January 04, 2006

Soccer is more exciting than Football.: I didn't say it. The boys at the Los Alamos labs did. "That is no idle barroom bragging, but the conclusion of researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Their mathematical modeling surveyed the results of nearly one-third of a million matches in the top English soccer league, the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association." Stats geeks go wild.

posted by worldcup2002 to soccer at 06:05 PM - 37 comments

Good post, wc2k2. Interesting stats, but the reasons given for trend analysis relate only to things like introducing salary caps (US sports) or the abolition of maximum wages (English soccer). I think a fundamental cause of soccer's unpredictability is the design of the game itself. One score can make a huge difference, i.e. 'underdog' teams can defend for 89 minutes then nick a goal on the break. It is a lot harder to cause upsets in higher-scoring sports, where you have to get 'lucky' more than once or twice during the period of the game.

posted by owlhouse at 06:25 PM on January 04, 2006

Good points, owlhouse. Plus those folks at Los Alamos must be sniffing uranium.

posted by scully at 06:41 PM on January 04, 2006

The argument breaks down "with the working assumption that the more frequently upsets occurred, the more competitive and exciting the sport."

posted by ?! at 06:58 PM on January 04, 2006

Are these alleged "scientists" among the people who think wine is better than beer?

posted by texoma-slim at 07:11 PM on January 04, 2006

Soccer will never be more popular than AMERICAN FOOTBALL. But it is, Blanche, it is!

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:15 PM on January 04, 2006

Soccer will never be more popular than AMERICAN FOOTBALL I don't think that's what's being said, Big Dog. The analysis was more about the unpredictability of results. Something which adds to the excitement of watching a game, but also worth considering if you are betting on it. You can always use TV ratings if you want a statistical measure of what's popular.

posted by owlhouse at 07:16 PM on January 04, 2006

the people who think wine is better than beer I like both. But not in the same glass.

posted by owlhouse at 07:17 PM on January 04, 2006

I'm with ?uestBang: the unit of measure is terribly flawed. It's just as easy to argue that American football must be more popular. Clearly it's better analyzed since they do a better job of picking favorites. Alternatively, it must be bet on more since the lines correctly predict the favorites more often.

posted by yerfatma at 08:06 PM on January 04, 2006

Jesus, football has to have better representation.

posted by justgary at 08:26 PM on January 04, 2006

With a thread like this, you knew they were a-coming. Yeah, he makes some assumptions I don't quite buy, but it does make an inadvertent point about parity in the NFL. Things could be worse. It could be the Premier league.

posted by chicobangs at 08:35 PM on January 04, 2006

You have to look at the source. I mean, what big, earth-shattering news ever came out of Los Alamos?

posted by rockamora at 08:41 PM on January 04, 2006

I mean, what big, earth-shattering news ever came out of Los Alamos? Oh, maybe a little thing called the atom bomb? You probably heard about those pesky things, rockamora, right?

posted by billsaysthis at 09:26 PM on January 04, 2006

I think rockamora was being facetious.

posted by worldcup2002 at 09:38 PM on January 04, 2006

btw, Los Alamos dropped da bomb on football! Hoohoo. *runs away*

posted by worldcup2002 at 09:39 PM on January 04, 2006

is this an arguement about which is more exciting or which is more popular? Numbers-wise far more people are engaged in the world of soccer throughout the world. But in terms of excitement levels...well, that's personal. cj

posted by ceige7979 at 11:53 PM on January 04, 2006

wrong about what? popularity or excitement? there is a difference. Again, soccer is more popular world wide, however that doesn't necessarily mean it is more exciting.

posted by ceige7979 at 12:41 AM on January 05, 2006

i think ceige7979 is partially correct. But then again, Statistics is not often wrong. More people around the world think Soccer is more exciting! Oh, by the way, why call it FOOTball when all the guys do is carry the ball most of the time?

posted by fchuki at 12:47 AM on January 05, 2006

LMAO! Can you image most Americans reaction to a nil-nil score? ZZZZZZZZZZZ... Most Americans put soccer right up there with watching paint harden. But ask a European about a nil-nil game and they'll launch into a technical assessment of the strategy and the beauty of the game itself. I'm not being critical. I think its just more of a situation of what a person grew up with.

posted by The Casual Observer at 05:34 AM on January 05, 2006

They need to give 6 points for a goal with a penalty kick/PAT for 1 point...oh wait that sounds like Football.

posted by tmart937 at 07:22 AM on January 05, 2006

When we say more exciting, do we mean which sport has more people die in the actual stadium, cause thats a no brainer.

posted by steelcityguy at 07:24 AM on January 05, 2006

Most Americans put soccer right up there with watching paint harden. I'm generalizing from personal experience, but I don't think that's true. My circle of sports-crazed friends, a bunch of people I grew up with in Texas who are rapidly approaching 40, are all becoming EPL and World Cup geeks. I hear more talk about the Premiership than I do the NBA or NHL. Soccer also owns the youth. That has been said since the '70s -- I can recall when it was a reason to believe the NASL would succeed -- but my involvement in youth sports leads me to think that soccer's the sport kids are most likely to be playing before age 12, or at worst a close second to basketball. I do think a nil-nil tie's a pretty hard sell, though. The underdog won 45% of the time in soccer, but just 36% of the time in football. Whenever I see a stat like this, I'm tempted to test it in Vegas with as much money as my credit card provider will allow.

posted by rcade at 07:30 AM on January 05, 2006

This is a tough one for me because I played both sports and love them with a passion. The only way I can use a personal gauge is that in American football, in the last few years I generally find myself watching only the games of the teams I support and play-offs...that's it. Soccer is still and I ssume always will be a learning experience for me, even though I started playing the game 35 years ago. I watch almost every EPL game televised, which is 4-5 games a week including PPV. And I tivo the hell out of those games, using them as a personal film session. I find both sports exciting and can feel the pulse race equally so when it comes to this issue I suppose I'm ultimate fence-sitter. Ouch.

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 10:50 AM on January 05, 2006

I keep coming to this thread with something to say and then can't find the right words. The research is as any similar research tends to be - fairly pointless - you can't prove excitement with statistics. Over the Christmas holidays I went home to Northern Ireland to see my family. They have Sky TV, so a typical day's TV for me included Premiership soccer in the afternoon, American Football in the evening, John Madden 2005 on the Playstation with my brother until 4AM, and then cricket (Aussies vs Boks). One thing I noticed about American Football that had never struck me before (and I used to be a big (Dolphins) fan in the mid to late eighties when they first started showing it on terrestrial TV in the UK) is that it is actually quite like cricket in some respects (bear with me). Both sports consist of a series of set pieces, which generally last for less time than the breaks between them do. The rules can be preclusively complex to a newcomer. The ebb and flow of the game, which is such an important factor in making any sport exciting, isn't immediately obvious unless you pay very close attention, ideally from the beginning of the game. High scoring is no measure of tension or excitement. Games can be over long before they're finished. Various scores are available for achieving various tasks within the game. Soccer on the other hand is simple. The game is played more or less continuously for two halves of 45 minutes. The rules are essentially simple (although trying to explain the offside rule to a newcomer can be problematic). The ebb and flow of the game is evident very quickly, even if you join the game late. High scoring is always exciting if both teams are doing it, but is even exciting if one team is dishing out an absolute gubbing. Consequently, games are rarely all over (in terms of excitement at least) before the final whistle. You get one point for scoring a goal, and that's it. I have been a defender of nil-nil draws in the past, but I think what it really is about them that enriches the game is that they are possible. Scoring is not the default action (as it is in American football or cricket), so goals tend to be more exciting than touchdowns or big sixes, mostly because of the anticipation and the underlying knowledge that you might not get to see one in a soccer match. Simon Barnes wrote a brilliant piece (which I will post on the front page) in the Times over the New Year talking about "the eternal unpredictability of sport". I'm not the biggest soccer fan in the world, and it's far from being my favourite sport, but for my money, there are few sports I can think of that rival its ability to produce that essence of sport so dramatically and so quickly. In terms of popularity, it's a no brainer. A sport played in nearly every country in the world, which requires the bare minimum of equipment and very few people to play, and in which you can identify your heros at a glance is always going to be more popular than a sport played in a handful of countries, which requires players and equipment by the truck-load to play, and in which the players are generally only discernable fom each other by the position they adopt on the field.

posted by JJ at 11:27 AM on January 05, 2006

although trying to explain the offside rule to a newcomer can be problematic This is the huge problem I have with soccer (futbol) Why should an attacking player be penalized for being quicker than a defender? If I am misinterpiting this rule please correct me.

posted by HATER 187 at 12:26 PM on January 05, 2006

Hater, think of offside in football as being similar to offside in ice hockey. The difference is that instead of a static blue line, the line moves with the second last defender.

posted by salmacis at 12:32 PM on January 05, 2006

Huw - that's the single best description of the rule I've heard (assuming a knowledge of ice hockey on the listener's part). Give it time and Sky will be able to put a moving line on our screens in real time (although, that would ruin the extra special feeling when a goal is awarded to your team and allowed to stand and then the replay shows your striker was three yards offside).

posted by JJ at 12:39 PM on January 05, 2006

I should have just posted JJ's comment. That beats any research data from nucular scientists. (Nucular!) How you doin', Mr Crazy Olympian? HATER: You're totally misinterpreting. There's an offsides rule in hockey and football as well, and the principle is the same. No unfair advantage from a starting position. It's not penalizing fast players, it's mitigating advantages from just standing closer to the opponents' goal than the opposing defenders. Before the offside rule, teams would just line up players up the field and punt the ball to them. If you're lined up with the last opposing defender, and you're faster off the block, more power to you. If you're closer to the goal than the defender, that's an unfair start. What's so difficult about that? (Non-interfering position, being played onside by the opposition etc. etc. are different topics altogether ;-)

posted by worldcup2002 at 12:50 PM on January 05, 2006

Thanks for taking the time to explain this to my ignorant ass. I understand where the line is being drawn from (last defender besides goalie) Offsides is used to comabt "goal hanging". What about if both players are moving, or the ball is moving like a really long kick. If you can determine it will go past the defender you cannot run by him to recieve the pass, you would have to wait for the ball to land yo play it, am I correct in this assumption? Back to the topic at hand. I must be considered completely un-American because I pretty much ignore the entire NFL season (except the superbowl) Soccer must be more popular because of its worldwide appeal. Football is only prominant in 2 continetns(europe still has a league right) I played soccer as child like anyone born in the 'burbs has and I have to admit, its a fun game and requires a lot of athleticism. The constant flow of the game is another selling point for me. American football has too much stop and go. The only soccer game I have watched in its enterity was with two Argentinan friends who had a satelite tv service broadcasting games from Argentina. It was easy to get into because I just rooted for the team they didn't like (their club was sponsored by budweiser the other by pepsi)

posted by HATER 187 at 01:22 PM on January 05, 2006

JJ's post could have been a column. The American Football/Cricket analogy is not off base in the least, and best of all, it would offend the more xenophobic fans of each equally. Bravo! It took me years to really get how the offside rule worked, especially in real time, just because I didn't grow up with it. Now (just like pornography) I can't describe it, but I think I know it when I see it. Far as I can reckon, speed has nothing to do with it. It's all about where you are when the ball leaves the passer's foot. After that, go nuts for donuts, and get thee behind me, striker.

posted by chicobangs at 01:57 PM on January 05, 2006

You are talking about River (My team) and Boca. Probably was a "clasico" which is the most important game of the year for both teams. About the topic i must say. I follow American football. I follow "Real" Football. I follow both, and FOOTBALL (soccer) is WAY MORE EXITING and WAY but WAY WAY WAY more difficult than American handball (My bad- American Football). One thing i have notice is (i played FOOTBALL(soccer) since i can walk) that a continuos game is for athletic players. But i'm talking about really athletic, not just a bag of muscles that jump to get their hands on a fumble, contradicting its own name. It should be call Fumbleball. Well that's just the "name" part. I continue with the athletic part. I played with 3 university-level-american fumble players a game of FOOTBALL (soccer) and let me tell you these guys were giants, not ony in height but build up like trucks. I was always trying to avoid getting close to them. I was scare they were going to break me in half. Anyways... we played a regular game of 2 halves, each of 45 min. These guys couldn't move a single finger after the first half. That's just sad, counting on the fact that i'm not a pro-athlete or university-level-build-up self proclaimed prodigy, like most of the american fumble players say they are. Now i always laugh at the fact that a lot of people still think of FOOTBALL as soccer. AND AMERICAN FUMBLE as FOOTBALL. which is sad...really sad. But hell who cares anyways... everyone has to have some fun, even from a 300 pound guy who calls himself an "athlete". *much love*no hater*just a player* I respect american fumble though...(lmao!)

posted by belz.dan at 02:12 PM on January 05, 2006

I played football in high school and college and i would be the first to tell you that any soccer player can run up and down a field longer then me. In the same respect, if most soccer players (im not talking about kickers) played a game of football, theres a good chance they are leaving on a stretcher. You can put any spin on how sad it is that football players cant run as far, what it comes down to is every sports different and you train differently for each.

posted by steelcityguy at 04:17 PM on January 05, 2006

HATER: Per chicobang's comment, the offside rule comes into play when the ball leaves the passer's foot. When player X passes to player Y, when (1) the ball was hit by player X, was (2) Y closer to the opposing goal than (3) the last opposing outfield player (i.e., not the goalie). It's not the opposing outfield player nearest Y, but the _last_ opposing outfield player closest to the opponent's goal. The controversy occurs because the ref and linesmen (erm, asst. refs) have to track (2) and (3) when (1) happens. Anything beyond this needs to be illustrated with moving pictures.

posted by worldcup2002 at 05:41 PM on January 05, 2006

I thinks I got it fellas. Appreciate the info.

posted by HATER 187 at 07:44 PM on January 05, 2006

I haven't read the article or the comments here in the thread...but i agree.

posted by StarFucker at 12:38 AM on January 06, 2006

Wouldn't this be a bit like saying stripper A was sexier than stripper B because more people were surprised when stripper A took of her bra? I doesn't take into account why the suprise... Any study that found Baseball to be in any way exciting is flawed in my book.

posted by LostInDaJungle at 10:11 AM on January 06, 2006

Vince dominated the game more than any other player ever has. GO GET YOUR MONEY VINCE!!!!

posted by Dallas at 03:32 PM on January 06, 2006

Uhm, Dallas, I think you missed your target. Try one thread above.

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 05:22 PM on January 06, 2006

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