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Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism. Paperback – May 1, 2001
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"Warmly recommended to all those who want to understand and appreciate . . . popular culture in the United States."--Roman Horak, Der Standard (Vienna)
"The text is well referenced, historically grounded, and offers excellent insight into US soccer and its past, present, and future potential as a major sport. Highly recommended for both the general population and those interested in sports studies and sociology of sport."--Choice
"This is the first adequate sociocultural history of the sport in the United States. . . . Sports sociologists will look to this book for soccer material and also for the author's fresh conceptualization of sports culture. Sociologists with more general interests in culture and institutional analysis might also find it useful and informative as a case study."--John Wilson, American Journal of Sociology
From the Inside Flap
"The vexing question of why soccer struggles to establish itself firmly on the American sports landscape is brilliantly and persuasively answered in this groundbreaking work. Sociology scholars and soccer aficionados alike should be intrigued by this painstakingly comprehensive analysis, made especially accessible by the lively and enthusiastic style of the authors. It is remarkable as a happy marriage of the scholar's methods with the fan's passion for the world's game. A must read for lovers and observers of the game in America and in the totally converted soccer community occupying the rest of our planet."--Seamus Malin, Soccer Commentator, ESPN and ABC
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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This is indeed a powerful read for non-soccer fans as well. Ivory tower-dwellers drawn by the "American Exceptionalism" part of the title will get an eye-opening look at sports and American life.
Oh -- and soccer fans will consider it a good read as well, especially if you're curious about the game's history in the U.S.
Having learned a few things about the history of soccer in the U.S., and how it compares to the history of football, basketball, and baseball, it is tempting to draw some conslusions about the future of soccer in America. The author touch on this, stating that they cannot predict whether soccer will ever challenge the big three major sports in the U.S. It is interesting, with the 2010 World Cup approaching, to look at the thoughts people had about soccer just ten years ago, which seem both overly optimistic and needlessly cynical. Soccer certainly isn't ingrained in our mainstream, and some writers quoted in Offside suggest it might be, but soccer also hasn't gone away. MLS continues to grow, slowly, high schools continue to add soccer programs around the country, and Latino immigration continues to introduce soccer into new communities.
Offside is a useful book for fans of the beautiful game, students of sociology, or newcomers to soccer who are interested in finding out why it occupies that place it does in our society.
Despite this academic approach this book is beyond brilliant in its analysis of North American sports. Yes, it's not just about soccer but places soccer in the context of how it has struggled to establish itself at the pro level in North America and explains why.
For those of us who love all four major sports...and soccer, it is an eye-opener to learn about how soccer was a fairly established sport in America but blew its advantage just as baseball and college football took over.
A definite great read but could have used a better editor to slash and burn much of the lengthy overworking of some points.
I don't find this a bit convincing. The authors begin with an explanation of why socialism never took hold in this country, and it seems to me that the reasons they give have absolutely nothing to do with the reason why soccer hasn't taken hold. The most important reason they list, the bourgeoisification of America, just doesn't seem to have anything to do with soccer's absence or presence in America. It is true that when they explain this (on p. 9), they go on to add that bourgeois America prides itself on being of European origin at the same time that it believes it has surpassed Europe's culture. But I can imagine Americans thinking themselves superior to Europe (and the rest of the world) even if America hadn't become so bourgeois.
To put all this in other words, the authors seem to carry some excess intellectual baggage. They adhere to concepts of the old left, which talks about the bourgeoisie, and try to force soccer's absence in this country into a Marxist conceptual framework. Meanwhile, they utterly ignore the concepts of the new left, of the postmodernists, who talk about Otherness. The absence of soccer in this country seems due to nothing other than the belief of most Americans that our sports are superior, simply because they are OUR sports, and that the sports of foreigners are inferior, simply because they are THEIR sports. But the authors seem completely ignorant of postmodern writings.
I admit that this book is chock-full of important information about soccer. Some of it I hadn't seen before, even though I've tried to read everything about soccer. Still, there are some lapses here that are hard to comprehend. It is beyond understanding that one would talk about the old NASL without talking about the Minnesota Kicks. OK, I was a Kicks fan back then, and I am biased. But I always thought of teams like the Kicks and the teams in Seattle, Portland, and Tampa Bay (and before them, San Jose) as representing a more substantial part of the league than the Cosmos. The Cosmos drew huge crowds, but not until the middle of Pele's last season. Moreover, they had many other stars besides Pele as well as a potentially huge fan base. It is not surprising that they (eventually) drew huge crowds. In Minnesota and other places, there were no stars, and there was a much smaller population to draw on, and they still drew huge crowds. The Kicks had an AVERAGE attendance of over 30,000 fans in both 1977 and 1978. One can understand when people who hate soccer ignore these figures, but why should people who like soccer ignore them?
Finally, I do wish the authors had been a little more skeptical of the claim that Michael Jordan was well-known throughout the world. I've asked foreign students from Africa about this, and they deny it. The evidence the authors use (p. 323, n. 38) consists of headlines in various foreign newspapers. But they also provide evidence that the World Cup can grab headlines here in the U.S., even though just a small fraction of our population has any interest in it. Shouldn't we use the same criterion for judging these headlines? When a newspaper day in and day out ignores basketball and one day has a big headline about it, isn't it reasonable to assume that most of their readers don't really care?
I've come down somewhat hard on this book, but I'm still giving it four stars out of five. Anyone who takes soccer seriously ought to read it, although I think they should also be aware of its shortcomings.
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