February 02, 2008

The Globalization of Sport.: David Stern has made efforts to grow the NBA into a global league. The British Empire exported soccer so well that it is often called The World's Game. Simon Kuper contrasts the ways the British and American empires have exported their sports.

posted by Steve-o to soccer at 03:26 PM - 15 comments

Could the editor who wrote the headline for this story have been more lazy? Lost in translation? How cliché.

posted by Steve-o at 03:33 PM on February 02, 2008

Stern just has one thing working again him. Basketball is shit.

posted by Drood at 06:12 PM on February 02, 2008

A few too many long bows, Simon, but a good read. If I could add one of my own: I once asked my Indonesian colleagues why they liked watching the Premiership, compared to Serie A or the Bundesliga (all are broadcast live in Indonesia). The replies surprised me, and showed a pretty sophisticated understanding. Mostly, they said, the English league was 'honest', in the sense that they could see that everyone on the field was trying, there was no room for laziness, no places to hide and the refs were clearly impartial. Obviously there is a degree of wishful thinking in all this, but in some parts of the world, the classic British virtues of fair play etc still hold true, or at least are perceived to be true.

posted by owlhouse at 08:02 PM on February 02, 2008

Soccer is the "everyman" sport. It's inexpensive, can be played anywhere that has dirt, and you don't have to be a giant or the world's fastest human to excel at it. Even better, after the game you go drink beer. What's not to love?

posted by sandskater at 12:19 AM on February 03, 2008

Quote from the story: "American sports are now under attack from soccer on the only territory they always held: the US itself. The World Cup final of 2006, played in Berlin, kicked off on a summer Sunday afternoon in the US. Nonetheless, 17 million Americans watched it live - about as many as saw the average game in that year's Baseball World Series, and far more than saw the average game in the NBA finals." Wonder if that reality will ever hit any of the old-school soccer-hating U.S. media types, who will never accept a sport they didn't follow as a kid.

posted by rcade at 12:36 AM on February 03, 2008

To be fair about soccer, I love watching the world cup. It was awesome competition and I could watch hours on end. It got me excited about the MLS and when the season started I was pretty disappointed. The speed, passion, overall skill and ball touch just wasn't there on the whole. Make me loose my attention. Now, if we got the premier soccer leagues on normal cable in the States, my viewing habits could be a completely different story.

posted by jmd82 at 10:28 AM on February 03, 2008

jmd, we do, on Fox Soccer Channel (I just watched a Premier League game this morning and two yesterday) and in Spanish on Gol TV (Real Madrid yesterday, Barcelona today) as well as the occasional US national team outing and one Champions League match per game day on ESPN2.

posted by billsaysthis at 12:26 PM on February 03, 2008

Yea, I see some of the games on ESPN2 but it's a no go on FOX soccer channel unless I want to pay out the wazoo.

posted by jmd82 at 03:28 PM on February 03, 2008

Only $5 a month here for the package, which also includes NFL Network, Gol TV and a few more sports channels. Though $60/year mmight be more than some people want to spend.

posted by billsaysthis at 05:04 PM on February 03, 2008

If you've got a good net connection then you can check out myp2p.eu and watch games live on Sopcast, TVU or Windows Media player. I can't be bothered to lay out for Sky Sports here, (especially as my team aren't in the Prem), so I catch the occasional game that way instead.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 07:11 PM on February 03, 2008

I disagree with a good deal of what the author is getting at. First off, soccer was not spread entirely by Britain. In fact, Britain was partly responsible, but so were the other European colonists. France played an especially large role in spreading the sport, especially in Africa. Yes, the Brits were the ones who brought the sport to the French, Spanish, Germans, etc., but soccer was truly a European game, before it was exported to the rest of the world. Also, I disagree that US sports lack a following overseas. Certainly, soccer is the world's biggest sport, and it will remain as such for quite a while, especially due to the overall simplicity of the sport, which makes it so easy to learn and play. But when I have spent time in Europe, I have been amazed by their knowledge not only of the NBA, but even of US college basketball. Eurobasket is growing rapidly, and teams all over the world can now challenge the American superiority in the sport. As popularity of the NBA has faded in the US, it has been supported by fans in China who tune into all the Yao games, fans in Spain who watch Gasol, fans in France for Parker, etc. Baseball is huge in Japan and the Caribbean, and though it has not grown in Europe, I would hardly call baseball a sport specific to US borders. And the NFL, while its venture into exporting crappy minor league football teams failed, the game played at Wembley sold out easily. So, while the US sports have not yet caught on to the same degree that soccer did, I would say that basketball and baseball have eclipsed cricket and rugby in terms of world wide popularity. But remember that cricket and rugby were only spread by the Brits, just as basketball, baseball and american football have been spread only by the US. If other globalizing countries who have already accepted an American sport begin to act towards spreading it as well, I would expect to see an American born sport that can truly rival soccer.

posted by Chargdres at 09:31 AM on February 04, 2008

basketball and baseball have eclipsed cricket and rugby in terms of world wide popularity I'm not sure you can compare these second tier sports across the globe - they are 'competing' in essentially different 'markets', geographically and culturally. In terms of cricket, however, 1 billion Indians can't be wrong.

posted by owlhouse at 03:21 PM on February 04, 2008

I'm not sure you can compare these second tier sports across the globe - they are 'competing' in essentially different 'markets', geographically and culturally. It is exactly my point that they are second tier and different markets. These sports exist only within the former British Empire, while soccer is truly worldwide. The reason they are only in the Commonwealth, is that save for France with rugby, these sports were never successfully exported to the other European colonizers. If todays globalizers, such as Spain, Italy, France with basketball, and Japan with baseball, were to also play a role in the spread of the American sports, these could approach the status of soccer world wide. In terms of cricket, however, 1 billion Indians can't be wrong. Yes, but basketball is a close second to soccer in terms of popularity in China, and there is 1.5 billion of them!

posted by Chargdres at 04:01 PM on February 04, 2008

Interesting article. And buried right in the middle of it is this nugget: "Osama bin Laden, who watched Arsenal several times in London in 1994, remarked that he had never seen such passion as among soccer fans." So Osama's a Gunners fan, then? Hmmmmm.

posted by chicobangs at 08:42 AM on February 06, 2008

Rugby is actually quite popular in areas outside the former British empire: France, Italy, Romania, Argentina, Uruguay, etc. and it is growing in Asia and Africa. Even cricket is expanding outside its former areas of popularity; the recent cricket world cup even had teams from Ireland and the Netherlands, countries not usually associated with the sport in the popular mind. Globalization is going to spread sports all over without regard to what is considered traditional sporting territorial boundaries. One thing that the "British" sports have going for them which the "American" sports do not is that they are truly international sports run by international bodies with true international competitions; American sports in contrast are still dominated by American professional leagues who play by different rules from the rest of the world and who have monetary and other conflicts of interest that work against true international competition. Thus soccer, rugby, cricket get a boost in international interest due to international competition. Basketball comes close to this but the interests of the NBA and the interests of FIBA often work against each other. Same thing with baseball; look how difficult it has been to set up a baseball equivalent to the world cup, and look how difficult it has been to make MLB take it seriously. Baseball and cricket are about equivalent in worldwide popularity, but cricket is better organized to spread the game internationally than baseball is. There is no cricket equivalent of MLB, and that is actually a good thing for cricket. Basketball is certainly more popular than rugby; basketball is an easier game to play in the sense of requiring less space, etc. Nevertheless rugby's international competitions give the sport a lot more visibility internationally than people realize and the sport is growing in lots of places that you wouldn't expect. The real comparison should be not to basketball but to (American) gridiron football; rugby is comparable in many ways to gridiron but doesn't require all that expensive plastic armor. The expansion of gridiron is going to be blocked in a lot of countries by rugby for that reason alone.

posted by dave2007 at 10:42 AM on February 06, 2008

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