is the modern way, these fans decided
to lend a helping hand.

Supporters of the German Regionalliga Nord side handed out arrows ahead of
their home match with Berliner AK '07 on Sunday.


The fans gathered in the stands behind the goal and held up a banner reading: "Don't
worry, chaps, we will show you where the goal is!"


Having said that, I think JB Priestley perhaps provided a better insight than the linked article into the reasons why we continue to be supporters:


To say that these men paid their shillings to watch twenty-two hirelings kick a ball is merely to say that a violin is wood and catgut, that Hamlet is so much paper and ink. For a shilling the Bruddersford United AFC offered you Conflict and Art; it turned you into a critic, happy in your judgement of fine points, ready in a second to estimate the worth of a well-judged pass, a run down the touch line, a lightning shot, a clearance kick by back or goalkeeper; it turned you into a partisan, holding your breath when the ball came sailing into your own goalmouth, ecstatic when your forwards raced away towards the opposite goal, elated, downcast, bitter, triumphant by turn at the fortunes of your side, watching a ball shape Iliads and Odysseys for you; and what is more, it turned you into a member of a new community, all brothers together for an hour and a half, for not only had you escaped from the clanking machinery of this lesser life, from work, wages, rent, doles, sick pay, insurance cards, nagging wives, ailing children, bad bosses, idle workmen, but you had escaped with most of your neighbours, with half the town, and there you were cheering together, thumping one another on the shoulders, swopping judgements like lords of the earth, having pushed your way through a turnstile into another and altogether more splendid kind of life, hurtling with Conflict and yet passionate and beautiful in its Art. Moreover it offered you more than a shilling's worth of material for talk during the rest of the week. A man who had missed the last home match of "t'United" had to enter social life on a tiptoe in Bruddersford.
posted by Jakey at 7:13 AM on April 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


Many things are boring when you don't understand what you're watching.
posted by chasing at 7:14 AM on April 5, 2012


MartinWisse: And then Stoke got a money infusion and bought Peter Crouch and actually got quite far in the Europa League and then Crouch scored perhaps the best goal of the season two weeks ago.

Stoke's money infusion has actually been around since before they arrived in the Premier League and is pretty much entirely coincident with Tony Pulis's second spell as manager, because it's also Peter Coates's second spell as chairman. £43m since 2006 isn't Manchester City-level spending, but it's serious money for mid-table Championship to mid-table Premier League teams.

BTW, that Dutch 'English sport' clip is one of my favourite things in the world. The commentary is just so plausible!
posted by smcg at 7:17 AM on April 5, 2012


I've tried to watch soccer. I've tried to watch NASCAR. I'm glad people find joy in them, but I'd rather take a nice nap than watch either.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:21 AM on April 5, 2012


Fucking whatever. The more you know and understand the better it is and the more you appreciate it. Like anything. Most people are bored by classical music but if you understand it then it's not boring at all. People who don't know the rules or strategies of baseball think it's extremely boring as well. Whatever.
posted by ReeMonster at 7:22 AM on April 5, 2012


I'm appalled soccer is finally catching on in the US. Baseball was boring enough for my granddad, goldurn it, and it's boring enough for me!
posted by Olden_Bittermann at 7:24 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


When soldiers are asked about their experiences of war, one of the largest responses they give is about the boredom, the waiting for orders, waiting for deployment, waiting. They spend most of their time doing make-work jobs like digging trenches, emptying latrines, darning socks, picking lice, and farting. You don't see much of that in war movies.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:26 AM on April 5, 2012


chasing: "Many things are boring when you don't understand what you're watching."

Cricket and curling are fun to watch and I absolutely do not understand what I'm watching.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:26 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, you football and baseball fans think you've got boredom, forget it, try cricket for size. Five goddamn days watching a guy bounce a ball of the dirt, and when there finally is actual action, its two guys jogging a few yards back and forth.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:29 AM on April 5, 2012


Also, you football and baseball fans think you've got boredom, forget it, try cricket for size. Five goddamn days watching a guy bounce a ball of the dirt, and when there finally is actual action, its two guys jogging a few yards back and forth.

It's like anything. Some people think Opera is boring; cooking; car shows, etc. etc. The more you know, the less boring it is until one has really made an attempt to understand and participate in the activity at some level, even basic beginner. After that, one might find one thing less resonant, or boring, than another.

Frankly, boredom is an encounter with the self, after outside stimulation has worn out its welcome. Think about that.
posted by Vibrissae at 7:32 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've given a lot of thought to this actually and while I might be biased because I played for 15 years, I think soccer's lack of appeal in the US comes from its lack of objective gratification.

Compare it to basketball. In basketball, almost every change in possession ends in points awarded. A single minute passing without any baskets made is almost ludicrous. Then look at football. Yes, you can have low-scoring games, but there is still an objective form of progress being made. The field is literally delineated to show how far a team has progressed to their ultimate goal. Each play results in some form of objective progress or lack thereof. Even baseball has men at bases showing the potential to score. To contrast these sports with what the US terms soccer, we see that with the exception of goals in soccer (which happen perhaps too infrequently), there's no way to objectively measure how well a team is doing. Great plays are joys to watch for fans who know the game, but for everyone else, what's the point? All that work for nothing. Not even a 2-point basket. Not even 10-yards earned. Just a lot of excitement to result in nothing to show for it.

I think people find soccer boring because it can seem full of sound and fury and signifies nothing of merit. There's no achievement absent of the goals. But for fans, its the play itself that can be enough of a reward. We've all seen 0-0 games full of drama, excitement, and amazing plays. Certainly basketball and football have these features too, but they're coupled with objective measures of progress toward victory. Soccer doesn't have that feature.

So soccer is seen as boring because to those who don't appreciate the play, nothing happens if there are no goals.

This sounds pretentious, so apologies for that.
posted by ChipT at 7:36 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, I believe all sports should be accelerated to where the speed of play is acceptable to the ADD and instant-gratification inflicted.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:37 AM on April 5, 2012


Meanwhile, if you want a proper boring sport, which is neigh incomprehensible as well and where the commentators rather talk about the nice cake a Mrs Trellis of South Wales has sent them than about whatever isn't happening on the field, cricket is the sport for you.

Across the street from my house (in Orange County, CA, as in Housewives of...) there's a park. Every Sunday morning a group of Indian men set up a cricket... pitch? field? and play some cricket, and that's pretty much the only sport I enjoy watching, because I have no idea what's going on and I like trying to figure out why they do what they do. I haven't made much progress.

Non-American football, though, I love playing, because I play with my students (6-7 year olds) and there can be n goalies and everyone just kicks the ball around. Watching, not so much.
posted by Huck500 at 7:39 AM on April 5, 2012


I'm a fan and I still find it immensely boring at times. That's why they invented Match of the Day.
posted by Frasermoo at 7:40 AM on April 5, 2012


Five goddamn days watching a guy bounce a ball of the dirt, and when there finally is actual action, its two guys jogging a few yards back and forth.

I think this comment underscore the whole argument about understanding what you're watching; in cricket, the guy bouncing the ball into the dirt is the action. The two blokes running back and forth is largely a side show.
posted by fatfrank at 7:44 AM on April 5, 2012


I missed this post when it first came up because I was busy plotting out my fantasy transfers for the final 6 weeks of the season. Must maintain my Champions League position in the Metafilter league!

There's a lot to be found in football, but a big part of getting in to it is having a community that also enjoys it. I think a lot of the "soccer is boring" people gave the game an honest shot, but when they did, they sat down alone on the couch some Sunday morning and nothing clicked. That's fine.

For me, it started with the World Cup and EPL games being on early enough on the weekends that I could tune in while tending to our newborn thus letting Mommy get some sleep. Repetition furthered interest and I found a few blogs and sites, such as the fantasy league, that gave a sense of community. Before long, I found myself tuning in to games even when my son was asleep.

Once I had a better sense of the game, I could understand what was going on on the pitch better and therefore get more out of each match, even if it's a 0-0 draw. It helps to have people to chat about the games with, even if you are just listening to others chat on a podcast or something (Seriously, check out Men in Blazers hosted by Grantland) when you're first trying to get into the game.

We used to have a few Mefites who would meet up in a chatroom to watch games, but that fell by the wayside. Maybe we could start it up again?

PS - Anyone else going to Liverpool/Roma in Boston or Spurs/Liverpool in Baltimore?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:47 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's like anything. Some people think Opera is boring; cooking; car shows, etc. etc.

Don't misunderstand me, I love cricket, I just think the baseball fans with their "stats" and men standing around have got nothing, NOTHING on the stats and men standing around action of cricket.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:47 AM on April 5, 2012


"Mostly nothing happens. Why do we keep watching?"

Because few as meaningful events are in football, they're still more frequent than in the lives of the typical spectator. (Cue chorus of objectors insisting they're atypical.)

The bad news is, this is as good as it gets.
posted by aurelian at 7:49 AM on April 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't know. It's a mystery. A beautiful mystery.

No, wait. The answer is Dennis Bergkamp.
posted by dyobmit at 7:49 AM on April 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Bad soccer is hard to watch but good soccer can be quite fun. I think the thing I like about it is that in a match with two well matched opponents it's a near constant crescendo of tension building up over the course of a half in which the teams start out in measured gameplans and slowly feel each other out until they begin to find weakness and then they try to exploit those weaknesses without leaving themselves open to a counter attack.

The constant back and forth of the ball through the midfield as teams sally forth and retreat backwards can be almost hypnotic especially when you have teams with a strong passing game.

Eventually one team or one player might make a mental error and the other team's players will exploit that error and score. Or someone will have a momentary stroke of brilliance which leaves the opposition on their heels long enough for player to score.

Suddenly playing for a tie is no longer and option and the opposition has to be more adventurous, especially towards the end of a half. The team with the scoring advantage plays more defensively knowing time is on their side. The action gets furious as one team takes more and more risks opening themselves to counters.

Combined with the limitations on substitutions means that teams are constantly engaging in a ritualized form of warfare with each other. It's fascinating in the extreme especially when the tribal aspect of the fan response (particularly during phases like the world cup which is generally when Americans will experience any hint of the tribal aspects of football).

Matches where one team is clearly superior (Barca vs just about anyone) and it's just a matter of seeing the highlight film of Messi humiliating the defense can be fun but don't have the same constant tension that more even matches have.

Unfortunately it seems like there is such a discrepancy between the good and bad teams due to financial constraints that fairly even matches between quality sides aren't as common as we'd like. La Liga is ridiculously unbalanced (Barca and Real Madrid being the two powerhouses), and English Premiership isn't much better. Something that would limit the ability for one side to simply purchase titles would be awesome.
posted by vuron at 7:50 AM on April 5, 2012


Soccer / Football is a fantastic sport to watch.

AND THERE ARE NO COMMERCIALS !!
posted by Vindaloo at 7:53 AM on April 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think this comment underscore the whole argument about understanding what you're watching; in cricket, the guy bouncing the ball into the dirt is the action. The two blokes running back and forth is largely a side show.

Yes, yes, I know that, but how much time does each bowl actually take? Maybe two seconds? Mostly what you're watching is the bowler walking back to position, scratching himself, rubbing the ball on his crotch, some grass kicking, the batsman adjusting his gloves a bit, back to the bowler for some more scratching, a bit more kicking at the grass...
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:55 AM on April 5, 2012


Also, Mario Balotelli. What's he going to do this week? Burst into a school to yell at bullies? Burst into a press conference for another team? Burst into a fight with his team mates? Make his bathroom burst into flames? Burst out with a t-shirt proclaiming his love for some model who sold her virginity online?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:58 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


My granddad was a machinist, a damn good one. Learned his trade serving in a US Army Mobile Machine Shop during WWII, then went to work in a big mill when he got back home. Granddad was the strong silent type, didn't waste words and didn't mince them either. But the one thing he did like to talk about was his time during the war. He'd sit us kids down and regale us with story after story of his years in the European theater, driving from town to town, repairing jeeps and tanks and all sorts of machinery on the fly, working with little more than his hands, his intuition, and a mess of parts scavenged here and there.

But the thing he liked to talk about most was what he and his buddies used to do in their down time. Whenever his truck met up with another Mobile Machine Shop, and they had a little time spare, the two trucks would pull up side-by-side and have contests to see who could perform a task the quickest. Might have been sawing a complicated pattern in a piece of aluminum or planing a piece of steel to a certain thickness. The tasks always required a delicate combination of precision and brute force. My granddad's specialty was the drill press. He liked to tell us that he never lost a drill press race in 3 years at the front, and we had no reason not to believe him. He could cut a hole faster than any other man in the Army or probably all of Europe, and he could eyeball a drill bit to within a millimeter.

To tell the truth, granddad was a little obsessed with those drill press races, and he brought them up every time we visited him. I guess WWII was the most exciting time of his life, and those races were the high point of that exciting time. I miss old granddad, but I don't miss those stories. I just never had the heart tell him that I didn't want to hear again about the most boring sport in the world.
posted by googly at 8:07 AM on April 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


the game gets in your head. Following soccer is like being in love with someone who's (a) gorgeous, (b) fascinating, (c) possibly quite evil, and (d) only occasionally aware of your existence. There's a continuous low-grade suffering that becomes a sort of addiction in its own right. You spend all your time hoping they'll notice you, and they never do, and that unfulfilled hope feels like your only connection to them. And then one day they look your way, and it's just, pow. And probably they just want help moving, and maybe they call you Josie instead of Julie, but still. It keeps you going. And as irrational as it sounds, you wouldn't trade this state of being for a life of quiet contentment with someone else. All you could gain would be peace of mind, and you'd lose that moment when the object of your fixation looked at you and you couldn't feel your face.

Pah! You Europeans, with your Arsenal and your Real Madrid! Give me a good ol'-fashioned Symbionese Liberation Army any day.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:08 AM on April 5, 2012


Low scoring is a feature, not a bug. It means that a goal is this monumental orgasmic thing. It means that games often go down to the wire. And it means that anything that unfairly caused/prevented a goal is a huge controversy.
posted by kersplunk at 8:10 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can boil it down to a sentence, frankly it is basic psychology:

Prolonged anticipation with bursts of dramatic rewards is some of the most addictive reinforcing behavior imaginable.





Hockey is kind of like this as well
posted by edgeways at 8:11 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Kent Brockman: Halfback passes to the center. Back to the wing. Back to the center. Center holds it. Holds it. [sighs] Holds it.
Spanish sports commentator: Halfback passes to center - back to wing - back to center -- center holds it! Holds it! Holds It!!!
posted by Mchelly at 8:21 AM on April 5, 2012


Do the people quoting the Simpsons piece realise that it's quoted at length in the original article?
posted by Infinite Jest at 8:29 AM on April 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Do the people quoting the Simpsons piece realise that it's quoted at length in the original article?

I like to imagine they do realize it, 'cause then it just seems like they're doing a Rainman-like compulsive repetition of the same phrases over and over again.

Holds it! Holds it!

ha ha ha

check this out: Holds it!

ha ha remember that when that happened on the simpsons

posted by Greg Nog at 8:37 AM on April 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Sports Night: Soccer
posted by Bonzai at 8:46 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Has everyone at Grantland apparently decided that that Klosterman thing where you nose around a point or two without ever actually getting your teeth all the way around it like a Labrador retriever at the slobber-soaked remains of an old bone is, like, a revolutionary style of argument?
posted by gompa at 8:48 AM on April 5, 2012


Sumo wrestling is dull.

You are so wrong. I love sumo.


Frankly, boredom is an encounter with the self, after outside stimulation has worn out its welcome. Think about that.

Only boring people get bored.

Clearly you people have never worked in a warehouse full of elections materials.


The more you know and understand the better it is and the more you appreciate it. Like anything. Most people are bored by classical music but if you understand it then it's not boring at all. People who don't know the rules or strategies of baseball think it's extremely boring as well.


It's not always a question of "understanding" though; some things just aren't for some people. I like soccer, I have liked baseball at times, but either can be boring on occasion. And classical just doesn't do it for me; it's not that I don't understand it, it just doesn't move me. 20 minutes of music I don't enjoy is boring.
posted by Hoopo at 8:55 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hockey is kind of like this as well

Unless I'm misunderstanding you, I'd have to respectfully disagree on this hard. There is no other team sport where the pace of play is even in the same basic physical universe as hockey. The players are moving at nearly the speed the ball does in baseball and soccer. Baseball will sometimes build over a couple of hours into the kind of frantic tension a good hockey game achieves in less than a minute; the occasional spikes on the long flat EKG of a soccer match might hit the heights a couple times a game that the NHL's cardiac arrest graph hits as a matter of course. In a good NHL playoff game, you can get nearly 100 shots on goal, often in multi-shot flurries, and several dozen scoring chances; in a Champions League football match, you get what, maybe 20 shots "on target"? Two rebounds in a real Messi-like barnburner?

This doesn't make hockey better than soccer or baseball, necessarily - I love a good mounting-tension baseball game with its ponderous yawning lulls and browknitting managerial moves almost as much as playoff hockey - but suggesting that they share any kind of pace/tension profile with each other doesn't add up. It's not even apples and oranges; it's apples and cotton candy or something.
posted by gompa at 9:05 AM on April 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry but this post is so ridiculously US-centric that I find it deeply offensive.

The author just doesn't really football, but feels that he can parade his ignorance as representing, somehow, an attempt to connect with "foreigners".

Admittedly, I am a little touchy as there seems to have been a growth of this on Metafilter recently.
posted by BadMiker at 9:07 AM on April 5, 2012


I can boil it down to a sentence, frankly it is basic psychology:

Prolonged anticipation with bursts of dramatic rewards is some of the most addictive reinforcing behavior imaginable.

Hockey is kind of like this as well


Total agreement here, with the exception that in Hockey, the speed and back-and-forth attempts are much quicker, and, given the particular rules, are more apt to make "every action count." Granted, soccer (football) may indeed have rules such as offsides and how/when passes may be completed, but it really seems like such a "slow motion" game by comparison.

It's not often in hockey that you can see someone basically just "stand there" holding the puck without fear of an attacker stealing it from him. Nor are you likely to see an attack that has taken several minutes to build up suddenly nullfied by the defenders simply shooting the puck the length of the ice, except during a Power Play.

Soccer is too big and too slow, that is the problem (for those of us who consider the sport, in and of itself, "boring." Note that this has nothing to do with the drama and excitement of inter-city or National rivalries. It's just the mechanics of the game.

Hockey has a lot of the same "throw the puck away, then chase it down and try to get it back from the other team" elements as soccer, but such moments last only seconds, and are generally accompanied by clashing bodies and several players from opposing teams converging within an instant on this tiny black piece of rubber. The same thing in soccer appears to consist of a few long, arcing lobs of the ball landing at the feet of a player who is at least three screen-widths away, and at least 5 or 10 seconds from any imminent danger of attack. (and if he is attacked, he can always just kick the ball the length of the field and reset everything)

The nature of soccer is so DEAD SET AGAINST the scoring of goals (i.e. the whole point of the game itself) that goalies average a measley 5 saves per game! They tend to allow (about) 1 goal per game. Hockey goalies, by comparison, tend to make about 30 saves per game, and allow about 3 goals. Sure, that means that each and every shot in soccer counts more, but 12 shots in 90 minutes leaves an awful lot of time for a war of attrition consisting of kicking the ball back and forth until someone finds a break in the defense.

I like hockey for all of its "Prolonged anticipation with bursts of dramatic rewards" but in the case of hockey, there are far more dramatic rewards (along with equally exciting "near misses") and much less "meaningless back-and-forth"
posted by ShutterBun at 9:22 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


In a good NHL playoff game, you can get nearly 100 shots on goal, often in multi-shot flurries

The average game is much closer to 60-70 though...100 would be a hell of a game, probably with multiple overtimes. And "trap" hockey was kinda boring...at least comparatively.
posted by Hoopo at 9:25 AM on April 5, 2012


I'm sorry but this post is so ridiculously US-centric that I find it deeply offensive [...] Admittedly, I am a little touchy as there seems to have been a growth of this on Metafilter recently.

A growth of people who like soccer, while still acknowledging that it's kinda boring sometimes? Like all other sports?

I think the attitudes like IT'S NOT BORING AT ALL EVER, or highfalutin versions of FOOTIE'S BORING?! YOU'RE BORING!!!! actually are more provincially arrogant, ignorant, and offensive. But don't let me stop you from elaborating on your point.
posted by fleacircus at 9:26 AM on April 5, 2012


I like watching soccer because it reminds me of my youth spent watching the collected works of Michelangelo Antonioni. *Sniff* I remember it just as though it were yesterday...
posted by flechsig at 9:27 AM on April 5, 2012


Any sport you haven't taken the time to understand will be seen as boring.
posted by rocket88 at 9:28 AM on April 5, 2012


BadMiker: The guy wrote an entire online serial based on his campaign playing Football Manager. (It's been linked here before: search for "Pro Vercelli".) Brian Phillips loves soccer.
posted by asterix at 9:35 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The comment regarding hockey is more to do with the scoring than the pace. Low scoring sports, which hockey is relatively, produce heightened anticipation, so when a score does happen the reward is higher.

Something like, American football, or basketball where scoring can happen often, often tamps down the individuality of the score (basketball even more so than AFootball) and compresses most of the actual tension into the last few moments of the game, so as often as not you may as well watch the last 3 minutes of a basketball game, and perhaps the last quarter of an Afootball game, as all the scoring that actually determines the game happens then and there.

yes, of course there are exceptions all the time.

Hockey and Soccer? Hell, the winning goal can just as easily be in the first few seconds as in the last few moments, and if it is in the first few seconds between two even teams the tension mounts and sustains, even during the holds! holds! moments. (I think this is the basis behind the soccer hooligans)
posted by edgeways at 9:35 AM on April 5, 2012


There have been a load of high scoring matches between the top teams in the Premier League this season, by the way. The quality is down from 5 years ago, but it's great stuff.

Man Utd 8-2 Arsenal
Man City 6-1 Man Utd
Arsenal 5-3 Chelsea
Arsenal 5-2 Spurs

etc.
posted by kersplunk at 9:37 AM on April 5, 2012


Hockey goalies, by comparison, tend to make about 30 saves per game, and allow about 3 goals.

Even with padding, I will never understand what drives someone to get in front of a slapshot from Zdeno Chara or the like. You'd have to be nuts.
posted by Hoopo at 9:37 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


All goalkeepers are nuts. In all sports. Goes with the territory.
posted by kersplunk at 9:38 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


PS I'm a goalkeeper. Soccer, Gaelic football, and hurling. Soccer is the most fun because you have the most influence on the outcome of the game. In football and hurling, the points are essentially out of your hands.
posted by kersplunk at 9:40 AM on April 5, 2012


Hockey and Soccer? Hell, the winning goal can just as easily be in the first few seconds as in the last few moments, and if it is in the first few seconds between two even teams the tension mounts and sustains, even during the holds! holds! moments.

Okay, I partially agree with you, but I'd footnote this by saying that there's a potential for scoring bursts in hockey that simply doesn't exist in soccer. A two or three goal lead can vanish in a couple of frenzied minutes in hockey, whereas two-goal leads in soccer are all but insurmountable (especially after the 70th minute or so). The Canadians entered the third period of their semi-final with Russia at this year's World Juniors trailing 6-1. It ended in a breathless 6-5 nailbiter that almost surely would've gone to overtime if there'd been one more minute in the period.
posted by gompa at 9:43 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Actually, I'm remembering that Canada-Russia semi as even less dramatic than it was. Russia scored their sixth goal in the 3rd period. That game was 6-1 Russia with 12 minutes left. Goddamn that was a helluva game . . .)
posted by gompa at 9:45 AM on April 5, 2012


The thing about soccer as a spectator sport is that you have to pay attention every second to make it worth your time-otherwise you're not in the flow of the game, you don't really know what is going on, and you might miss something important. That's ok in certain limited contexts when I can focus my attention on the match, but (for example) I spent big chunks of the NCAA mens college basketball tournament working on my taxes while I watched. Ok, free throws/replay review/timeout, I know that I don't need to pay too much attention for the next short while. Sports watching time is multitasking time or social time for me; other sports are built with more natural pauses where you can go get a beer or go the the bathroom or talk with your friends.
posted by Kwine at 9:46 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Soccer? What is this soccer you're talking about?

It's a (U.K.) English word. But, you know, just like the "soccer is boring!" thing never gets old, neither does the "stupid Americans, you call it soccer!" thing.
posted by asterix at 9:58 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Soccer is boring. One of the misconceptions non-soccer fans have about soccer fans is that we don't know this."

I read the entire article, but the first sentence is just nonsense. He can't be a "soccer" fan AND say it is boring — and he certainly doesn't speak for me as a soccer fan when he claims it is AND I am supposed to know this. Bullshit. It isn't boring if one bothers to understand the game.

The main problem with people who find any sport boring is to assume that the only interesting part of the game is where the ball/puck/etc is. Same as other sports, it is better in person where you can see the whole pitch/field. Baseball is boring when all you see is the pitcher, catcher and batter, but if you understand the game and realize that outside of the view the camera is showing people are shifting positions and doing things that are more than standing around chewing on something and scratching somewhere. Hockey is boring if you only see the puck but not the way the other players who don't have it are skating and moving. American football is boring if you are only watching the QB. Golf is boring if ... ummm... ok, golf is just boring unless you are playing, and then it is just frustrating.

Soccer isn't boring, and if you think it is it is you and not the beautiful game.

I am glad this article was posted though, because I hadn't seen that beautiful Dennis Bergkamp goal the author linked ... and I am an Arsenal supporter. And what isn't mentioned is how awesome the through ball that made the goal possible was!
posted by terrapin at 10:02 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is sex boring other than the orgasm? Come on.
posted by MillMan at 10:15 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


gompa: There is no other team sport where the pace of play is even in the same basic physical universe as hockey.

Respectful disagreement, the aforementioned hurling competes with hockey speedwise I believe. Disclaimer: I've never seen a hockey game.
posted by nfg at 10:22 AM on April 5, 2012


The thing that's odd about this conversation is the insistence that "boring" is an objective thing and not just someone's opinion. Some people are bored by soccer, that is not evidence that they don't understand it or that soccer is by nature boring. I find simple arithmetic boring, is that to say I don't understand it? Pretty sure I do.

hurling

I just had a look on wikipedia...good lord that looks dangerous!
posted by Hoopo at 10:26 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Then there's Australian football, which is especially dangerous as the players are all highly venomous.
posted by Artw at 10:31 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Soccer has a few good points. There are definitely plenty of quiet stretches, but the excitement is built up even more. Sure, a first play touchdown pass in OT is exciting, a buzzer-beating 3 pointer can make a close game's fight worth every basket. Those have nothing on a game like US v. Algeria in the 2010 World Cup. Built up over the entire game, a single goal pushed a team from tournament elimination to first in group. That's a moment of impact right there. Trouble is, quite a few games really do end up quite boring and Americans absolutely hate tie games. That's why overtimes and shootouts exist.

We Americans are just afraid of soccer because obviously playing it causes severe loss of balance to the point that someone three steps away can cause a player to flop on his back and cover his face as it was clearly somehow injured. A game that dangerous clearly must be given a wide berth.
posted by Saydur at 10:33 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


We Americans are just afraid of soccer because obviously playing it causes severe loss of balance to the point that someone three steps away can cause a player to flop on his back and cover his face as it was clearly somehow injured. A game that dangerous clearly must be given a wide berth.

Yeah, faking injury is just not America's style.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:47 AM on April 5, 2012


Before I started following English Premier League and the Championship this season, I didn't care about any sport at all. But I've absolutely fallen in love with football. I look forward to watching the matches every weekend. If you're invested and pay attention to the tables, upcoming fixtures, transfer rumors and football news it's really very exciting.
posted by anoirmarie at 11:02 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a (U.K.) English word. But, you know, just like the "soccer is boring!" thing never gets old, neither does the "stupid Americans, you call it soccer!" thing.

Yeah, that's always the response when Americans are caught out in this particular provincialism, but it doesn't excuse it. It's still football, not soccer.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:07 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you're invested and pay attention to the tables, upcoming fixtures, transfer rumors and football news it's really very exciting.

Which is of course the case with every sport, the metanarrative is as interesting or more so than the actual games.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:12 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Caught out? I'm not sure what you mean. It's soccer in the US. That's its name over here. It doesn't have to excuse it.
posted by Carillon at 11:19 AM on April 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's still football, not soccer.

Did you even click the link? The English/British/UKoGBaNIans only stopped calling it "soccer" in the last 30 years or so.

Never mind that I'm being lectured on this by someone whose native language isn't even English!
posted by asterix at 11:23 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Like I always told my British wife, that's the whole reason I speak English gooder than somebody whose native language it is: I got taught it in a systemic manner, rather than in the slapdash manner y'all learned from your parents.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:34 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


We do still use 'soccer' in the UK, though must admit it's not a word that I would say in natural conversation, but for, e.g., journos who need to not repeat themselves, or coaches offering 'soccer skills' course (because of the alliteration) it doesn't seem out of place.
posted by Abiezer at 11:36 AM on April 5, 2012


Tables, relegation battles (I'm secretly hoping Wigan and Blackburn both stay up), and the meta-narrative can be gripping, but in terms of the actual games, I'm watching the individual skills and the team interplay. There is an ebb and flow to the games and they change as players get tired -- they do, after all, run a 10k during the game. For me, as a fan, the fantastically timed and weighted pass, or the movement off the ball are as much to be admired as a goal might be.

2-0 might not statistically be the most dangerous score, but games can change very quickly.

I'd love to see relegation in U.S. sports, but I suspect it's a practical/geographical problem.
posted by idb at 11:39 AM on April 5, 2012


Screw this. I'm calling it calcio from here on out, cultural imperialist.
posted by asterix at 11:42 AM on April 5, 2012


in terms of the actual games, I'm watching the individual skills and the team interplay.

For exactly this reason, I cannot wait until world bandwidth is way up, and networks provide multiple camera-angles for tv viewers, one of which is a full-field view. So you can see all the off-ball movement going on, and really see the set-up of plays. That would be amazing.
posted by inigo2 at 11:56 AM on April 5, 2012


Everyone bitching about Brian Phillips needs to GTFO. He's probably the best sportswriter working right now, and is a huge, huge, soccer/football/calcio fan. HUGE. His Pro Vercelli series mentioned upthread about his epic Football Manager campaign is perfect.
posted by that's candlepin at 11:56 AM on April 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've been enjoying Rugby Sevens. Even if nothing really happens, at least it doesn't happen very quickly.
posted by notmydesk at 12:11 PM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sports Night: Soccer (Take 2) now with laugh track!
posted by Bonzai at 12:25 PM on April 5, 2012


The nature of soccer is so DEAD SET AGAINST the scoring of goals (i.e. the whole point of the game itself) that goalies average a measley 5 saves per game! They tend to allow (about) 1 goal per game...... 12 shots in 90 minutes leaves an awful lot of time for a war of attrition consisting of kicking the ball back and forth until someone finds a break in the defense.

Those figures seem kinda low to me. The Premier League stats show the worst attacking teams in the league (Wigan and Stoke) averaging 0.94 goals per game. Man Utd are averaging 2.45 goals/game.

To add to that, I think you've neglected to include missed shots: I'd figure each team to make over 10 shots/game, although a smaller number would be on target. Going through the last round of games (which admittedly were higher scoring than usual) the lowest aggregate number of shots/game was 19 (in two games) with several games having more than 30. [And obviously a missed shot that goes just past the post with the keeper beaten is just as interesting as a shot on target).
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:11 PM on April 5, 2012


Sports Night: Soccer (Take 2) now with laugh track!

Amazingly, 6 of those teams haven't moved/changed names/become defunct in the 12 or 13 years since.
posted by Copronymus at 1:37 PM on April 5, 2012


Virtually all games are boring if you have no understanding of the games complexities and history.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:51 PM on April 5, 2012


Soccer is too big and too slow, that is the problem...Hockey has a lot of the same "throw the puck away, then chase it down and try to get it back from the other team" elements as soccer, but such moments last only seconds, and are generally accompanied by clashing bodies and several players from opposing teams converging within an instant on this tiny black piece of rubber.

I think one of the advantages of soccer over hockey is that it is slow, which allows for a lot of subtle tactical adjustments that the pace of hockey doesn't really leave room for. Scoring goals in hockey seems to be almost entirely about a great pass/shot/move to beat the defense and the volume of activity just makes that more likely. Whereas in soccer, the method of attack is often just as important as the skill of it (as long as both teams are relatively evenly matched), especially since there is a scarcity of opportunity.

The slow parts of a soccer game are when you have time to think about things like "should the fullbacks push further up the pitch to provide more width?" or "should a striker drop deeper into midfield to pick up the ball?" I'm not sure there is really an analogue to that in hockey because of how compressed and quick everything is, and because the personnel is changing every few minutes.

This also means that instead of talking about whether or not Ovechkin doles out too many cheap shots, soccer fans can talk about why Chelsea continue to play a 4-3-3 despite not really having the personnel to play that way. A far more interesting converstion, I think.
posted by parallellines at 2:09 PM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


saying something is boring is akin to saying you just don't understand it
Also, anyone who understands the fine points of baseball can never be bored.


No, I don't agree with these.

I used to find baseball boring. I thought it was a simplistic game: the batter tries to hit the ball, the pitcher tries to throw it in a way that the batter won't hit it, etc.

After spending way too much time in sports bars, including that part of the year where baseball is the only major sport in season in the US, I came to have a deeper appreciation of it. I realized that there was a lot more going on than it seemed at first glance. It's quite a complex game strategically.

I still find baseball boring. I understand better how some people find it fascinating, and I have more respect for the game's fans now, but I still find it boring. Side note: I love sitting outside in a baseball stadium on a warm summer evening drinking beer with friends, but that has next to nothing to do with the game on the field, which to me provides the thinnest of excuses to sit outside on a warm summer evening and drink beer with friends.

So I'm not going to waste my time haranguing people who declare something I love, such as chess or auto racing, to be boring, with protestations that if only they understood its finer points they wouldn't find it boring. Maybe they wouldn't. But there's also a pretty good chance they'd still find it boring even after they understood it, so I'm not going to try to explain those finer points if they don't seem interested. To baldly declare, "oh, if only you understood it you would doubtless find it interesting" seems more than a bit arrogant to me.

Any sport you haven't taken the time to understand will be seen as boring.

This is a bit closer to the truth, I think, but I don't entirely agree with it either. See double block and bleed's comment above. Although I think here it tends to depend somewhat on the nature of the endeavor. I find it difficult to imagine that anyone who doesn't have at least a basic understanding of chess would find watching chess interesting. But on the other end of the scale are things like classical music (and here I disagree with ReeMonster's comment). OK, many people find classical music boring. But those who enjoy classical music, for the most part, don't come to love it only after they make some detailed study of it and understand all the nuances and techniques. Most people who love classical music loved it before they understood it in any depth. That may inspire them to study it in detail, which may lead to an even deeper appreciation of classical music, but the love of the music comes before the understanding, for most afficianados.

Yes, I know neither chess nor classical music are sports, but I think the relationship between understanding and interest generalizes well to other forms of entertainment.

tl;dr:
Understanding a sport does not guarantee one will find it interesting.
Failure to understand a sport does not guarantee one will find it boring.
Deeper understanding of a sport one already enjoys, or is at least intrigued by, is very likely to make it even more interesting.
Deeper understanding of a sport one did not previously enjoy is only somewhat likely, at best, to make it interesting.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:20 PM on April 5, 2012


Played by over 250 million players in over 200 countries, making it the world's most popular sport, but they`re all wrong. I wonder what`s he into.
posted by Tom-B at 2:50 PM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


We Americans are just afraid of soccer because obviously playing it causes severe loss of balance to the point that someone three steps away can cause a player to flop on his back and cover his face as it was clearly somehow injured. A game that dangerous clearly must be given a wide berth.
Did you have to put on a helmet and 30 pounds worth of body armour to post this?
posted by fullerine at 3:31 PM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


OK. I've fallen in love with soccer over the years, and now just adore it. I don't know a lot of the technical details, but I know what I like.

I find that the play, because it barely stops for anything, is very fluid. This is almost calming, because at times it doesn't resemble a competitive sport so much as vigorous improv, interpretive dance. Other sports, with their constant starts and stops, are now jarring. There's definitely been times when I've been completely calm, and lulled into almost a seemingly Zen state, while watching a really good match - either live or on TV.
posted by spinifex23 at 3:39 PM on April 5, 2012


First, Brian Phillips knows a truly astonishing, frankly ridiculous amount about soccer. The blog Run of Play, of which he is the editor, is a wonderfully artistic and contemplative take on the many facets of the sport, as well as being just hilariously fun most of the time. So, really, whatever criticisms you have about the piece, they probably shouldn't include how much Brian Phillips doesn't know about soccer, because if he doesn't know it there's a good chance no one else does either.

Second, soccer is boring, much of the time. Mostly nothing happens. Mostly there are failures of imagination, the ascent of the workmanlike over the innovative, physical strength impersonating bravery, grinding collisions of unthinking machismo always through the obvious middle channels. Mostly it's a thing to do just so you have an excuse to drink beer later and not be called a lush. Sometimes you drink beer during and still get away with it. Mostly people just run and don't talk to each other. Mostly people just get frustrated with each other and wander off, cursing.

Then something beautiful happens, and it's a beauty that's impossible to really explain. Have you ever heard someone try to describe a goal to you? It's so stupid. They have to use their inartful hands to imperfectly replicate a sudden shift in direction, a simple step that turns a slog of a game into a human flowing freely through space and sky with no limitations. And it only happens for a second, and most of the time even then, it doesn't amount to anything. The moment passes, the ball hits the bar or slices just wide, and everyone sighs and thinks about what might have been.

Then, rarely, and the rarely is part of it, it does happen. The perfect through-ball meets the expertly-timed run. Zidane pauses for a moment, almost suspended weightless in midair, before turning his whole body into the lever of Archimedes, and the ball flies almost apologetically into the top corner because for anything else to happen would be the highest form of injustice. And you turn to your friends if you're lucky or to the heavens if you're not, and just stare, hearing a distant scream of triumph you'll only later remember was in your own voice.

Then the ball moves back to the halfway line, a couple players jog in place, and the whistle blows. One day you're in front of the Pieta, the next day you're filing insurance claims and thinking about how early you can make it down to the pub. Soccer's like life. Mostly nothing happens. But, oh man, when it does.
posted by Errant at 3:42 PM on April 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


I have said before that I think organized sports are boring. But the fans can be fascinating.

Elif Batuman in The New Yorker: During the nineteen-eighties, the Istanbul teams were enmeshed in a ganglike feud, characterized by clandestine raids, lynchings, and street battles. A “truce” in the nineteen-nineties mitigated, but did not eradicate, the violence. Each of the Istanbul teams has its own stereotype... (Sorry, not the complete essay).
posted by ovvl at 3:43 PM on April 5, 2012


>To contrast these sports with what the US terms soccer, we see that with the exception of goals in soccer (which happen perhaps too infrequently), there's no way to objectively measure how well a team is doing.

This, a thousand times this. When I turn on soccer match, if it's an 0-0 stalemate, I'm bewildered and confused at first. WTF? Is this the beginning, middle, end of the match? Without looking at the clock, there's no way of knowing. It's disorienting.

It seems that enjoying soccer requires mastery of an intellectual trick in which the desire for progress or a positive outcome is pushed to the back of one's mind, or totally relinquished, so that the beauty of the game can be enjoyed as it is. And that's what I admire about soccer fans. You've freed yourselves, at some level, from the imperative to DEMAND CLOSURE. You don't care about the end (so much), you care about the means. You're more evolved as fans. I salute you.

Oh, and another thing. Hardcore Professional American Football fans, on this and other threads, like to diss soccer enthusiasts, but have you ever calculated the number of minutes of actual gameplay in an National Football League game? Well, somebody has, and you know what it is? It's eleven. Yes, eleven minutes. What goes on between these eleven minutes is commentary, cheerleaders, shots of the blimp, shots of celebrities, shots of the commentators, shots of the jumbotron (ie, shots of another TV screen)--and endless, endless commercials, which in the recent 2012 Superbowl, commanded a higher fucking market share than the Superbowl game itself.

What you get in soccer is ninety minutes of continuous play, no commercials. (Or maybe some at the halftime; I don't know). Period. No matter how boring you may think it is, it's a good value for the price.

I don't watch soccer. I watch American-style "football." I'm an idiot.
posted by Gordion Knott at 4:11 PM on April 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


What you get in soccer is ninety minutes of continuous play, no commercials. (Or maybe some at the halftime; I don't know).

I like to throw around that eleven-minute stat myself, but to be fair, in soccer it's probably closer to around an hour or just under of play. There is a lot, a lot, of time wasted for throw-ins, setting up free kicks, false starts and retakes, not to mention fouling. I agree with you that soccer is likely better value for money or time spent, but no professional sport in the world runs quite as long as its timeclock suggests, given that knowing how and when to run down the clock is one of the hallmarks of professional team athletics anywhere.

I wouldn't go as far as to say "evolved", flattering though that is. The thing about soccer is that it is fundamentally an unfair game. One team is just better than another team a lot of the time, and unlike in American sports there's no draft or league ownership to alleviate the money odds at all. A team that does well will keep doing well for a while; a team that has one bad season is very likely to have another one. And then the best team doesn't always win, not even close to always. It wouldn't be so agonizingly fun otherwise. One of the reasons people start disliking teams like Man U or Barca isn't that they're bad teams -- they're absolutely not -- it's that they win around as often as they ought to, and that's really fucking annoying.

So what you call not demanding closure, I call resignation to the vicissitudes of fate. We have to have points for a draw, because sometimes a draw is all you get or can hope for. Soccer is a European game, with European snobbery and European pessimism. Football, baseball, these are American sports. There's always next year. A good trade, a good draft pick, a decent run, and who knows? In soccer, we know. It's going to be Real Madrid or Barca. It's going to be Man U, unless some oil megalomaniac trades the history of your club for petty cash and a shot at glory. Your best player is going to one of those teams, and then you can maybe look forward to finishing in tenth place, but at least you finished above those assholes across the river. In soccer, we celebrate staying in the league; we celebrate standing still. Cause we have to. Sometimes staying where you are is the only fight you can win. American sports are escapism, and they still at least give lip service to the idea that anyone could succeed. Soccer is a brutal and beautiful training for the reality that mostly you're not going to.
posted by Errant at 4:58 PM on April 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's strange that an article that says soccer is boring also says:

the gameplay almost never stops — it's a near-continuous flow for 45-plus minutes at a stretch

That's 45-min in which at any moment something could happen that could be decisive for the outcome of the game. 45-min where every time there's a corner or a free-kick you hold your breath a little because your team just might score. Or... horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach... you fear there's a pretty good chance you might concede.

Because there aren't many goals every one matters. And because every goal matters, every move could matter. Every refereeing decision could matter. Every time someone's in a good position and fluffs the pass or the shot, it could matter.

And because there aren't many goals, it's often not really really over til the final whistle. You can dominate the game for 91 minutes and be undone by the 93rd. Or be completely outplayed for 90 min, and still keep that glimmer of hope that a fluke own goal or wonder strike will save the day.

Nor so boring, in my book.
posted by philipy at 5:51 PM on April 5, 2012


Here are the WSJ stats on the NFL time breakdown, with a handy pie chart.

11 minutes of playing, 17 minutes of replays and 67 minutes of players standing around.

Makes Stoke look pretty lively.
posted by philipy at 6:00 PM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mostly nothing happens.

This is manifestly untrue. Nothing easily quantifiable happens; scoring is rare, but the probability of a score alters constantly. Soccer is a game of eigenvalues. Scoring in games with bad teams is often hhigher. High-score soccer matches are usually terrible.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:33 PM on April 5, 2012


I don't think soccer is boring. I have played it, watched it, read about it and even coached a team playing it. The thing that makes it unwatchable and unengaging is all the dramatic, obvious play acting in order to get a free kick or penalty. It is always obvious, plentiful and miraculous, that the player recovers immediately after being awarded a free, after what moments before seemed like a complete snap of their tibia or fibula. And don't get me started on the post-goal celebrations.
As with most sports nowadays, I try to watch semi-professional women's leagues as you tend to get the games played with good sports(wo)manship, skill, and team spirit. That is what sport is about for me.
posted by MT at 7:23 PM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Soccer is great because when soccer players loose big matches on pentaly kicks they cry. That is worth coming around for.

For different window into the culture-that-is-proper-football see this very interesting post on the after retirement life of football great George Best
posted by shothotbot at 7:34 PM on April 5, 2012


This is manifestly untrue.

It's mostly untrue for life also, but we don't get daily possession stats. Maybe we should.
posted by Errant at 10:32 PM on April 5, 2012


That was very odd. Football matches (Soccer) only last for an hour and a half and I'd argue that a LOT happens during the game - (just not much scoring). I"ve tried to watch American Football and found it so very very tedious with half the match spent with them setting up or getting into position for a play and then bam the play is over. set up again.

If you want to cite a boring game on the basis of nothing much happening - how about Test Match Cricket. which goes all day for 5 yes FIVE days. Many of my compatriots in Australia love watching test cricket. They claim its the strategy, the long game
posted by mary8nne at 2:34 AM on April 6, 2012


goes all day for 5 yes FIVE days

Yes, five glorious days!
posted by Abiezer at 3:07 AM on April 6, 2012


You will not find a more tactical, intelligent, or intense game than test match cricket. If sport is an analog for war, ask yourself how long the battle of Gettysburg was, then ask yourself if you would have found that boring.
posted by Errant at 3:12 AM on April 6, 2012


Interestingly, Sócrates also thought that soccer has become boring:

"[Soccer has] completely failed to adapt to the huge athletic advancement of the players.

"Today, a footballer's performance is at least two and a half times greater than 30 years ago. In 1970 the average Brazilian footballer ran 4km in a game. Today it's 10km, which means, relatively speaking, the space [on the field] has been reduced enormously. But football has failed to adapt the rules to this new reality.

"Given these changes, I think the game should be played on the same size pitch but with just nine players on each side that could recreate the spirit the game is meant to be played in [which he backed up by a thesis he was writing at São Paulo university].

"Space, and therefore time on the ball, have reduced greatly. It has stifled creativity because no one has any time on the ball. Other sports have adapted to change, but not football."
posted by Tom-B at 5:05 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


ask yourself how long the battle of Gettysburg was, then ask yourself if you would have found that boring.

The movie was 4½ hours long, and while I didn't find it boring, I suspect I would have if it were very much longer.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:18 AM on April 6, 2012


I"ve tried to watch American Football and found it so very very tedious with half the match spent with them setting up or getting into position for a play...

I've read somewhere (can't locate it just now) that an "hour" of American football involves about 12 minutes of actual play. Don't know what the stats are for baseball, but the game itself is leisurely.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:01 AM on April 6, 2012


Here it is.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:02 AM on April 6, 2012


Let's not put words in Socrates' mouth. Firstly the conversation was about the World Cup specifically, and secondly "has deteriorated" is not the same thing as "is boring".

He had a valid point that even Brazil can't afford to play in 2012 with quite the same carefree abandon and fantasy that they did in 1982.

On the other hand the interview was from 2002, and does anyone now think Barcelona or Spain can't thrive because...

Space, and therefore time on the ball, have reduced greatly. It has stifled creativity because no one has any time on the ball.


In the Premier League, the games are probably more exciting than in 1982. And right at the moment the trend is towards more teams playing with more flair rather than the dour defending and parking-the-bus we used to see five years ago.

Your Blackburns, Wigans, Stokes, Boltons are much more entertaining than even a few years ago. And nowadays even newly promoted teams are often trying to play good attacking football rather than just hanging on for dear life in every game and hoping to finish the season in 17th.

These things come and go in cycles. You can even see it in chess. Once upon a time there was the "Romantic Style" not unlike your Brazil of the 1970s and 1980s. Full of glorious fantasy and reckless abandon, but it was only possible to play that way because the majority of opponents didn't yet understand how to defend properly. And then technique got better, and for a while people said "Chess is getting boring" and "all played out". But then attacking technique got better, people came up with new styles and off we went again.

Btw chess shares with soccer one thing that I alluded to before. At any moment one bad mistake or one piece of brilliance could have a a decisive impact. You don't have the satisfaction of a number that keeps going up every few minutes, but instead you have the drama of walking a tightrope.
posted by philipy at 9:07 AM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hey good point!
posted by Tom-B at 2:50 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


But from "stifled creativity" to "boring", it`s not THAT MUCH of a stretch, is it?
posted by Tom-B at 7:13 AM on April 7, 2012


not THAT MUCH of a stretch

Maybe not in your mind. But in mine, or Socrates'? You'd have to be a mind-reader to know if we meant that or not.

To my mind it means "less magical than in the Golden Age" not "boring".

And yes, Brazil of the Socrates generation were magic. Magic as in some of their games were among the most wonderful and thrilling couple of hours you spent that year. You can "deteriorate" a long way from that before you get to "boring".

But as I mentioned nobody's stifled Barcelona's creativity.

Instead of "less time on the ball" necessarily meaning "stifled creativity" it can also mean "move the ball around faster", or "develop exquisite close control".

And it's not just Barca, because examples are infectious and these days the "win ugly" merchants are in retreat all over the place.

So to repeat myself... yes, the World Cup was more thrilling back in the day than now. But the Premier League was not. There were a lot more players around then that relied on blood and guts and lumping the ball upfield or into row Z than on anything resembling artistry or creativity.

Which brings me to a final point: It is not inherent to a sport whether it's boring or not. Anything can be boring when played with not much skill in drab conditions by people with a dour mindset. And the same thing can be thrilling when played by people with finely honed skills, who approach the game with playfulness and verve.

This has a lot to do with the particular football culture of country, or a league, or a club. Which is why even in the 80s, we knew watching Brazil would be a joy, but we also knew there were certain other countries whose games were probably going to be pretty tedious.

Some football is thrilling, some is tedious. It was ever so.

Hopefully fate led you to support a country or a club that has its fair share of thrilling rather than an overdose of tedious. If the latter, I guess that's why you're not a fan.
posted by philipy at 10:16 AM on April 7, 2012


« Older When John Carlos raised his fist in a black power ...  |  Syria's civil conflict is the ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments