Still More on Not One-Off Footballism

Very amusing New York Times article today by Sarah Lyall, about hardcore American soccer/football fans who talk “about the pitch (field) and the kit (jerseys) and the supporters (themselves) and who, when compelled to use the word soccer, were putting it in invisible quotation marks.”

That is, this lot is adamant, maybe a bit too adamant, about using British, rather than American, sporting terminology. Last year, another New York Times writer, Jack Bell, wrote a guest post for NOOBs on the subject. Lyall’s article indicates that, on the eve of the World Cup, a critical mass of posers has formed.

Not surprisingly for someone who has spent a lot of time in Britain (for many years she was a London correspondent for the Times), Lyall has a keen eye for multiple layers of snobbery, as in her selection of this quote from Scott Chandler, 27, a business analyst: “I use pitch and I use club, but I don’t judge if other terms are used. To me, pretentious is denigrating M.L.S., like, ‘It’s not as good as my Spanish team’ or looking down on people who support Arsenal. It’s not what terms you use — it’s what you call out other people for using.”

And Lyall well knows that American fans have a long way to go before they truly resemble British supporters. She writes about the spectators at a U.S.-Nigeria game match:

Sure, they were chanting, but their chants were inoffensive exhortations about believing and winning, rather than vicious denigrations of the opposing players’ mothers. Sure, they were drinking to the point of insensibility, but it was the kind of drunkenness where you are more likely to hurt yourself from falling off your chair than from being attacked by your mortal enemy, an opposing fan.


16 thoughts on “Still More on Not One-Off Footballism

  1. When I lived in the UK, or was visiting family there I was taught the proper terms in regard to football. It’s not a game, it’s a match! It’s not a uniform as you mentioned, it’s their kit. They’re not football players, they’re footballers. And so on…

    I was a Manchester United supporter, even had one of their shirts to wear to the pub during a match. I had previously been a supporter of Arsenal so it’s interesting they are mentioned as well because my UK friends said they were all too Hollywood! Wasn’t sure exactly what that meant but I knew enough to know it wasn’t good! I once watched an American football game in a pub in York and was teased about American players being sissies because they wore so much protective gear. I tried to explain its mostly about lawsuits in the US but it fell on deaf ears. But afterwards when we then watched a Man U match, it drove a few points home (Pardon the puns). The US commentators were so into the players as individuals that you could almost forget they were a Team Member. It seemed more about the glory (or demise) of the player personally and not what they did as and for a team. I could see the “Hollywood” influence and immediately identified with the term. Alas, with the end of Sir Alex Ferguson as their spirited leader, I’m no longer a Man U supporter. Arsenal it is once again!

    1. Well that’s the difference between American and British football fans then, you don’t stop following your team just becuase something changes!! I hope you’re not typical of the North American football supporter or the game has got problems taking root.

      I like my American Football as well. People here in the UK moan about the helmets and pads but I tell people that the head is basically a weapon in American Football.

      1. I was an Arsenal supporter to begin with. Then a bloke talked me into following his Red Men which I did. Until I found out he was married and had others on the side. That did it for me! Went back to my fav…never should have left them! In the US I am a supporter of the Red Sox and Patriots. I’ll never stop being a Bostonian!

      2. The introduction of the face guard on the football helmet almost completely ended dental injuries to players. I know they wear a kind of mouth guard as well.
        Many sportsmen now wear custom made mouth guards. It my time yacht sailors, skiers, cyclists have amongst others taken to helmets.

        Sorry for deviating!

      3. Well, maybe now.

        According to my father, his father was a Woolwich Arsenal Supporter a century ago. Then, in 1913, they moved across the river to Highbury and he never supported them again, changing his allegiance to Charlton Athletic, which my father supported all his life. He took me to some of their games when I was very small but these days I prefer American football.

  2. “London correspondent for the Times” ?
    Presumably you mean “London correspondent for the New York Times” ?

    1. I didn’t write “The” Times (and I referred to the New York Times one paragraph earlier), so there is your answer!

  3. The very same arena can be a “court” or a “rink” depending on the sport being played on it; why can’t a stadium be a “pitch” or a “field” (or a “ballpark”) depending on the sport being played on it?

    Using American terms for American sports is entirely normal here in Britain, why shouldn’t Americans use British terms for British sports?

  4. Didn’t the word “soccer” arrive as a shortened version of the British “association football”?

  5. I’ve just read Sarah Lyalls article. It’s brilliant. And if that’s the way it really happened then so much better that than the truly awful scenes we occasionally get here in Britain at football matches. I don’t really understand whether there is a point about NOOBs here as I suppose you would always use the terminology of the game. If “American” football became popular here then I would expect people to use the expressions commonly used in North America. So it seems quite reasonable to use Britishisms. I would not expect these expressions to be transferred to other sports!

  6. Interesting, Dormouse. Your grandfather and mine followed the same route. My father was also born after the Woolwich Arsenal move and became a lifelong Charlton Athletic supporter under the influence of his dad. I was taken to several games when I was young but have not been for many years, although I still check their results first. Yet another way I was a disappointment to the Old Man!

    1. Now there’s a coincidence. Although I suppose it was a common reaction at the time. I recall something similar happened when Wimbledon moved to Milton Keynes a few years ago.

      As it happened, when I was four my family moved to the north of England so no more Charlton games – Darlington was our local team. But I even got to the famous Italy vs North Korea game in the 1966 World Cup. But I do know that when my father finally got on to the internet in his seventies, one of the first things he did was find the Charlton supporters page.

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