World Cup Fever Ups My Man-Quotient

I love soccer

I love soccer

By Alexander Medvedenko

American men haven’t said a word about soccer all year. And now we are all obsessed with the World Cup. FIFA “experts” have come out of the woodwork and Facebook posts are filled with tournament analysis. Guys have a favorite team, know the stats, and wear team jerseys — even if the team is not in the Cup.

When the World Cup ends it’ll be 11 months before you hear the word “soccer” again in the States.

It seems guys are basically lying to each other, talking it up even though few are really into the sport.

I wonder because I don’t watch sports. They have never interested me and I’ve never understood why they matter to anyone.

Obviously, as a straight male, I am a heretic!

My friends are as confused as me. It’s a guy thing isn’t it?

I’m onboard with riding bikes and goofing off. I played soccer and basketball as a kid. I wasn’t the MVP, but I wasn’t a benchwarmer either. I even get the fascination with PLAYING sports. But watching sports?

The over-the-top emotions are insanity to me!

Who really cares if the Lakers make the playoffs? How could this POSSIBLY impact your life in any way?

Needless to say, I quickly learned not to spout such things in public. Nothing makes a guy stand out faster then saying, “The Oakland Niners.”

But I often wonder how much of the hype is real.

I think some guys are really into a sport, or a team. But I think plenty of guys are along for the ride, doing what you need to do to look “manly” — consciously or not.

The good news is that sports interest isn’t something people can see. It’s easy to pick up on what people are saying. Just throw out a comment and move on. Flying under the radar, I’m assumed to be part of the pack.

It’s easier to fake it than to argue.

My close friends know that I don’t like sports. But why do they? I never get a straight answer. It’s entertaining, thrilling, some guys are technical about it. “To each is own” they say.

But its not! A huge majority of men are obsessed.

How much is conditioned? I mean, all the influences to play sports, or get a glove for your birthday, or play catch with dad — or with other kids on the playground who are also just trying to fit in.

I think boys use sports to define their gender. Your dad and his buddies are yelling at the TV so you get the idea that sports is what males are about.

You can’t grow a beard, but you can collect baseball cards.

In this world you can’t just be genetically male, you must also act manly. If you don’t fit into the box, people get uncomfortable. And sports are on that list.

But some things, like World Cup fever, pull the curtain down from the façade.

This was written by one of my students who, for obvious reasons, asked to use a pen name.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on July 11, 2014, in gender, men, psychology and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. I have heard this numerous times.
    “How could possibly someone be interested in sports? you have nothing to gain from sports” etc.

    Of course it’s culturally constructed, since the ancient times, people participated in sports and there were spectators rooting for a team.
    And there is a biologically reason behind this.

    It has been proved that playing sports and even just supporting a team that wins, that rises the level of testosterone. When you or your team looses that lowers the level of testosterone.

    The brain produces the strongest chemicals, that’s why rock climbers risk their life climbing.
    It’s all about the rush.

    • You have to like the thing (sports, rock climbing) to get the testosterone rush. And that’s
      Earned. In the US men don’t get that rush in soccer 11 months of the year. And number of guys don’t at all. Like this student, a male friend of mine who told me he just looks over the sports page so he can have conversations with guys but isn’t that interests. comedian, Bill Maher has said he doest get the interest in sports, either. And young children have an equal interest in sports, whether male or female. As they age, boys gain interest because it’s encouraged, and girls loose interest because it’s discouraged — not fem, you might be a lesbian.

      Though women’s interest in football, for instance, has raised a lot over the years. Along with cultural change that’s behind it. Now is ok/cool for women to like watching the home football team.

  2. So interesting. Genuine interest or patterned behavior according to gender expectations? I love that the author of the post is even asking this question. It is essential that we unpack and let go of any conditioning that isn’t who any of us really are.

  3. I thin the stir with the worldcup aand interest in it in America where there hasn’t been much before is because of a couple reasons. Sure soccer is not America’s sport, though it seems to be the rest of the world’s sport. I think people are jumping on, because it’s not expected, soccer is one sport where America are not kings in and are the underdogs. I think it’s patriotism, as in people gathering and excited even thought they really aren’t into soccer, that USA is doing well and better than expected and farther than people expected. USA did well this year and people always gravitate to underdogs plus rooting your country on. I mean look at the olympics most people don’t care for most of the sports but they will be excited to see their country do well and beat the other countries.

    There must be something biological too, because one has to ask why sports ever existed and spectators? Since the dawn of time sports have existed and it seems there have always been spectators and people watching them I think a lot of sports begand based upon war and training for way or athleticism due to that. I mean wrestling goes back to ancient times and maybe not boxing, but fighting sports, go way back too as well as footrace and running. And on top of that, lacrosse is very old too, Native American started that sports and I’m sure people and tribes watched that go on. Why? Entertainment? Pride or a need to root someone on? I think the reason some men get obsessed or some fanatics with sports is a think men grow up playing sports and their pride and masculinity was partially rooted from their atheletic success. However, like most men and people in general they do not become pro athletes, only an extremely small fraction make its to the pros and lasts for more than 4 years. So I think the men are ‘living through” the team they root for and players therefore, feel the frustration and happiness when their teams wins.

    I think it’s also an escape for people’s or men’s mundane lives and work grind and sports and rooting and watching compeitiion and excitment gets them something excited to watch and look forward too. Just like sports can provide 2 hour or three hours especape for people going through tragedy and to focus on and get into competition and entertainment.
    I like football, because I like sports and have played and being a competitor I just love watching competition and the twists and turns and suspense that comes from good teams playing or for my team pulling out a close game. It can be exciting which regular tv shows can’t do, because tv shows are just people acting, wherease, sports is competition and a loser and a winner and it can unfold in a thrilling way. I’m surprised the men hates the suspense, when the close games should be exciting for him. People like watching a movie that has suspense right?

    • Well, biological? Yet I know many people who are uninterested in sports, and soccer in particular. If the US didn’t exist, people would probably think that liking soccer was biological.

      But thanks for offering your thoughts on why you like it.

  4. It has to be. Even though I’m a fine, I’ve always wondered what it is for people to root and care for a team, like that need to root for someone or some team together when they don’t know the players and teams personally. There must be something in the human psyche, because sports have existed since the beginning of mankind and civilization and there have always been spectators who watched and rooted for someone or some team or group of men competiting vs the other men.

    I don’t know if it’s all taught. Just because there are people that don’t like sports, doesn’t mean there isn’t something biological. It means people who don’t or who didn’t in the beginning of mankind didn’t have this part in their psyche for competition or a need to root for someone or some team. It’s like how some how some people have an innate desire to be more compassionate and others not so much, others touchy and others not.. Some constructed but there has to be something in brain chemistry. It seems, because people are social creatures there is an innate desire to bond and form a common ground and root together for something, like unity and as you see with national pride. So the social part you see, I think comes up from the social, competitive, depending on the person that is in our dna or just is built in from the various emotions us humans have as a result of being intelligent beings. I see the social construct a bi product of the various quircks and likings and trends due to human intelligence which is why social things are strong with humans compared to animals

    • Not everything is socially constructed. But most of how we experience the world is.

      Being on teams, And being for teams, could be innate. Humans are innately social. They can’t survive otherwise. But then how you do that? Women are innately social and yet it’s only more recently in American history that they have followed sports teams. US men aren’t really that interested in soccer. Take the same men and raise them in Brazil–or pretty much any other country in the world– And they would be. That’s learned.

  5. “Being on teams, And being for teams, could be innate. Humans are innately social. They can’t survive otherwise. But then how you do that? Women are innately social and yet it’s only more recently in American history that they have followed sports teams. US men aren’t really that interested in soccer. Take the same men and raise them in Brazil–or pretty much any other country in the world– And they would be. That’s learned.”

    Well you’re talking about particular sports, which is culture based. I’m talking about sports in general. Sport following might be innate in women and only recently have women followed sports could be because it was suppressed on women and something women probably could have innate interest in but something women were kept out of from learning and watching and it being a guy thing and not women thing. I believe it is innate for women to enjoy sports or have that capacity just suppressed like I said, as ancient times show where women were allowed to watch, they were there watching sports too. I remember hearing that people not just men watched gladiators fight in the coliseum. Obviously this was a fatal action, but in a sense it was a sport just a blood bath sport, but unfortunately entertainment for the people who filled the coliseum i ancient rome. There were women watching the battles there too. As well as I’m sure the lacrosse events by native americans and their tribes.

    • Different people have different personalities, so it may be innate to some people. For a while I thought I liked football. Then I noticed that everyone was cheering and my mind had wandered. I realized that I didn’t really care where the ball was. It’s a ball. What difference does it make? Realized I’d been fooling myself into thinking I liked football cause it was cool.

  6. “Different people have different personalities, so it may be innate to some people. For a while I thought I liked football. Then I noticed that everyone was cheering and my mind had wandered. I realized that I didn’t really care where the ball was. It’s a ball. What difference does it make? Realized I’d been fooling myself into thinking I liked football cause it was cool.”

    A person following a sport because it’s popular in their country, yes that’s cultural. Favoritism towards a sport is cultural which is why different countries have different sports that are their favorites or some that is unique to a particular country. But the fact that though, every country has a favorite, just about people across the world do like sports and watch sports and root for a team or person. Shows to me, that there is something innate about people liking sports, like it’s in the human psyche, not for everyone, but its built in like other social things. If it wasn’t innate, sports would never have existed nor been watched, but they have since the beginning of mankind.

    And I think it’s because competition is innate in humans for survival reasons, some more competitive than others, which is why sports began I believe. And the people not athletic enough to compete or would rather watch and just liked a person or group would root and watch them participate. A sense of community, bond, spirit of competition, all seem innate in humans. Which is why many people genuinely enjoy sports and watch it. Some don’t watch sports or enjoy it because not everyone finds interest in watching competiton and rather play the game. It’s like how I think most people are buiilt in with the capacity for affection though some like to hug and kiss while others don’t like to hug and less affectionate based on their personality. Soccer not big here is cultural, though people enjoying sports in general, seems to be innate.

    • If it’s innate for survival reasons, then why doesn’t everyone like it?

      Cooperation actually helps people to survive better than competition, too. Look at the competition in the Middle East. Sunnis competing with Shia. Muslims competing with Israelis. Its extremely destructive. If the Israelis and Palestinians were to cooperate instead of fight, They could have an amazing country.

      The cradle of civilization grew around the Mediterranean, where there was a lot of trade/coorporation. Different countries can specialize in different things and then trade. You can learn from each other.

      In the US, the cities that are more cooperative rather than fighting tend to do better. Silicon Valley is one of the richest areas in the world. It is very ethnically diverse, and everyone gets along for the most part. Go to the South where there is a lot of racism and that’s the poorest area of the country.

  7. “Different people have different personalities, so it may be innate to some people. For a while I thought I liked football. Then I noticed that everyone was cheering and my mind had wandered. I realized that I didn’t really care where the ball was. It’s a ball. What difference does it make? Realized I’d been fooling myself into thinking I liked football cause it was cool.”

    I guess you have to ask how you thought you liked football. If you watch espn and follow stats and get excited to watch a team or game, then it’s very obvious you like football. If you watch it just because others are then it’s simply for social reasons. I think girls are more likely to do it for social reasons. It makes me think of highschool and the football games and students at the bleachers or even college for that matter. And the girls that would be there. Sure some I think really liked their team and liked football. But many other girls there, were there watching and rooting the team because it was where everyone was and the big social event. So they got into watching football and the team play because all the guys and their friends and school was there. I think in that sense, it was more the guys who had the sport interest, but the girls woudl be there or come along beccause their bfs and friends were there too and to have fun with their friends or tailgate which they found fun, I don’t know.

    • At the time I just thought I like football. I would watch the 49ers– We’re winning, And the college team that my parents rooted for (BYU, I grew up Mormon). And I really wanted my teams to win. But I wasn’t very interested in the actual play, as I discovered when I would be awoken from a daydream by everyone’s shouting to realize the team that scored.

      Looking back, I think I was being androcentric: valuing the world the way men valued it. On some level I could tell that men were higher ranked than women, And I wanted that higher-ranking. It seemed cool to like football.

      I later realized I couldn’t care less and gave up on it.

  8. I can relate to the author as I was never really interested in sports. Maybe because my father had a small handicap and grew up on a farm, he never encouraged me in sports, so maybe that’s the reason (learned/cultural). On the other hand, I’ve never ever really missed not being interested in sports except that I feel that I’m somehow cheating my sons out of something that I should be interested in, like going to games with them or watching football together on t.v.

    Fortunately, my kids enjoy soccer as they have grown up for the most part in Central America, and I can tolerate soccer better than American football. Actually, I’ve never even watched a Super Bowl game on t.v. and only have a vague idea of the rules, players, etc. The same goes for basketball and baseball.

    Now as I’m older, I admit I feel a little isolated being around other men because I don’t talk about sports or pick-up trucks. I hate sports bars (why can’t they have a least one screen with HGTV or Bloomberg?

    The best thing about the Super Bowl is that Barnes and Noble is empty and it’s easy to find a chair.

    P.S. it’ll be three years and eleven months before Americans talk about soccer again as the World Cup is only every four years.

    • Thanks for the PS. Apparently the guy who wrote this is as un-clued in as you would expect someone who doesn’t like sports.

      And thanks for sharing your own experience as a guy who doesn’t like sports — but still manages to know how often the World Cup is played.

  9. “If it’s innate for survival reasons, then why doesn’t everyone like it?

    Cooperation actually helps people to survive better than competition, too. Look at the competition in the Middle East. Sunnis competing with Shia. Muslims competing with Israelis. Its extremely destructive. If the Israelis and Palestinians were to cooperate instead of fight, They could have an amazing country.

    The cradle of civilization grew around the Mediterranean, where there was a lot of trade/coorporation. Different countries can specialize in different things and then trade. You can learn from each other.

    In the US, the cities that are more cooperative rather than fighting tend to do better. Silicon Valley is one of the richest areas in the world. It is very ethnically diverse, and everyone gets along for the most part. Go to the South where there is a lot of racism and that’s the poorest area of the country.”

    Just because everyone doesn’t like it, doesn’t mean it’s not innate. It means there are exceptions and everything is not going to be none or all. I look at majority as the rule not all. Look at the world and how many people follow and watch sports, it’s a lot of people. People across the world from big countries to third world countries, etc love sports. Humans must have a need to root for someone and something which is why people watch sports as they have someone or a group or team to root for and that community. There must be a desire to believe and root for something or else it would have never just naturally came since the begnning of mankind. Early humans before learnign that sports are good, just on their own wanted to root for this guy wrestling this guy, or this guy fighting this guy or these men going against these men.

    It’s no different than affection. I believe that is a common, human things built in. Sure some people have no affection at all and don’t care and are the opposite and others don’t show it. And it can be on varying levels. But it has to not all learned and instinct. You see plenty of babies not taught to show love or expression but they hug and kiss their family members. Humans didn’t have to be taught to show affection, there was that built in desire as intelligent beings, social beings in expressing ourself. True civilization grew out of teamwork, which is why that teamwork bonding in humans that is natural is I think a bi product fo why many people like to play and watch sports, as community is a natural part of people. But it goes both ways. Thats why we are conflicting beings, able to do so much good but then be only out for ourselves and compete. Both instincts make sense and why humans have both. Cooperation leads to production, competition is more about self and survival of self. If there is an apacalypse and you have to find resources yourself against others to survivve that comeptitive energy better be there as survival of the fittest is important in that sense.

    Its the same reason humans have contrasting emotions, love making sense not just for with a woman and procreation and parenthood and bond. But love, causing people to bond and work together and be close and help family or befriend people. Anger the emotion, I feel, as they say fight or flight, based on survival. Our ancestors had to learn to either run away from an animal or danger by running way or attacking. Society is not like that and there are no wild animals out, but its still been passed on which is unfortunate as our anger now can come out from not threatening situations and just from frustration of daily obstacles.

    • I’m not saying that competition is not innate. And it can serve a purpose.

      But I know from personal experience, And from others’ personal experiences, that not everyone inherently enjoys sports. Some personalities have a stronger interest than others. But you see how gender learning affects the interest by the fact that children start out equally interested in sports, gender-wise, But over time men increase their interest and women decreased theirs.

  10. “And from others’ personal experiences, that not everyone inherently enjoys sports. Some personalities have a stronger interest than others. But you see how gender learning affects the interest by the fact that children start out equally interested in sports, gender-wise, But over time men increase their interest and women decreased theirs.”

    I know not everyone inherently enjoys sports, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something in human nature that causes people to gravitate to sports and why it’s so popular and not simply to fit in with others. And I do think socialization can cause one gender to increase interest and decrease for another. Women don’t have as much interest in sports, because they are not socialized like men to enjoy sports, plus sports is not catered to women like it is to men. I remember women who like nfl football, or I saw how they mentioned how there aren’t jerseys for them. They don’t want the big male jerseys and the overly girly pink fitted ones from nfl.com. And the stadiums, over priced, and obnoxious fans and fights, not very safe for women and deterrs women and I know the nfl cuts off alcohol consumption as far as being bought from halftime and after as well as security there. But I’ve been to football games and they are fun, but I would never take my kids there, guy’s are idiots there. I would think Nfl Commsioner goodell would do more to get more women intersted and make stadiums safer and less costly too.

    • No one is saying that it’s only to fit in with others. Just that given the numbers of men who say they like it, it seems likely that some of them are conforming to gender expectations. And you really see it in the pattern of fandom for soccer in the US.

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