April 4, 2017

Why You Should Start Watching Football (The Other One)

I have a confession to make: I did not watch a single second of Super Bowl LI.


Although I’m originally from Japan, I have lived in the United States for over half of my life and have come to understand that many people treat the Super Bowl similar to a national holiday. Families and friends gather for wonderful bonding time filled with food, drinks, and entertainment. Why would I skip out on all the fun?


Well, I’m not alone.


In 2016, NFL viewership dropped by an average of 8%. That’s 1.4 million people looking for an alternative source of entertainment per game! For me this source is the “other” football, soccer. Let me tell you why.

  1. Soccer is one of the few sports that is truly played and viewed worldwide. For example, a full roster of Watford F.C., an English Premier League team, contains players from 24 countries across the world. Some may consider soccer to be a more universal language than English. Knowing a couple of famous players or teams gives an introvert like me an instant icebreaker.
  2. ‍Soccer’s rules are very simple. Players can use all of their body parts except their arms and hands. Teams score by getting the ball into the goal. It’s that simple –no steep learning curve for any soccer fan rookies.
  3. ‍The US soccer community is expanding. Soccer is getting more accessible in the United States through the establishment of more local MLS, USL and NASL teams and pre-season tournaments organized by the foreign leagues.

However, I personally recommend watching soccer because it teaches useful lessons that other sports don’t offer.

  1. Slow Flow. The flow of a soccer game moves much slower than the other popular sports. For example, in basketball, players move quickly back-and-forth to make passes and interceptions and score the average of 100+ points per game. In contrast, it’s normal to see a soccer game ending in 0-0 or 1-0; but I don’t think the low scoreline makes the sport boring and painful to watch. Instead, watching soccer makes you to learn the beauty of build-up plays (process), being patient, and to value delayed gratification over instant pleasure.
  2. ‍The 0-0’s. Like I said, there are a lot of games ending in 0-0. A Lot. Sometimes new viewers of the sport may see the players are half-assing it and not trying to win the game. They are partially right. Depending on the context of the game, a team may aim for a draw. Some of the factors that cause this situation include: location of the game (home or away), power difference between the two competing teams and the league standing. Soccer is not just winning or losing. Every game makes you analyze the risk and priorities, and see things in a bigger picture. As a matter of fact, soccer-loving Sun Tzu might say “Sometimes we need to draw the small battles in order to win the league.”
  3. Gooool! When you do get a piece of success (goal) after a long period of frustration, celebrate. Celebrate like you mean it.

As a designer, I find these lessons applicable in my daily life. Brilliant ideas or solutions usually do not emerge in the first minute of working on the project. Similar to how soccer games focus more on build-up-plays rather than scoring goals, good designers put more emphasis on the design process rather than the final design. To properly design, we must see each project in a bigger picture – what the client needs are, what their desired outcome is, how they want to address their message, who their target audience is, etc. Watching soccer games and seeing the season as a whole has improved my critical thinking.


So to all of you out there looking for something new, try watching a game of the “other” football, it might teach you something new that’s applicable in your field.

Photo of Kei

Kei Kato, Pixel Mixer at Fifth Letter, is a visual adventurer from the Far East. Contact Kei at kei@fifth-letter.com.