By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard
‘A tie is like kissing your sister’
Anyone over the age of 30 in America heard this term a lot growing up. Traditional American sports (baseball, football, basketball) don’t have ties or draws. At the end of a game there is a definitive winner and loser. No points are garnered to go along with the win either. In other words it’s not like soccer where a draw can be viewed as a win.
Around the globe where where soccer is, usually, the number one sport, draws are not always bad things. Why? You still get a point vs zero points for a loss. Obviously a team always wants a win and the three points but if a team is on the road in a tough environment then a single point can sometimes be a victory. For the home team three points is a given. If they come away with a draw it’s almost like a loss. It’s still a point but they left two points on the table. There is where the ambiguity comes in.
Americans and the media don’t do well with that.
Take the US National Team in the World Cup. They went 1-2-1 overall for a total of four points. All those points came in their first two matches and that was enough to help them advance to the knockout stage where they lost a heartbreaker to Belgium. This is seen as a success in the eyes of many including the media and non soccer fans.
Still, a lot of Americans don’t care for the soccer and probably never will. Why? Because ‘a tie is like kissing your sister’ perspective. There is too much ambiguity in the sport for them. Some couldn’t understand how the US could advance when they only won one game. Some would ask, ‘shouldn’t they have to win all three to advance?’
When MLS first started in 1996 they tried to avoid draws by having shootouts decide games. They dumped it a few years later because it alienated traditional soccer fans and didn’t gain any new ones.
Look at it from another perspective.
September 2, 1945. The formal surrender of Japan to the US that took place on the deck of the USS Missouri. April 30, 1975 was the fall of Saigon. Definitive ends to conflicts. Contrast those two events with the ‘War on Terror’. A conflict which will probably never have a definitive ending.
We are by no means trying to compare soccer to warfare. We are just trying to give some background about American psychology.
With draws, it is a matter of perspective. While both teams receive points and usually a team ‘lost’ points. In the end the points are what matter but a positive takeaway on a draw by a team could be just as important. Look at the US National Team. One point against Portugal was good enough to help them to get through to the next round but it felt kind of like a loss because they played so well and Portugal had to steal a goal at the end just to get a draw.
While liking and disliking something is a personal preference or choice it is influenced by those around you. For a very long time the preference or choice was to have a clear cut winner and loser in American sports. Now that’s changing. Americans are becoming ok with draw because they are beginning to see the bigger picture. They are looking at the right metric. A point is a point. Yeah three would be nice but one is still better than none. With that change comes an opportunity for soccer to elevate its profile in America. While soccer may never be ‘big’ in America it can certainly be a very viable product and with that should come a different perspective on the world at large.