Friday 27 April 2007

Moneyball: British vs. American sport

For a number of years I've been more interested by American sports (particularly the NFL and MLB) than I have been by football here in the UK. (I'm still fond of rugby and cricket for more sentimental reasons.) Never before have I seen the differences articulated so intelligently as in this article by David Runciman in the Observer Sport Monthly. It's so rare for a writer to understand both sporting cultures so sensibly, without applying the usual ignorant stereotypes. I can now see why football has never had much appeal to US armchair fans; although it has a huge level of participation at the grassroots. There's a wonderful contrariness about American elite sport, which Runciman calls "a workers' paradise compared to the red-in-tooth-and-claw competition of the English game." He continues, "What American sport - with its powerful unions, its salary caps, its drafts designed to favour the weakest teams, its collectivised bargaining - most closely resembles is European Union-style capitalism: a heavily regulated, bureaucratically policed, carefully nurtured cash cow."

(Thanks to Richard Matthews for the tip.)

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