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Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism. Paperback – May 1, 2001

4.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"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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Product Details

  • Series: Princeton Studies in Cultural Sociology
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (May 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 069107447X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691074474
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,210,642 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"Offside"'s authors have come up with a book that works both as a work of sports history, and socio-cultural criticism. Markovits and Hellerman paint a clear picture of American social behavior as it relates to the teams we follow, detailing the development of U.S. sports culture, and its expansion into the dominant role it currently holds in society. Clear without being dumb-downed, intellectual without being too "academic" (i.e. wordy, jargony, overly theory-based, etc.), "Offside" is a serious, enveloping work.
The main meat of the book lies in its center section, which goes into a historical account of the birth and development of the "big three & 1/2" sports in America (baseball, football, basketball and hockey). The authors show how each sport had a "window of opportunity" to expand within the backdrop of America's cultural and financial explosion from apx. the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the Great Depression. Here, the book exposes something probably unknown today: that soccer had the opportunity to take part in this development in the 1920s, but due to politicing and in-fighting, was not able to keep a single, solid, professional league together, choosing to split instead into smaller, weaker, more insignifcant groups that could not sustain themselves long enough to gain a fan base and a presence in the American sports scene. Meanwhile, the "big sports" ended up a societal "necessity" in the 1930s: spectator-sports and movies boomed, giving people the best bang for their diminished bucks.
The later sections of the book explain how soccer may have been granted a new "window" due to (1) the World Cup in the U.S.
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Format: Paperback
If you're puzzled about why the country that dominates every other aspect of popular culture -- from fast food through Hollywood movies to rock 'n' roll -- lags behind the rest of the globe when it comes to the world's most popular mass sport, this is the book to read.
Andy Markovits dispenses in short order with all the cliches you've heard the sports pundits offer up by way of "explanation" for why soccer has not (yet) caught on in the U.S.: It's NOT because Americans are impatient with low-scoring games, or because kicking a ball down a field lacks strategy or skill, or because there's something about soccer that's incompatible with the American "character."
The real explanation has to do with the history of mass sports -- how marketers in both Europe and America took games played by gentlemen on college campuses or in local amateur clubs and turned them into popular, professional competition for paying (and, since television, watching) fans. It's not the "soccer moms" and Little League dads who determine whether a sport takes off: it's the franchises who organize consumption for the couch potatoes.
Markovits shows how the market for mass sports was already carved up among baseball, American football, and basketball when soccer tried to take root here. He doesn't downplay the growth areas that do exist for soccer in the U.S. -- in women's competition (where the U.S. leads), in colleges, and among new immigrants. But he's realistic about what it would take (such as a US team making it to the finals in a World Cup match) for soccer to break into America's already crowded "sports space."
One of the great things about this book is the author's enthuasiasm for ALL manner of sports.
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Format: Paperback
Review of Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism by Andrei S. Markovits and Steven L. Hellerman, Princeton University Press, 2001. This remarkable book asks the question "why is there no soccer in the United States." Immediately you respond, "OF COURSE THERE IS!!! My kids play it all the time!!" Markovits and Hellerman would respond, however, that, yes, soccer is played in the US but it is not felt, dreamt, and lived. Fathers and mothers are not drawing on their own wealth of experience in teaching their kids how to play soccer, as they do with other sports; "pick-up games" only infrequently involve soccer; it is simply not part of the texture of daily life, as is checking the box scores of your favorite baseball team. In this book, the authors explain why the US is so different in its "sports space," as the authors call it, from almost all other countries - where soccer, generally known as football, is dominant. More broadly, Offside also offers one of the most interesting attempts to understand the spread of sports internationally. Not only do the authors' question the argument about the globalization of everything but they assert that we need to understand a given country's history and even more so its sports history to grasp how its sports space is configured. Thus, in attempting to explain "why there is no soccer in the US," they discuss the role that powerful organizations have played in cementing baseball, basketball, and football (and to a lesser extent, hockey) into the US sports space during the key 1870-1930 industrialization period and how difficult it has been for other endeavors to gain a strong foothold.Read more ›
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