Being a soccer fan does make you smarter

This morning, EPLTalk writes about “How American Soccer Fans Are Smarter Than Average Americans.”

I don’t know how soccer fans stack up compared to “average Americans,” but I do think that following soccer can make you smarter. It’s not that you have to be smart in order to follow soccer, it’s that through the act(s) of being a soccer fan, you learn a lot especially as it relates to geography and foreign culture.

When I was in school, both HS and college, I can think of many instances where something I knew was first introduced to me via soccer. Would I have ever learned of Catalan nationalism, British class biases, Scottish sectarianism, Mexican nationalism, post-Soviet Ukrainian culture, or El Salvador’s inferiority complex without soccer? I doubt it.

If nothing else, following World Cup qualifying introduces you to a whole new world of third-world cities like Tirana, Yerevan, Abijdian, Yaounde, and Newcastle.

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18 thoughts on “Being a soccer fan does make you smarter

  1. this is obviously not scientific, and only a comparison to futbol americano, but look at the distribution of high school “scholar athlete” awards for guys…. i distinctly remember a seemingly disproportionate number (well over 50%) of soccer players throughout CT winning it in the fall sports season, although many, many more participate in football.

    obviously there are so many other considerations at play, but maybe one of the “smarter” american soccer fans in college looking for a research project could do some analysis.

  2. This may be posted in jest, but I’m nearly certain that there’s quite a bit to this. I imagine a lot of it has to do with the “boutique” nature of the game in the US compared to its broader appeal elsewhere. The broader the audience, the more conformance to a normal distribution in all characteristics of a population, including intelligence. This means a ton of middling intelligence and fewer super-geniuses (though it also means fewer complete ignorami, statistically).

    When a population is smaller, it is more likely to skew to one side or the other of a normal distribution.

  3. I remember standing outside of Highbury talking to a couple of Arsenal fans before a Lokomotiv Champions League game, and they didn’t know jack or shit. They just went to the games and had a good time. I wasn’t an Arsenal fan, but I knew more about the league, Arsenal’s players, the state of the Champions League, results of other games, etc…

    It wasn’t an isolated thing. During my week in England in December, 2003 (on my way back from the U20s in Abu Dhabi), I found virtually nobody that I could have an in-depth discussion about the sport with.

    Basically it just shows that fans are the same everywhere. The vast majority just go to games because it’s a fun thing to do with friends – they don’t really think too deeply about it.

  4. I’ve had a somewhat similar experience as well, although moving and living around the world added to that knowledge.

    But over here in the States, if you have two intelligent soccer fans together, they can talk for hours. My wedding photographer was a British guy who followed West Ham, but was knowledgeable of soccer around the world. We went down to his office to give him a check, something that should have taken us a minute, but ended up taking us two hours because we just chatted away about the EPL, MLS, international soccer, and our own playing days. It was great for us, but my wife got really bored.

  5. For anyone who has ever studied statistics, correlation does not imply causation

    it could be that soccer fans are smarter than other people, but that does not imply that liking soccer makes them smarter.

    For example it could mean that smarter people like soccer, or that there is a hidden variable somewhere, take any stat you get with healthy doses of skepticism

  6. Well, apparently if you weren’t mentally impaired before playing football, you are afterword — lots of news about former NFL and college players falling into early dementia.

  7. That could explain why America isn’t in front of other countries in all those standardized tests which politicians quote to put money in holes. Thus politicians and the media work hand in hand to keep soccer down and keep the money going to those holes. It’s a conspiracy I tell you!

  8. I wouldn’t go so far as to say soccer makes people smarter. What it does, however, is make people more informed and knowledgeable about things they otherwise would not have been. An American can know about Catalan nationalism and still be too dumb to use a vacuum cleaner without drowning.

  9. It doesn’t. It makes you appear smarter to people in Europe.

    Normal Americans have no knowledge of European Geography for the same reason they have no knowledge of European poetry: it serves no practical purpose to them.

  10. Why does someone with the handsome visage of an Irishman and a handle that’s hard to place have the sense of humor of a German. Was your irony gland removed? Does your tongue never brush against your cheek? Have you never pulled a leg?

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