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"This is a visual display sometimes of their ideology, their beliefs when it comes to, not soccer, but their country."
The passion Americans have for their teams tends to be diluted, too. While Europeans or South Americans have one club and one country they root for, an American will have a favorite baseball team. A favorite pro football team. A favorite college football team. A favorite college basketball team. And on and on.
If one of those teams is struggling, it’s disappointing, Markovits said. But not as devastating as it might be for, say, an Arsenal supporter, who has invested all of his or her energy into the Gunners.
"We have three or four entities to which we attach emotional capital," he said.
Sports in the United States also have become more "event" than game.
The best tickets are now held by corporations and high rollers, few of whom have the same passion as lifelong fans whose loyalty stretches back two, three and even four generations. There also is a relationship between social class and moments of racism, said Rick Eckstein, a sociology professor at Villanova. The higher the social class, the more subtle the expressions of racism tend to be, he said.
In an effort to expand their brand, teams and leagues in the U.S. also have made a concerted effort to make their games more family friendly, said Larry DeGaris, a marketing professor at the University of Indianapolis. Warm-and-fuzzy mascots give away T-shirts during timeouts, and popular music blares from the P.A.
"That’s only beginning to happen in Europe, where soccer attendees tend to skew male and younger relative to U.S. sports," DeGaris said.
And, of course, the United States has a history of diversity that the rest of the world does not. Almost everyone in the United States can trace his or her roots to another country while many European countries, in particular, are still struggling with the idea of multiculturalism.
"It could be that we’re more mixed here because our country is made up of all types of different people," said Tab Ramos, the star U.S. midfielder who played five seasons in Spain.
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