Friday, June 25, 2010

Breaking Down American World Cup Fandom

The US won in dramatic fashion to advance to the elimination round of the World Cup, and America seems....mildly interested. It's pretty well known that America has never been too attached to soccer, and definitely not as rabidly as many other countries throughout the world. Like our measurement system, we pretty much have our own sports and don't really care how much they are liked outside of the country. A few weeks ago, Ryan linked to a post that showed that 1 in 3 Americans weren't really sure what the World Cup is. I found the link to the raw data even more interesting. So, purely for the sake of having some fun, I think we can take these numbers and categorize Americans into 6 groups of World Cup fans, from least interested to most interested.
Note: Click the link above to see the raw numbers discussed below

Group A - No Idea What the World Cup Is - 34% - Is it really possible that 34% of America does not know what the World Cup is? I know soccer isn't super popular, but we have about 100 million people in this country that do not know that soccer is played in the World Cup. I kind of wonder who these people are. I know there are plenty of non-sports fans, but the news that this is going on stretches far beyond the sports pages. I guess its safe to say that 100 million people do not even attempt to keep up on news. Maybe this survey was actually taken by Jay Leno when filming a Jaywalking skit or at a nursing home. The funny thing is there is a good chance some in this group fell into the "somewhat likely" category to watch the US in the World Cup Finals. Bandwagon jumpers...at least it will be easy to learn the basic rules of the sport....

Group B - Know What It Is, Could Care Less - 11% - This group encompasses the rest of the group that was following World Cup news "Not at All" or "Not Sure" (how can you be not sure?). They also are probably solidly in the "Not Very Likely" category to watch the World Cup. This group pretty much sees soccer as a pansy sport for foreigners and wants nothing to do with it. They don't understand the game, and don't want to. The closest that they will get to watching soccer is the San Antonio Spurs.

Group C - Mildly Interested - 19% - Put me in this category. This group makes up about half of the "Not Very Closely" news following group, and are probably "somewhat likely" to watch the US in the final. We understand that soccer is boring...and foreign, and don't really understand the appeal of watching guys stand around for 87 minutes for 3 minutes of action and a potential 0-0 tie, but we like sports. and competition. and like rooting against countries like France. We basically follow the Cup through Sportscenter and the internet, but wouldn't last very long watching an actual game. This small level of being informed works well in the office for conversations with people in Groups E and F.

Group D - Any Excuse to Drink Fans - 17% - This is the other part of the 36% that have "Not Very Closely" been following the news, but are "Very Likely" to watch the US in the Finals. Why are they very likely? Because its an excuse to drink! I've seen shots on TV during the US games showing fans dressed up like crazy in a bar at 7 AM watching the game, but really, why are they actually there? These aren't the true fans from Group F. They just know its a weekday morning and they can use this as an excuse to get drunk and think its fun to dress up like the "real" fans of other countries that they see on TV. For example, in college, you go to a toga party, you wear a toga. You don't wear it because you are a fan of Greek history or culture, you wear it because its more fun to drink wearing a costume, and everyone else is wearing one too. (For example, Purdue's Breakfast Club). These are the same people that may be of German decent but will wear green on St. Patty's, a sombrero on Cinco De Mayo, and plenty of beads on Mardi Gras all in the name of drinking and having a good time. More power to them! (But Group E and F, you aren't allowed to use them as examples that soccer is really popular in America, they won't watch another game for 4 years).

Group E - The .EDU Guys - 11% - Named after the group of "football" fans that like to annoy Colin Cowherd via e-mail (who are a little out of touch with the real world as college employees). This is the 11% that has "somewhat closely" followed World Cup news, but mostly for the touchy feely stories and not so much for the sport itself. You know the type...they don't really like sports, but love soccer because it is loved outside of America, and according to them, since just about anywhere else is more cultured and therefore better than America, soccer must be great. They have the backpacking slideshows and bumper stickers to prove it. This is the group most likely to actually to travel to South Africa for the World Cup because they are on the wealthier side, but some might be too busy seeing Mandela's prison cell or visiting a small impoverished village just to feel guilty about themselves to actually attend a game.

Group F - The Legit Fans - 8% - I think its interesting that only 8% were following World Cup news Very Closely. If you are a hardcore soccer fan, how can you not get excited for the World Cup? This leads me to believe that 8% or less of America are legit soccer fans. I guess I don't understand how you could be, but I'm sure this group is broken down into smaller sub-groups. You have people that played it past childhood that enjoy watching; people that actually just like it, maybe for the same reason people like baseball's slow pace; people that enjoy the international appeal of it (but from a sporting side, not a .edu guy point of view); people not born in America; children of people not born in America; etc. This small group really does love their soccer though and this is the month they've been waiting for for 4 years. Good for them.

So excluding the 45% of America in Groups A and B who don't know and/or don't care about the World Cup (yes, lets just ignore almost 150 million people) the World Cup has something for everyone. Competitions to follow, the ability to make better friends with 19% of your coworkers, binge drinking, dressing up in fun costumes, pretending to be intelligent and cultured, and of course, the actual game of soccer. Writing this actually got me more excited about the World Cup. Maybe this weekend I'll hit up the bars at 7 AM, watch 5 minutes of a game, and graduate to Group D!

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