A reader on Twitter asked me:
Isn’t soccer culture—fans, causes, etc.—way gayer than normal men’s sports?
I replied: Nah, outside of Portland, soccer culture around the world is more proletarian, nationalist, populist, laddish, violent, sectarian, and racist than American sports cultures, which are more genteel because they are aimed at college alumni and the corporate classes.
The reader thanked me and said he was from Portland, OR, so he didn’t realize soccer wasn’t like that elsewhere.
In Portland, following soccer is an affectation of globalist opposition to the American nation and culture. Most other places, soccer manifests itself as concentric rings of loyalty to neighborhood, city, and nation, or perhaps to religion or class.
The reason the soccer authorities are constantly launching campaigns to refine the behavior of fans and players is because otherwise they’d be deplorable. Not just what Hillary Clinton would consider deplorable, but what any sane burgher would deplore.
E.g., in 1980, I met on a train in Switzerland some English soccer louts going to Turin to smash up the plate glass windows of downtown after the match as a show of strength. They held the Italian soccer fans in contempt because the Italians appeared like they rather wouldn’t fight and only showed up to the riots started by the English marauders to defend their home town from attack.
According to Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary, in the 1890s the National League was turning into what English soccer was for most of the 20th Century — an excuse for drunken Irishmen to brawl. So Ban Johnson founded the American League to be respectable middle class family entertainment, and it was a huge success.
In the 1970s, fights were pretty common at baseball stadiums, but in the 1980s they implemented a lot of smarter security systems and fighting became less common again.
American football emerged out of elite colleges. By the time professional football took off around 60 years ago, it tended to be aimed most of all at corporate white collar workers.
Basketball also was first a college sport, then a professional one.
In American pro football and basketball, the draft of collegiate players severs ties of localism to local heroes. The NBA used to give pro teams first pick at local players — that’s how Wilt Chamberlain wound up back home in Philadelphia, but soon dumped that. E.g., Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a cultured product of the Harlem Renaissance and had starred at UCLA, but the NBA draft sent him to Milwaukee of all random places.
European pro soccer is following a somewhat similar path, but it has its roots in neighborhood sports clubs
Canadian ice hockey was a pro sport that encouraged fist-fighting on the ice, but the fans tend to be good-natured. (In the couple of professional wrestling shows I’ve been to, the fans were particularly warm and respectful toward each other. WWE fans seem to like other WWE fans a lot.)
I don’t know the full story of how the British soccer authorities cut way back on hooliganism. There were two huge tragedies in soccer stadiums in the 1980s, one the fault of hooligans, the other of authorities worried about hooliganism.
At that point, I think, people like Rupert Murdoch, who was helping start the Premier League to cash in on TV money, said: This is stupid.
American football is brutal on the field but peaceful in the stands. That’s because it attracts people who can pay for a nice experience. The old English soccer grounds tended to be built like slaughterhouse holding pens by designers terrified that the crowded cattle would stampede.
So, they switched over to reserved seating for almost everybody and other American amenities, and soccer’s appeal to the middle and upper classes broadened considerably.
But I know even less about the sociology of soccer on the Continent.
Most countries that have won the World Cup have had far right dictatorships at some point in the 20th Century:
Brazil 5, Germany 4, Italy 4, Argentina 2, France 2, Uruguay 2, and Spain 1. Only England, with one championship in 1966, is the only World Cup winner to have gotten through the 20th Century without a rightist dictatorship.