I am a rarely a commenter on Big Blue View, but a consistent reader, so I hope everyone welcomes this. I also have lived in southern Africa for the last three years, and this area, like much of the globe, prefers soccer (or football) to football (or American football). And that's totally cool, as soccer is a sport that, either by coincidence or design, is uniquely appropriate for the developing world (meaning, most of the world). All you need is a field and a ball, and in the area where I live balls are constructed by children using trash, including any bit of plastic or rubber found about. The number of soccer balls I have seen made of discarded condoms is astounding, and it's a bit hard to fashion a football and pads out of such things. Football is an expensive sport to play, and this limits its reach. People tend to love what they can do, and so I understand why football here is soccer to those back at home.
I watched the Giants Super Bowl victory a few years ago in a Chinese bar in Africa, only because the local Americans have a sufficiently strong business relationship with the proprietor that we could ask him to keep his staff on duty from 2:30 to 6:00 am, and could kick back enough money to the suffering bartenders at about 5:00 am to keep them on duty, as they assumed that American football also takes 90 minutes like soccer. At one point in the 3rd quarter one of the bartenders with glazed eyes asked me, "when does this end?" I bought a fake round where he pocketed the cost and all was well. And seeing the Giants again beat the Patriots made that round well worth the cost.
But I also have lived around the world in my life, and through Facebook posts I have seen football called Handegg quite a few times. You may have experienced this by seeing images such as this one:
First of all, I would like to emphasize the difference between a football and an egg. For example, this is a football:
This, for much of the world, is also a football:
And that's cool. It's sports, after all, and not worth getting all up in each other's faces over details unless the other face is that of a Philadelphia fan. However, just to be clear, the following are eggs:
These things are not the same, and it makes me wonder why they are conflated as one and the same in many posts that annoy me. So then, why the handegg comparison? Ignoring for the moment historical development of sports including the period when football existed absent the forward pass (hence the name football) and the period in which soccer existed using the heads if vanquished rivals as a ball (hence my thankfulness that society has since progressed), my only conclusion is that the derision thrown against football is based in purely linguistic concerns, and a concern that America is doing its own thing.
Don't get me wrong: I like soccer, notwithstanding that my average weekend in bars here is spent watching FC Barcelona play the guys who work in the quarry outside the stadium and Manchester United play the German philosophers in the old Monty Python sketch (parity apparently not being that big a deal in the European leagues). But I like football because in any given week anyone can beat anyone, and because I get it. I even developed a taste for cricket and Aussie rules football once someone took the time to explain them. And that's because I'm a sports fan. Give me a sport that I understand and where the teams are evenly matched and I'll try to appreciate it. I'm not going to be a douche and point out the weaknesses in their sport because it suits me. I try to get into it. This is a big part of the reason why the handegg thing bothers me. Sure, football is not a universal sport, but when I was in a bar and for some reason a big SEC matchup made its way to TV, I took the time to explain it while my wife (southern born and raised) went crazy. The locals around, once they got it, got into it, and that made me happy.
The only conclusion that I can reach is that Europeans (because I have only seen the handegg comparison from Europeans) resent the similarity of names between football and soccer. I would caution Europeans then, on a nationalistic basis, from antagonizing Americans too much. The fact that we gave baseball, football, basketball, and hockey might just be the reason that Europeans continue to win the World Cup. The only sporting event that everyone around the world--including Americans--cares about is the Olympics. And we seem to have done ok in that particular contest. Once US sporting gets to the point where it cares about soccer as much as the rest of the world, I'm confident that we'll be fine.
And this brings me back to the original point: my resentment about the silly denomination of football as handegg. First, it doesn't make sense if one can differentiate a ball from an egg. If you can't, that's cool too, although I hope that your society has special schools for you. Second, it's an attack on a sport that the attacker probably doesn't understand. I'll leave legitimate attacks on football to others, such as Gregg Easterbrook, but attacks that come from love (such as Mr. Easterbrook's) are far more palatable and generally understandable than attacks that come from dumb approaches to linguistics. Third, if you want to attack American sports for some reason unrelated to sports, then I suggest that you take up crocheting or whatever thing that fits your aptitude for creative thinking, and ignore that if the US really wanted to jump into your sport of choice you'd most likely be relegated to the bronze medal match. I don't want to repeat the things that I charge as being wrong here: soccer is a hell of a lot of fun to watch. But I have a special place in my heart for football and just wish that it wasn't subject to criticisms based on an uninformed approach to the game.