Why You Should Keep Saying Soccer

 

Real life, Twitter, TV, articles… this keeps coming up. I want to be clear. The game they are playing at odd hours on the corpses of immigrant workers far off in the desert is called soccer. No “in America” or “by Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, the Irish, Pakistanis, South Africans, Nigerians… et al.” clarification needed. The game is Association Football, shortened by weird Oxford students who add -er to the end of everything to Soccer Football and later just Soccer. The game falls under the same identifying umbrella as Rugby Football, Gaelic Football, American Football, Australian Rule Football, and Hockey (field for certain – I’m not sure about ice.)

No sane person has a problem with anyone calling the game football in a context that makes it clear which of the many games you are referring to that are encompassed by the word. The British can say football all they want, knowing that those around them understand what is being referenced is the type of football known as Association Football, just as I casually use the word football to refer to the American Football type in which Alabama just beat Alabama Polytechnical Institute 49 to 27. I do have a problem when some East End denizen thousands of miles away gets a bee in his trunk or a local hipster with a crisp on his shoulder and a copy of Proust sitting on his night table that he’s started six times gets high and mighty because I or someone else is more specific than he wants to be.

Twitter is fun. In a recent exchange, there were those who said that American Football isn’t football at all since the players rarely kick the ball. Per that horde, it should be called some variation of Handsy-Eggball-with-Pads. They also claimed that soccer should be called football because “Duh!” and then offered something along these lines that were shared by a British tweeter: “It’s rather aptly named since it’s a game predominantly played with feet, in contrast to American football, which is predominantly carried around in the arms of players wearing giant shoulder pads.” The shape of the ball has nothing to do with the name of the game. Neither does the part of the body used to handle or make contact with the ball. We have British accounts of late 18th and early 19th century games called football where it was Illegal to contact the ball with the foot.

The Brits need to know that the reason there is a class of games referred to as football is because those games are not played on horses. Duh!

It’s that simple. The aristocracy formed the horsey set, and they played at jousting and polo and probably all manner of other activities. The poor people didn’t have that option. I don’t know that it was taboo for the wealthy to play non-equestrian sports, but the sense I got from reading is that these sports you had to play on your own two feet were looked down on. That’s it. Ruggers and Gaelic and Hockey (maybe the first, as it’s pretty much polo without the animal) are all sports played on one’s feet. Again, in context, calling a game football works since I already suspect which set of rules is meant but literally saying that a game is called football is akin to saying that a game is called horseless sport. (If I’m being literal, I’ll concede that since horses are measured in hands and hands are used to measure horses, football is a game without using hands. I’ll give them that.)

There you are. Enjoy the World Cup, and while you’re at it, ask a British person why they still call Rugby “Rugby.” Oh! Also be sure and mention that Bobby Charlton of the 1966 English World Cup winning team, their national hero who slew the dragon and waits under a great green hill to rise again when England is in greatest peril, titled his 1964 book My Soccer Life (He bowed to peer pressure in 2009 when he released My Life in Football.)

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  1. John H. Member
    John H.
    @JohnH

    Ben Sears:

    Twitter is fun.

    It has, to me, always looked the opposite.

    • #1
  2. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    I never made the association of games played on horseback as opposed to games played on foot. This is a nice little bit of history and the formation of our language. I like that kind of thing.

    • #2
  3. Ben Sears Member
    Ben Sears
    @BenMSYS

    John H. (View Comment):

    Ben Sears:

    Twitter is fun.

    It has, to me, always looked the opposite.

    I have to be in the right mood, but I know what Twitter is and I know I can leave. 

    • #3
  4. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I never made the association of games played on horseback as opposed to games played on foot. This is a nice little bit of history and the formation of our language. I like that kind of thing.

    Doesn’t that mean that basketball, baseball, tennis, volleyball…  are all “football?”

    Meanwhile, it does seem odd that “American Football” only uses the feet very rarely, for kicking.

    • #4
  5. Chris O Coolidge
    Chris O
    @ChrisO

    kedavis (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I never made the association of games played on horseback as opposed to games played on foot. This is a nice little bit of history and the formation of our language. I like that kind of thing.

    Doesn’t that mean that basketball, baseball, tennis, volleyball… are all “football?”

    Meanwhile, it does seem odd that “American Football” only uses the feet very rarely, for kicking.

    It did seem odd…until the OP cleared up some context. Great post!

    • #5
  6. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Chris O (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I never made the association of games played on horseback as opposed to games played on foot. This is a nice little bit of history and the formation of our language. I like that kind of thing.

    Doesn’t that mean that basketball, baseball, tennis, volleyball… are all “football?”

    Meanwhile, it does seem odd that “American Football” only uses the feet very rarely, for kicking.

    It did seem odd…until the OP cleared up some context. Great post!

    Well I guess in a way, except for how that means that basketball, baseball, tennis, volleyball… are all “football.”

    • #6
  7. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    kedavis (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I never made the association of games played on horseback as opposed to games played on foot. This is a nice little bit of history and the formation of our language. I like that kind of thing.

    Doesn’t that mean that basketball, baseball, tennis, volleyball… are all “football?”

    Meanwhile, it does seem odd that “American Football” only uses the feet very rarely, for kicking.

    American football, which is properly referred to as “real football” (the adjective is optional, for use only when courtesy requires the clarification) uses 44 human feet, on every play.

    • #7
  8. Chris O Coolidge
    Chris O
    @ChrisO

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Well I guess in a way, except for how that means that basketball, baseball, tennis, volleyball… are all “football.”

    aka “deplorable,” rabble-type stuff. Bring it on.

    • #8
  9. Chris O Coolidge
    Chris O
    @ChrisO

    Barfly (View Comment):
    American football, which is properly referred to as “real football” (the adjective is optional, for use only when courtesy requires the clarification) uses 44 human feet, on every play.

    So does soccer, and it doesn’t let its feet stop every 10 seconds for a break. Rugby uses 60 feet, so it’s more footy than football.

    • #9
  10. EJHill+ Podcaster
    EJHill+
    @EJHill

    I watched the match vs England. Who knew the English sucked at that as much as we do?

    I personally do not see the attraction of “the beautiful game.” Enthusiasts will wax poetic about a nil-nil tie and then tell me a 1-0 baseball game is “boring.” Wut?

    I also do not understand how, in this day and age, why soccer can not keep an accurate clock in the stadium. There should be no surprise stoppage time. If the referee stops the clock, stop the damn clock. </rant>

    • #10
  11. Eustace C. Scrubb Member
    Eustace C. Scrubb
    @EustaceCScrubb

    Soccer! Soccer!  Soccer!  Soccer! Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer!Soccer! (Also, boring!)

    • #11
  12. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

     

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I never made the association of games played on horseback as opposed to games played on foot. This is a nice little bit of history and the formation of our language. I like that kind of thing.

    I like that, too. Also the ironclad logic. 

    • #12
  13. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    EJHill+ (View Comment):

    I watched the match vs England. Who knew the English sucked at that as much as we do?

    I personally do not see the attraction of “the beautiful game.” Enthusiasts will wax poetic about a nil-nil tie and then tell me a 1-0 baseball game is “boring.” Wut?

    I also do not understand how, in this day and age, why soccer can not keep an accurate clock in the stadium. There should be no surprise stoppage time. If the referee stops the clock, stop the damn clock. </rant>

    I’ve watched some of the various sportsball games on TV in Ireland when we’ve gone to visit our daughter.  It seems to me that we once watched soccer, or whatever they call it over there.  One good thing about the games was the relatively non-stop action without commercial interruptions.  It meant the matches were finished quickly. 

    • #13
  14. EJHill+ Podcaster
    EJHill+
    @EJHill

    The ReticulatorOne good thing about the games was the relatively non-stop action without commercial interruptions. It meant the matches were finished quickly.

    I had a chance to work a Rugby 7s tournament in Las Vegas pre-Covid. Those games are a grand total of 14 minutes long – 2 seven minute halves. 

    • #14
  15. Ben Sears Member
    Ben Sears
    @BenMSYS

    kedavis (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I never made the association of games played on horseback as opposed to games played on foot. This is a nice little bit of history and the formation of our language. I like that kind of thing.

    Doesn’t that mean that basketball, baseball, tennis, volleyball… are all “football?”

    Meanwhile, it does seem odd that “American Football” only uses the feet very rarely, for kicking.

    I suppose they would qualify as football but only in the sense that Omaha is beyond the Pale (insert Omaha jokes here.) Technically correct but not really what was meant by the phrase as first coined. With no English version of the Acadamie Francaise we kinda have to fly by the seat of our pants. I’d say that only sports known to the English or variations of sports known to the English when the term came into use should come under the definition of football. At least that’s how I would use the word.

    That said, I have no idea what to do with tennis. It’s been around for centuries and comes up at various times in literature. Nowhere have I read tennis referred to as football. I assume there are other divisors that I don’t know about. We have debates about what is a sport vs a game and differentiate between contact and non-contact sports. Who knows what categories they used in addition to mounted and on foot way back when. 

    • #15
  16. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    EJHill+ (View Comment):

    The Reticulator: One good thing about the games was the relatively non-stop action without commercial interruptions. It meant the matches were finished quickly.

    I had a chance to work a Rugby 7s tournament in Las Vegas pre-Covid. Those games are a grand total of 14 minutes long – 2 seven minute halves.

    Only sumo wrestling is faster. 

    • #16
  17. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    This is a what comes of letting our children play Eurogames. I say we ban jogball for the good of our nation. 

    • #17
  18. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    A corollary of this thread is that national sport may be understood as a metaphor that reveals the national spirit and culture. Soccer is a street fight, with just enough extra rules to keep everyone uninjured and expressive. Note especially performative injury – the street theater (theatre?) side of soccer, a necessary part of any metaphor that serves feminine Europa.

    Contrast a street protest with real football. Generals direct field commanders over sequential campaigns. Every play is an organized battle, as each side works to penetrate the other’s line. American football is a metaphor for war.

    • #18
  19. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Barfly (View Comment):

    A corollary of this thread is that national sport may be understood as a metaphor that reveals the national spirit and culture. Soccer is a street fight, with just enough extra rules to keep everyone uninjured and expressive. Note especially performative injury – the street theater (theatre?) side of soccer, a necessary part of any metaphor that serves feminine Europa.

    Contrast a street protest with real football. Generals direct field commanders over sequential campaigns. Every play is an organized battle, as each side works to penetrate the other’s line. American football is a metaphor for war.

    And then there’s baseball…  (I’m not surprised George Will likes it better.)

     

    • #19
  20. Marjorie Reynolds Coolidge
    Marjorie Reynolds
    @MarjorieReynolds

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    EJHill+ (View Comment):

    I watched the match vs England. Who knew the English sucked at that as much as we do?

    I personally do not see the attraction of “the beautiful game.” Enthusiasts will wax poetic about a nil-nil tie and then tell me a 1-0 baseball game is “boring.” Wut?

    I also do not understand how, in this day and age, why soccer can not keep an accurate clock in the stadium. There should be no surprise stoppage time. If the referee stops the clock, stop the damn clock. </rant>

    I’ve watched some of the various sportsball games on TV in Ireland when we’ve gone to visit our daughter. It seems to me that we once watched soccer, or whatever they call it over there. One good thing about the games was the relatively non-stop action without commercial interruptions. It meant the matches were finished quickly.

    I don’t like the almost cult like devotion to GAA clubs that exists here but I have to say there’s no game like Hurling.

    https://youtu.be/eCZjSUAbzcU

    The reason I’ve picked this old match is my cousin is featured and scores near the end of it.

    Also the jerseys looked better before they started printing their sponsor’s names on them.

    • #20
  21. She Member
    She
    @She

    From now on, I’m calling polo (field, not water), “horseball.”

    • #21
  22. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    I can’t stand soccer.  Football is the absolute best sport in the world . . .

    • #22
  23. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    EJHill+ (View Comment):

    I watched the match vs England. Who knew the English sucked at that as much as we do?

    I personally do not see the attraction of “the beautiful game.” Enthusiasts will wax poetic about a nil-nil tie and then tell me a 1-0 baseball game is “boring.” Wut?

    I also do not understand how, in this day and age, why soccer can not keep an accurate clock in the stadium. There should be no surprise stoppage time. If the referee stops the clock, stop the damn clock. </rant>

    I’ve watched some of the various sportsball games on TV in Ireland when we’ve gone to visit our daughter. It seems to me that we once watched soccer, or whatever they call it over there. One good thing about the games was the relatively non-stop action without commercial interruptions. It meant the matches were finished quickly.

    “action”

    also:

    https://babylonbee.com/news/soccer-team-apologizes-for-running-up-the-score-in-2-0-blowout

     

    • #23
  24. Justin Other Lawyer Coolidge
    Justin Other Lawyer
    @DouglasMyers

    EJHill+ (View Comment):

    I watched the match vs England. Who knew the English sucked at that as much as we do?

    I personally do not see the attraction of “the beautiful game.” Enthusiasts will wax poetic about a nil-nil tie and then tell me a 1-0 baseball game is “boring.” Wut?

    I also do not understand how, in this day and age, why soccer can not keep an accurate clock in the stadium. There should be no surprise stoppage time. If the referee stops the clock, stop the damn clock. </rant>

    I’m of a couple of minds here.  Having played many years of soccer, I enjoy watching high level soccer (which the England/USA match was), even when it ends (frustratingly) in a 0-0 tie.  It was a well-played match, by my lights.

    But like you, I hate ties, and am happy to watch a well-played 1-0 baseball game.

    And don’t get me started on the clock thing.  That’s one of the most ridiculous aspects of the game.  It ends when the ref decides?  So, so stupid.

    • #24
  25. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    kedavis (View Comment):
    And then there’s baseball… 

    Carlin really nailed it. Was America a better place when baseball was considered “The Great American Pastime”? (An activity that occupies one’s spare time pleasantly.)

    • #25
  26. Justin Other Lawyer Coolidge
    Justin Other Lawyer
    @DouglasMyers

    EJHill+ (View Comment):

    I also do not understand how, in this day and age, why soccer can not keep an accurate clock in the stadium. There should be no surprise stoppage time. If the referee stops the clock, stop the damn clock. </rant>

    Here’s a fun story (at least to me) re: the clock thing.  Although I played soccer from about age 5 through my second year of college, I remained largely ignorant of the international game and its timing “conventions”.  In both high school and college, time was kept precisely on the sideline, starting and stopping at the referee’s direction.  When the buzzer sounded, play ended, regardless of what was happening on the field. 

    Fast-forward about 15 years, and I was refereeing an informal youth league game that involved many families from Latin America.  It being informal, I was keeping time with a stopwatch on the field, informing the sideline periodically of the time remaining.

    During the final seconds of the game, the one striker was making a run down the field toward the goal, but before he could take a shot, I whistled the game over because, duh, time had expired.  His coach, who I believe was from Argentina, chided me for stopping the game “mid-action”.  This was completely news to me, finding it so strange that I would “let” a player have an opportunity to score after time expired.  If a game is timed, it should be timed, and not simply left to the discretion of when the ref “feels” time is up.

    • #26
  27. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Eloquent and entertaining. Thank you Ben.

    I particularly like posts that tilt at elitist windmills. I call it soccer (and I don’t say “PAH-key-stahn”).

    • #27
  28. She Member
    She
    @She

    Almost 20 years ago, on a trip to the UK, I released Mr. She from any sense of sportual or familial obligation so that he could spend most of the day with Auntie Pat (99 years old last July, may she live forever) and attend a match featuring Aston Villa, the favored club of my paternal grandparents, whereas Granny and Grandpa on the ‘other side’ championed West Bromwich Albion.

    Up the Baggies!

    “Proper football!”  Pat exclaimed, all those years ago.  And Frank was happy to play along. One of the favorite memories of his life.  And–as I’ve found out lately–of  Pat’s as well.

    And yet.

    I consider myself from Pittsburgh.

    Doesn’t matter in this case, though.   There’s more to life than football.

    • #28
  29. Justin Other Lawyer Coolidge
    Justin Other Lawyer
    @DouglasMyers

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Eloquent and entertaining. Thank you Ben.

    I particularly like posts that tilt at elitist windmills. I call it soccer (and I don’t say “PAH-key-stahn”).

    You probably don’t say “cutter” either, do you?  Philistine.

    • #29
  30. Misthiocracy has never Member
    Misthiocracy has never
    @Misthiocracy

    I’m just gonna keep calling all of them Sportsball.

    • #30
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