17 January 2007

Subba cultcha: These are your thoughts, and you are certainly thinking.

Our recent discussions on soccer and subculture have spawned some interesting in writing in our comments and on other blogs. So much so that I'd like to highlight some of the interesting things people said.

First, since I dragged her into this discussion, I thought it interesting that Kali at RSL blog posted her thoughts. While the entire geek aspect that I was looking at may not be true for the soccer community at large, she think it certainly seems true for soccer bloggers, including the ones that self-reflect on the issue:

What I couldn't figure out is why I kept writing, even though it started to feel like an obligation rather than a hobby ... Thanks to my comrade in DC, however, I've arrived at the answer: I'm a geek. While I'd like to think it's in a goofy, stay-at-home-on-Friday-nights-and-watch-the-History-Channel sort of way, I'm beginning to have my doubts.

While I'm starting to come to terms with my status as a soccer geek, if I start frequenting hacking websites or building my own robot in the garage after work, I'm shutting this thing down faster than a beer stand at RES. Just saying...

I think I know where she's coming from on that one.

Specifically in response to Kinney's posts, there are some great thoughts that I wanted to make sure people saw:

From an Anonymous commenter:

Soccer is unusual (in American sports circles) in the mostly non-stop action. Most major American sports feature a lot of stop-start action. I think that translates at least some into how one thinks and perceives things - some folks just can't "get" sports like soccer that ebb and flow but rarely stop.
From "BQ"
About 2 years ago I was sitting at a bar in downtown Minneapolis watching a soccer game with fellow Dark Cloud supporters (MN Thunder Supporters group) saying that I worried about a day when and if soccer really did become popular in this country, as we all wish for, would I still love the game the same way.
"MEL" makes a great economic point:
There are other reasons why being out of the mainstream is attractive to some beyond a counterculture mentality. Being out of the mainstream means demand is lower, and that means prices are lower and access to the team is greater
Our old friend Matt W has three great points, but I wanted to highlight the second point because it not only reflects something I think but also will tie into the comment after that:
2. For people like me for whom expressions of pride in country are normally suppressed, rooting for the national soccer teams allows us to wave the flag with joyful abandon. Also, civic pride where other local teams' fanbases are so meatheaded (like, say, the Redskins').
I think there's a lot of truth compressed into that paragraph, especially when compared with BlackDogRed's cryptic note:
I very well aware that my fandom satisfies an aspect of my personality that's susceptible to those very characteristics authoritarian demagogues (of all flavors) know precisely how to exploit, whether as incitement to action or diversionary strategy to misdirect energy. But enough.
Finally, a nod to BigKris, who wrote:
Kinney's post, however, I think is spot-on in describing it as a subculture (or rather as a collection of subcultures) -- those who don't want to be mainstream. In addition to Kinney's example of the overlap with an indie music subculture group, I also note that there is a large collection of microbeer enthusiasts among DC fans. And it would not be possible to be a member of a supporters' group without embracing a more multicultural environment than a typical American suburb provides. No doubt there are other overlapping nonconformist tendencies as well.
There's a lot of smart people out there. I think the sense is that there are two ways of viewing this: Either soccer has a subculture simply by virtue of its sharing its position outside of the mainstream of american society (In which case that culture may deteriorate if or when the game becomes more popular) or there is something unique about the game itself and its competition that lends itself to the development of a culture like the one we see (especially around RFK). I tend toward the latter position, but I couldn't prove it. Most of you (with a few exceptions) seem to tend toward the former. Although perhaps Joanna neatly expressed a hyrbird position: "to be a soccer fan is to be... less US-centric and more able to appreciate other cultural experiences be they European, South American, whatever. Which is related to your whole idea of subcultures and having an interest in things outside the mainstream" Which means it isn't the game itself but more "The Game + All of the Global Traditions around it. (Kali had a great point about how everyone becomes Simon Kuper when politics and rivalries are mentioned). And if I missed a key thought from anyone, let me know. Some great reading out there.

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4 Comments:

At 17 January, 2007 12:02, Anonymous Eric said...

What do you call it when you look at the sky in a poetic kind of way? You know, when you grope for Luna.

:D

 
At 17 January, 2007 12:21, Blogger D said...

I was all dressed in black (and red)
She was all dressed up in black (and red)
Everything was fine down here
What you call it here
Call it what you will here

 
At 18 January, 2007 14:02, Anonymous Matt W said...

Pixies and The Fall in the last day or two? Yeah, we're deep into at least a couple of subcultures.

Let me add one thought about Gen X'ers, who as a generational cohort seem (to me at least) to be overrepresented among American soccer fandom. We were kids when NASL had its brief peak and at a time when the other big sports were in a sort of lull. Soccer was new and fresh-faced and unique.

And then NASL went away and a lot of the sizzle of soccer went with it. Those of us neophyte soccer fans who stayed with the sport were convinced of a few things: 1) this was a great great great sport; 2) nobody but us appreciated or understood it; and 3) point 1) made us willing to endure point 2). And thus a subculture was born. I mean, I spent Saturday afternoons as a young'un watching "Soccer Made in Germany" on the local PBS station.

As the '80s turned into the '90s and soccer reemerged on the American sports scene (not coincidentally as people our age started dominating play), it did so at a time when other sports had awakened from their lull. Soccer wasn't the flashy hype sport now, it was the indie rock of sports, available only at odd hours and in odd locations.

World Cup '94 and then the debut of MLS and WUSA were spectacular, sort of, but in an odd sort of replay of the '70s, when the glitz wore off, the spotlight shifted away. Only this time we were left with an actual league, and the national teams were still on TV. And here we remain: a solid core of devoted fans, miniscule maybe when compared to the fanbases of the big three sports, but here to stay, and now that we're moving into middle age and have actual walking-around money and are raising our kids to be soccer fans, we're a niche demographic that advertisers want badly.

Thanks for getting us to think about this stuff. Hell, thanks for this blog. It's educational. It's educational. It's educational. It's educational. It's educational.

 
At 18 January, 2007 14:49, Blogger D said...

Great insight Matt. And I love "umass" as one of my favorite songs from that album (strange that Trompe Le Monde seems to be the most quotable for me, even if others argue that Dolittle or Surfer Rosa is better)

 

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