Reviews from Amazon.com for Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism
"Offside is on target..."
November 8, 2001
Reviewer: Matthew Bolin from Los Angeles, California
"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. in the past decade; (2) the establishment of the MSL, with the most capitol of any American soccer league yet; and (3) the dominance of the U.S. Women's team, thus giving a female form to the historically male world sport-space. There are new challenges a fledgling sports league faces that didn't exist at the beginning of the last century, some more obvious than others--I'll leave it to the authors and their grand piece of work to explain the rest.
Please also visit Andy Markovits' official
University of Michigan website