A Real Time Game for a Real Time Fan

Tom Kurz | 25 Jun 2010 10:00
Op-Ed - RSS 2.0

I am seriously over soccer detractors who seem to think that they have their finger on the pulse of what the American public enjoys watching. Citing Nielsen ratings (which we all know are flawed for various reasons) and retweeting their own hype, these journalists never cease to amaze me with their lack of understanding and their inability to see that which is staring them straight in the face.

We all know that soccer haters have long cried how the game is boring and low scoring. They love to joke about how it's a child's game played only by wimps and girls and that even the pros are prone to diving and faking injuries rather than getting on with matters at hand (I'll agree that the last point is true with regards to certain teams).

But I actually think that soccer has had to overcome two hurdles that have nothing to do with any of those misguided perceptions in order to gain stature and popularity in this country.

First off, America is different from the rest of the world in that we are a nation that loves "turn based" games. What does that mean? In gaming terms, it simply means that you take a turn, and then I take a turn, just like in a game of chess, Stratego, Risk or perhaps Starship Troopers. Look at American football (throwball to you footy fans). There is a kickoff and the receiving team gets the ball and then they get four downs to make a first down and continue to do so until they score or they turn the ball over to the other side and it becomes their turn. In baseball it's the same thing. A team will get three outs to try and advance runners in order to score points and then the other team gets three outs to do the same thing and this happens again and again for 9 turns or until a winner is declared. Even basketball is a turn based game. One team has a chance to score a basket and then the ball is turned over to the other team so that they can have a chance to score a basket. And this occurs for 4 quarters until a winner is declared.

The rest of the world however embraces what I like to refer to as "real time" or "transition based" games. These games, which include soccer and hockey, do not involve turns per se rather they involve a simultaneous competition for control of a playing surface in the hopes that an opportunity will arise where they can strike though defensive forces in order to score a goal. The play in transition based games tends to simulate real conflict in a more meaningful manner in that both sides are operating simultaneously to secure position necessary for gaining control and victory. There is no time to sit back and reflect upon what the other side is doing because it is live and happening at the moment. When one understands this perspective, then all of a sudden, the play in the middle of the field becomes that much more compelling and exciting.

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