Day 80 of 98 – The Soccer Part 2c: Vote Quimby!

8 Dec

Continuing on, this post will be about the general behavior of soccer fans.

So the previous post contains one possible explanation for the violence, but what about all that craziness that goes on during the regular season soccer games. What’s up with that?

I think there are a number of factors. For starters, the previously-mentioned regional rivalries help get the fans worked up. It probably carries over to when a team is not playing a close rival. No doubt about that.

In addition the game is slow and you are unlikely to miss anything if you turn your head for 30 seconds. If something exciting did happen the rest of the crowd would let you know well in advance of the event itself. Idle hand are the Devil’s something. Or so it says in the bible. I think the fans can act all crazy-like because the likelihood of them missing something important is incredibly low. Many goals are scored on penalty or corner kicks and these take a long time to set up. Everyone is watching.

Baseball and football have breaks between every play that are about twenty to sixty seconds long. These pauses are effectively timeouts – no one is going to score. You would think this would be the death of the sport, but once the play starts again, there is decent chance of something interesting happening. To put it simply, in baseball one can score with the very first pitch. In football it’s possible to score a touchdown on the very first play – and this does happen. In hockey, the fastest goal from a center-ice face-off is about four seconds.

You can look away to try and light that firecracker but you might miss something. Or not.

Meanwhile in soccer, many games go the entire match without a goal. There have been ninety-six Champions League matches played this fall and eight have been scoreless draws. That’s a greater than eight percent chance of not seeing a single goal during a match.

Now I’m *not* saying that soccer is objectively boring. If your team needs a tie to advance, a 0-0 final score is awesome. Every shot on goal could be the end of your season – this is drama. And from point number one: if you grew up with soccer you will find it interesting and exciting.

What I’m trying to establish is that there are very few moments in a soccer game where someone has an actual chance of scoring. This means that the fans have had to invent novel ways of keeping themselves entertained. This is where the marching bands, the firecrackers, the alcohol, the flags, the singing, and the taunting of the opposing team’s fans comes in.

And all of this make the in-stadium soccer experience a lot of fun. If you get a chance you should really try and see a game.

There are some other factors at play here too:

  • It’s winter, the fans are outside, and they have to keep warm – so they jump around
  • They are also standing (the most boisterous ones anyway) so they need to keep moving to stay comfortable
  • The games are played at the same time every week – it becomes ritual, and therefor its importance gets elevated (plus it’s just easier to schedule). The NFL is like this too (except they play on Sundays) and they have the craziest tailgate parities/fans. The NHL, MLB, and NBA play their games on all days of the week so it’s impossible for it to become fully ritualized.
  • There are fewer games so they become more important – in baseball each team has a hundred and sixty-two games in the regular season. Hockey and basketball each have eighty-two; NFL football sixteen and CFL eighteen.
  • The fixed duration of the matches might mix in there too. If there was even a ten percent chance that the games could run four hours, I bet a lot of fans would be turned off. At a minimum they would want to be able to sit down.

Jebus. It’s like I’m back in school writing a report. To summarize:

Soccer violence – cultural and regional historical rivalries that are largely absent in North America.

Soccer fans acting all crazy during regular season games – low likelihood of scoring coupled with the previously-mentioned preclusion for soccer violence mixed with the ritualized nature of the once-per-week contests and the low number of games per year.

This all may sound a bit hokey to some of you, but I for one, like establishing sweeping, all-encompassing “facts” that are based on a small number of personal experiences.

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