Reviews from Amazon.com for Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism
"For the couch potato with the active mind"
July 13, 2002
Reviewer: Jeremiah Riemer from Washington, DC
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. Andy Markovits is a big-time soccer fan, but he also loves to watch NFL and Big Ten football, NBA and NCAA basketball, the Yankees and the World Series. Because he understands what's exciting and graceful about all these games, he's able to dismiss all the anti-American and anti-European prejudices that dominate discussions about comparing sports.
In this book, you'll not only learn about the history of soccer; you'll also learns some things that Ken Burns didn't get around to telling you about baseball, or about why we can "blame Harvard" for writing the rules that made American football differ from its English cousins (rugby and "Association football" or soccer).
Please also visit Andy Markovits' official
University of Michigan website