Why Did Soccer Fail In The U.S. When Other Sports Thrived?

Below is a link to a research paper I wrote last year that I’ve uploaded to my Academia page. It concerns research into the growth of gridiron football (NFL-style), baseball, and basketball in the US and why association football (a.k.a. soccer) failed to grasp the country’s imagination as the other three.


An excerpt:

Most importantly, “the game in America badly lacked willful leadership…Plenty of athletic departments and administrators may have thought soccer was vaguely a good thing, yet none seemed to possess the eagerness and ambition to lift it to greater prominence” (Wangerin “Distant” 32).

The main issue facing the leagues across the nation was the lack of a governmental body to enforce a set of rules agreed upon by all. Leagues played according to their own sets of rules, which put them at odds with each other and the fanbases they catered to. A league in St. Louis, for example, “played halves of 30 minutes instead of 45” (Wangerin, “Soccer” 29).

The AFA, founded, ironically enough, by a group of British expatriates made the first to attempt to unify the country’s leagues in the late 19th century. Unfortunately, any and all attempts at unification became power struggles between British and American leaders of the sport who “engaged in petty rivalries and internecine organizational struggles that only helped to preserve their narrow fiefdoms and the status quo at the expense of creating an institutional structure that might have been able to disseminate the sport to the vast majority of the American public” (Markovits “Offside” 53).

A Reflection On The Fall Of Saigon By A Vietnamese Refugee

Today marks the 39th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, which led to the end of the Vietnam War. My friend Tom and his family fled the country to the USA as war refugees. He marked the anniversary with a lengthy post on Facebook describing in detail his experience as a refugee and immigrant.

He gave me permission to repost it and I present it here in its entirety. I took the liberty of editing it into separate paragraphs:

I always have mixed emotions today.

I remember fleeing with my mom & my 2 toddler brothers. How she kept us together & alive in the mass exodus from Da Lat to Sai Gon I’ll never know. I remember us getting on the last US military flight from Tan Son Nhat already under bombardment from the approaching Communists, the day before the country fell. We were far luckier than the million who would flee afterwards on boats, with daughters & mothers raped & sold into sex slavery by Thai pirates, whole families perishing, and those who made it, committed to concentration camps in foreign lands for years.

We were greeted here as “gooks” and told to go “back home”, my ex-girlfriend’s cousin, studying to be a lawyer, murdered in OC by white supremacists, my brothers and I witnessing homicides from Vietnamese gangs, my parents working their way up from menial jobs, while on welfare, to learn a new language, new vocations..to be able to go from nothing to put us all through college is testament to their sheer devotion & sacrifice for us…and resulting pressure that would lead me to suicidal thoughts in my school years. Because being held up as this Model Minority, silent, obedient, smart, destroys so many of us and makes those who aren’t poster children for success, as invisible and worthless, in a culture that only worships success as money.

The one valuable thing I did learn in college was the history not taught in schools…that the US illegally started the war & dropped more bombs on my country than all of WW2, while illegally doing the same to the Lao & Khmer people. That they were more concerned about Communism that if they had to kill every Vietnamese to achieve that, they would have. That they perfected torture campaigns against civilians in VietNam that would later go on to be used on Latin Americans in the 70s and 80s, and now in Iraq & Afghanistan.

Vietnamese left behind fared far worse. Re-education & labor camps. No opportunities because of guilt-by-association with the former regime. No freedom of speech, press. Massive corruption and a growing divide between the wealthy and the poor, rural masses, the very same people the Communists convinced they would help when put into power.

In coming full circle, my father retired & moved back to Sai Gon to watch as the VN govt suppresses democracy and farms out rural workers to other “free, Western” countries as slave labor.

Today I don’t mourn the loss of a country, headed by corruption & abuse. We’re taught in US schools, the US fought in Vietnam to contain the domino effect of Communism. Instead, they unleased a domino effect of not just 2 million Vietnamese lives lost, tens of thousands of Lao lives as well, the 1 million Cambodian deaths in the genocide, and tens of thousands of their own deaths. Lao are still killed today by US cluster bombs purposely dropped to maim civilians, Cambodia still hasn’t recovered from the legacy of genocide, Vietnamese babies are still born today with birth defects from US chemical weapons, and US veterans still suffer from Agent Orange with no help from the VA. So today cannot simply be remembered as a mere passing of South Vietnam. It is but one point in a larger tapestry, a convoluted web of colonialism, white supremacy, capitalism, communism, whatever name you want to put on power structures to dominate the masses of people who just want to live in peace.

All I can take away from this is no matter who is in power, and how the political tides turn, it is the ordinary people on all sides who suffer at the whims of the powerful & wealthy and it is the ordinary people who must rely on themselves for their own ingenuity, grit & survival in desperate times.

And that is my American story.

On Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon), 519 Years to the Day of his Arrival

Monument dedicated to Christopher Columbus in Valladolid, Spain

From Eduardo Galeano‘s book, Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone:


Defying the fury of the winds and the hunger of ship-eating monsters, Admiral Christopher Columbus set sail.

He did not discover America. The Polynesians had arrived a century previous, and the Vikings four centuries before that. And three hundred centuries before them all came the oldest inhabitants of these lands, people whom Columbus called Indians, believing he had entered the Orient by the back door.

Since he did not understand what they said, Columbus was convinced the natives did not know how to speak. Since they went about naked, were docile, and gave up everything in return for nothing, he believed they were not thinking beings.

Although he died insisting his travels had taken him to Asia, Columbus did begin to harbor doubts on his second voyage. When his ships anchored off the Cuban coast in the middle of June 1494, the admiral dictated a statement affirming that he was in China. He left written evidence that his crew agreed: anyone saying the contrary was to receive a hundred lashes, be fined then thousand maravedies, and have his tongue cut out.

At the bottom of the page, the few sailors who knew how to write signed their names.

Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano

From the desk of historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Columbus – Hero or Villain?:

Columbus deserves the credit or blame only for what he actually did: which was to discover a route that permanently linked the shores of the Atlantic and to contribute–more signally, perhaps, than any other individual–to the long process by which once sundered peoples of the world were brought together in a single network of communications, which exposed them to the perils and benefits of mutual contagion and exchange. Whether or not one regards this as meritorious achievement, there was a genuine touch of heroism in it–both in the scale of its effects and in the boldness which inspired it. There had been many attempts to cross the Atlantic in central latitudes, but all–as far as we know–failed because the explorers clung to the zone of westerly winds in an attempt to secure a passage home. Columbus was the first to succeed precisely because he had the courage to sail with the wind at his back.

So which was Columbus: hero or villain? The answer is that he was neither but has become both. The real Columbus was a mixture of virtues and vices like the rest of us, not conspicuously good or just, but generally well-intentioned, who grappled creditably with intractable problems. Heroism and villainy are not, however, objective qualities. They exist only in the eye of the beholder.

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto (no relation)