Guest author hopes soccer/rugby talk does not get lost in translation

We take a break from talking about football to talk about, well… football.  Just not of the oblong variety.

The internet is a strange place.  You can be shopping on eBay for random goods when all of a sudden, some former rugby player from across the pond finds your website, realizes you’ve never so much as mentioned rugby or soccer, and wants to show his favorite sports some love.

So I’ve given him that platform.  Don’t piss him off, people.  He’s a rugby player. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present Alan Dymock, who is going to tell you a little bit about himself and about something called rugby or soccer, in terms you and I probably won’t understand. 



There are certain things that translate internationally. If it’s good enough, it will make it across the Atlantic. Look at Whisky going one way, Facebook going the other. Sooner rather than later, word on the Baconator will spread.

There has always been a neat relationship between Britain and America. Musicians from the UK talk about cracking America and US actors want to perform Shakespeare on the West End. Everyone wants to be big on two continents.  The only way to know you’re number one is through global recognition. For us, ‘global’ is confined to whether you are outselling Pepsi between trans-Atlantic flights.

For me, though, it has always been perplexing that sport has never kept pace with the Biebers and the Dr. Houses.

My name is Alan Dymock and I write about sports from my base in Scotland. I used to be a professional rugby player, in so far as I trained myself to a standstill but never actually played any minutes on the grassed stage. I am a lifelong fan of soccer, a phrase that would have a cigarette extinguished in my pint if I ever referred to the Beautiful Game as such in my local pub. I love boxing and appreciate the equal measures of finesse and thuggery in hockey, but those are things us Brits don’t do well.

We are an island of tacticians and long-play grafters.  We are fans of tedium.

We drink and fight ourselves silly over a game that can end after ninety minutes with no points scored and, what’s more, we remember it fondly the next day.  We celebrate soccer and rugby because they were invented here and we do our utmost to promote them.

For the life of me I cannot figure out why our beloved sports aren’t big in the States.

Perhaps I am biased. At a young age my father, then the team doctor, poisoned me against excitement and sought imaginative endeavors by lashing me to the terrace amongst a throng of fans at my local Dundee Football Club. It was there I learnt the curse words I currently deploy in fifteen minutes. I also learned to appreciate a headed ball.

Much against my will, I was also told to down action figures and take to the field for rugby. Not the quickest, but sturdily built, I found a place between twenty-nine others on the rugby pitch. I took my first punch. I broke my first bone. I hurt someone else through the collusive workings of my skipping about, gravity showing me the way. I scored tries… sometimes.

I hated it at first, but still play it to this day. I love soccer and I still acclaim them both.

So why isn’t either of these sports Tebow-ing their way through American consciousness?

I know there is a following of sorts. Rugby is almost cult Stateside and soccer has negative connotations tied up in lonely mothers driving hideous, twelve-seater cars and Brazilians falling over when they feel a breeze, but both need touted. People know of David Beckham, Lionel Messi, Dan Carter and Jonah Lomu, but how many love Todd Clever, or appreciate the impact Clint Dempsey has had on the English Premier League?

Despite this, I am optimistic. The USA Eagles are progressing, and with Rugby Sevens officially becoming an Olympic sport in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, more will become aware of the game. It is a big draw at colleges and is a version of rugby that brings more of a party feel with it. America will go from strength to strength in this field.

Soccer, too, is likely to become more of a talking point. More Americans are rising to prominence on international stages. They are a force in the women’s game and Abby Wambach narrowly missed out on being voted world player of the year in a recent ceremony.

It is still possible that these sports solidify their footing in the US.  I will no longer be the belligerent fool standing at the water’s edge shouting across the divide. As prominent soccer writer Tim Vickery said today, after diminutive maestro Lionel Messi claimed his third World Player of the Year award, “all shapes and sizes can find a place in the global game”.

I feel this is true of both rugby and football, and the sooner America realizes this, the sooner other nations like wee Scotland will cower away.

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29 Replies to “Guest author hopes soccer/rugby talk does not get lost in translation”

  1. See you made your own point by saying that you grew up with soccer and rugby. Most american’s grow up watching football, baseball, and basketball which makes us watch those sports we used to play as kids. I never watched soccer or rugby until I hit college and used it as an excuse to drink before a game yet still didn’t really know or care what was going on. Thus making me very likely to never make the jump to those sports. I’m more inclined to watch hockey than I would be to watch a soccer or rugby match…

  2. There ya have it, Alan.

    I’m with Chap on this one. Sports in this country are generational.

    We all play soccer as kids but give it up later in life for another sport, either baseball, basketball or tennis.

    And if we’re NOT introduced to soccer at a young age, then why would we follow it when we’re older.

    Other than to drink, of course.

  3. Yes Chris I’m middle age and over a generation past u guys……..but that doesn’t deflect from the fact that soccer in my world isn’t kosher. By that I mean the alleged larceny involved makes me like it when I’m on the skullduggery side.

    BTW, last nights fiasco for the BCS Championship was the lowest rated viewed game in its 14 years of existence. ESPN is over saturating the sports viewing world. Kinda like getting all the tail you want without working a little at it.

  4. AD…

    I hate to break it to you but you’re 0-2, brother, as I expected.


    Have you ever bet on a soccer match? Be honest.

    And the best thing about low ratings in last night’s nastiness, man, is that means playoffs are on their way.

    As we could have predicted all along, the BCS was their own undoing.

    Thirty years from now, we’ll be laughing about how they used to determine a national champion. Hopefully, sooner than that.

  5. Yeah, drinking always helps!

    I kinda knew you’d say that but I’d counter it with this: I never played (your) football as a kid and it was never on at a time that was convenient to watch it, but I found it.
    The playoffs and the superbowl get me every year. I even started watching a bit of college ‘ball a few years back.

    With soccer being such a strong draw in women’s sport and new players becoming stars globally I think more people will gravitate towards it. All it takes is one American Champions League winner that plays well on the biggest stage to get people interested. I can see it in my lifetime.

    As for rugby, the abbreviated version (Sevens) is to get big investment in the US leading up to 2016 and I’ve even heard that there is talk of a fully professional league in North America. I believe it’s gonna grow…

  6. AD…

    Those of us who are fringe soccer fans, and by that I mean we watch the World Cup every four years or have been exposed to it internationally at some point in our lives, keep waiting for soccer to catch on.

    It still hasn’t.

    Team USA’s recent success went a long way in getting more people to watch but it’s like rooting for the Timberwolves in the NBA. We know we’ll never be any good, or at least not as good as the Brazils of the world, so are we just setting ourselves up for disappointment?

    It’ll be interesting to see how the US promotes its rugby team but again, how likely is it that we’ll really be competitive on an international scale?

  7. Chris: with Sevens you could be World class if you dedicated yourselves to it and that is what scares people.

    According to the world Rankings USA are 17th in the World. However in the current Sevens World Series they are only 1 place behind Scotland. Sevens is more of an athletic game and USA compete in the second tier with minimal resources. Now they are set to invest because Olympic gold medals are at stake they could produce unbelievable player in a few years time.

    People have been talking about what would happen if USA got their act together. They already host a leg of the series themselves, in Vegas from the 10th-12th of February.

    PLUS: Russia are getting in on the act now. They are pumping money into the Sevens game and they have their own fully professional league. They’re only 3 places behind USA in the World Rankings. Surely you want to be much better than them?!

  8. Most kids grow up not wanting to be a Landon Donovan, unless they lived in a household that watched soccer religiously. The reason why people want to and like to watch baseball, basketball, and football is because these sports are the only sports on television. Also, some of these soccer games are held in outside countries, which means the games like at weird times like the afternoon. Some have work and it tends to be difficult at times. Soccer made a few steps, but not enough to compete with American sports.


  9. AD…

    I think that’s something we might be able to get into, even though we don’t know the rules for shit.

    The problem is, and has always been, we love our NFL. We live for it. It consumes us every Sunday, all day, from September to February.

    Other football leagues have tried to compete for our attention and failed.

    Now, rugby is a different animal altogether. If they got the right people to promote it (we are, after all, suckers for a good marketing campaign) and a few marketable or cross-over athletes to play the game, we might be on to something.

    Winning, obviously, would also help.

  10. There ya’ go, AD.

    Another valid explanation of why we don’t watch.

    And Christian’s right.

    The three major sports leagues compete heavily for air time in this country and that doesn’t include UFC (still mostly on pay-per-view), golf (not the same without a dominant Tiger) and hockey (making a comeback but still a WAY distant fourth).

    We went through some issues with some of our athletes, particularly with baseball players and steroid use. We’ll soon see, in my opinion, a generational gap between those who stopped watching.

    Soccer needs something. Landon Donovan is a star but if we had a Beckham of our own, a Tiger of the soccer field, that might get more people to watch.

    I’m telling you, man. You get one heavily marketable athlete on that rugby team and it’s on!

  11. Culture plays a huge role in what humans like and don’t like. For instance, a wild cannibal sees nothing wrong with his behavior because he’s been raised that way and doesn’t really know any better.

    Same goes for sports.
    The seeds of love are planted at a young age. My dad played basketball and loved the Lakers. Growing up, I longed for his arrival home and spending that quality time shooting hoops in the backyard. Then we’d watch Magic, Kareem, Nixon, Wilkes, Rambis, Worthy and the rest of the Showtime squad while eating dinner.
    The love of the game infected me.
    My wife refers to basketball as my mistress because I’m either playing, watching or writing about it. My son is 16 and now going down the same path due to my influence.

    I’ve tried to watch soccer and even attended some rugby matches live because my uncle played when I was a kid. I saw blood and gore first hand, which was great but to this day the rules and tactics are beyond me. And soccer…Well, soccer is for 12 year old girls and foreigners. No offense but Beckham could bend it like the McDonalds arches and I couldn’t care less.

    My last name is of Scottish origin and I trace my roots back to Anglo Saxon Scots but for the life of me can’t enjoy Drambuie. If it’s any consolation, I love the movie Green Street Hooligans and understand your passion but just can’t muster any interest.

    Good luck getting Americans interested in anything other than themselves…especially when a match takes hours and produces little scoring. We already have baseball for that.
    Americans are getting their freedom raped from them by their own politicians and don’t seem to care so getting them to care about these two sports might just be damn near impossible.

    Thanks for The Beatles, The Stones, Led Zeppelin, Radiohead, Craig David, Adele and Jason Statham.

    …Sorry about Gwenneth and Madonna.


  12. Chris,

    Bet on soccer? Quite a bit. From Argentina to German Bundaslega to the EPL and on and on. Look for value and follow the $$ when the alleged larceny occurs. The only problems that I incur is the time zone differences from my Pacific. I’m not about to set my alarm for 4am for the Russian Premier League.

  13. Bleed comparing cannibalism to soccer. You’ll have to excuse him, AD. He’s a Lakers fan. He knows no better.

    Other than perhaps leaving the comment of the year!!! (Don’t get excited, Bleed. 2012 just started).

    To follow up on his thoughts, I get soccer. I spent time in Brazil. But I was an adult, not a kid learning to play. I enjoyed my World Cup experience more for the camaraderie it created during that time. We don’t have that here, well, at least not for soccer.

    For example, Tampa has a really good hockey team. I grew up in New York where they play hockey.

    But I never did. And like Bleed said, I can’t for the life of me grasp how the sport should be played, spacing, that sort of thing.

    AD, I didn’t mean to make you think that you were fighting an losing battle. In fact, none of these comments probably surprise you in the slightest.

    But now you see firsthand what soccer is up against.

    Now let’s have a drink.

  14. Oh, and sorry Ron.

    Kobe missed becoming the first to score 50 this season… by TWO tonight.

    You were, somewhat surprisingly, the only person to have him doing so in my pool.

  15. Damn Rev, your pool had me rooting against my man Kobe tonight.

    LeBron better step it up quick and drop a half dollar before Wade comes back and starts taking those shot opportunities.

    …Now I’m rooting for LBJ.

    I think I’m going to be sick.

  16. That was the point of the pool, Bleed.

    I was kinda surprised that, with seconds left, Kobe didn’t just take the ball and toss is up.

    Hey, 50’s 50.

    Actually, I’m even more surprised that Ronbets didn’t demand from the rafters that Kobe get the ball. I guess he doesn’t have as much pull in Tinseltown as you do.

    And don’t root for LeBron, man. That’s very unbecoming.

    Oh wait, weren’t we talking about soccer?

  17. Nice post Alan. All I can say is I have a Rugby type shirt and if you’re ever in Tampa, I’ll have a pint with ya. Cheers!

  18. Chris

    Grew up around rugby , boxing , soccer and cricket . But because of my dad ,….. , boxing as such was my first love ’til it began to go downhill . Now for me it’s still soccer with your litany of N American sports’ traditions with the exception of the NHL and NASCAR . MMA rules in terms of man to man combative sports !

    tophatal …………

  19. Chris

    Boxing ? Ah well what’s not to like … perhaps we can reminisce ’bout the good ol’ days within the sport ?

    I hear that if Roy Disney wins the bidding process for the Dodgers then all of the famous Disney characters will be on display for the ball games at the LA Dodgers’ ballpark . Snow White , Goofy , Pluto , Jimminy Cricket and Dumbo . God if only the team were that entertaining last season !

    tophatal ………..

  20. Al…

    That’s exactly what he does in the piece. It’ll be up in the next day or two.

    Besides, we’re due to gripe about the state of boxing, aren’t we?

    It’s been a few weeks.

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