Considering my undergraduate degree was in philosophy, it’s high time I attempt to apply some of the “knowledge” I picked up in between yelling at TV screens in various bars around Montreal. So on that note, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a moral spectrum when it comes to the reasons we watch football, with two extreme and opposing views on either end.

On the one extreme side, you have the Football Hedonists. You’d know them to see them, perhaps by their assortment of replica shirts; they support not one but several “big clubs.” They don’t see any problem rooting for both Real Madrid and Barcelona or Manchester United and Chelsea (Serie A has long been out of favour with this crowd), as long as the pace is quick and the goals spectacular.

Their reasons for watching football are simple; they want to see big stars play each other in big games, the higher the score, the better. When it comes to football news, they rarely stray from the Eee Pee El, they get excited on transfer deadline day, and they have no problem whatsoever with the idea of a European Super League. They’ve never seen a Major League Soccer match, they skip the Carling Cup, and they avoid internationals except for the World Cup when they root for Brazil. They also tend to be open to things like video technology and the increasing incursion of television on the pitch.

On the other extreme, you have the Categorical Imperative crowd. This concept, c/o of 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant, holds that your actions are right only insofar as you could “will that it should become a universal law.” It’s a moral system based on obligation, and to that end these football fans follow the game out of a sense of duty. They believe watching soccer for the purpose of being entertained reduces football as a means to an end (pleasure) rather than an end itself, something to be enjoyed for its own sake.

These are the supporters who dutifully keep tabs on the Blue Square Premier League, who write two thousand word comments on articles on the Esiliiga, go on YouTube to watch Liga Panameña de Fútbol highlights, refuse to acknowledge that the Europa League might be too big or boring, or that the CCL is not in fact as important or as interesting as the Champions League. During internationals, they PVR Lithuiania vs. Estonia and are apt to use the expression “tactically fascinating” to describe games that are in fact giant, mundane turds.

All of us fall somewhere between the extreme ends of this spectrum. Although I don’t have the studies to prove it, judging by the content offered by football websites who rely on clicks to live, the majority of soccer fans fall sympathize with the Hedonist view, with the Categorical Imperative crowd reliant on the publishing freedom of the web and a sense of community to spread their message.  Many Football Hedonists want to move toward the Categorial Imperative side, but they usually meet their limit.

For example, I have a lot of time for the Europa League, even with its Group L. But trying to follow the CONCACAF Champions League, even when Toronto FC is playing, is about as far as I’m willing to go. Last night I attempted to watch as Tauro (from the Panamanian league mentioned above incidentally) faced off against FC Dallas, and ended up Tweeting this:

Tauro? Something. Man. I’m sorry. The CCL is a giant black hole into which everything I enjoy about football disappears. Did I write that?

So now I know my limit. And this afternoon as several big name clubs like Udinese and Tottenham put out second string sides against unknown opposition like Shamrock Rovers and Celtic, this afternoon many more soccer fans will discover their own limit. Do you know yours yet?

Comments (16)

  1. “unknown opposition like Celtic”

    Am I missing something here?

  2. by ur description, football hedonist. although i very much like the serie a, its my favourite league.

  3. If I was a football hedonist, I wouldn’t have read this article lol.

  4. Philosphy and soccer. Throw in a few bong hits, and I’d have a man crush.

  5. Not sure but I’ve followed Liverpool, Rangers, Inter since mid 90′s when tv coverage finally broke through for Canadians + I’m a TFC booster who actually prefers the CCL & all its bizarreness- the idea that one day TFC could in fact be playing in the FIFA World Club Cup fascinates me lol, sorry guilty pleasure- but meaningful matches against continental champs is the absolute pinnacle for TFC in my opinion.

  6. Being an Arsenal fan leads me to being an idealist but I think it also leads you to being more on the side of a Hedonist because I’ve found that after a while I simply refuse to watch teams that don’t play the game “how it’s meant to be played: with the ball always on the ground”.

  7. Wonderful article!

  8. Put me into the “categorial imperative” side. I love the Europaleague and getting to know about football in obscure countries. Heck, I’m a German interested in Canadian soccer ;-). Should add that the real connaissoirs don’t start with the Groupstages of the Europaleague and Championsleague but the prequalifying! FC Vaduz vs Differdange? Bring it on!

  9. I am only an Arsenal fan, for better or worse (and this year is definitely up there on the worse scale) but I do enjoy watching some of the better teams play their attractive brand of football, without actively rooting for them. I wouldn’t classify the Europa League as completely useless, and Serie A still has its good days. As for the CCL, it makes me sad to watch but I have been to the last 3 MLS Cup finals.

  10. Hmmm. Is 20 replica jersey’s enough to qualify for hedonist? I watch, and enjoy, almost all the clubs, including the big ones, but I do have a few loyalties and grudges. Love Liverpool, hate Manchester United…. Love Barcelona, dislike (but admire through gritted teeth) Real Madrid when they are playing other teams.

  11. I work 55hrs a week. I have two kids who play two sports each crossing over into each others seasons.
    I love football.
    I dont have time.
    I watch whatever game I can find in my time slot on cable but there are about 15 EPL teams I have no interest in watching but watch regularly french, italian, greek, spanish, german and a few others on a euro satelittle dish my folks have and I can record there and watch later.
    then there are torrents and live streams like rojadirecta.
    the choice I am geting from tsn, rds and sportsnet is garbage when it comes to soccer…butI have choice nonetheless.
    Still dont have time.
    So I decide to watch maybe 2-3 games a week if Im lucky.
    One most likely with my dad and my kids of the old home country (mid euro quality, still fun)…
    maybe another with some friends (greek, serbian or spanish league) and then bits of piece here and there…
    When international week or CL-Europa comes around, it gets more hectic.

    Point is I dont really care for the extra curricular activities that much, whether Rooney calls his team ambitionless or if Tevez does to Mancini the same thign Mancini did to Sven… I dont care.
    I want only ONE thing.
    To be entertained in the few free hours I have during a week.
    I pick the Udinese and Arsenal’s because I think they can do that more often than a Stoke vs Sunderland matchups.

    FIFA is corrupt? Who cares. So is your and my and their govt…. As long as the WC, Euros, CL come around, doesnt bother me.. Doesnt affect my kids soccer for the next 10yrs for sure and since there is NO soccer league in my country (how many countries smaller than canada have leagues? How can you be a world power without a league in any truly international sport?)

    I dont have time for any morals spectrum.

    Ill watch MMA guys kick each other in the face and boxers give themselves brain damage and dementia for my pleasure…. I forfeit my right for a moral spectrum.
    i watch obese sumo wrestlers in the NFL pound their brains continusly knowing that they will die 20yrs earlier so i dont get to push morals.

    Our gladiators are extremely well paid in some sports for our enjoyment.
    Your job is to humanize it all in a pleasant package overlooking some truths wrapped in concepts like courage, honour and morality.

    Btw, speaking of immorality… this week I became a Blatter disciple.
    I now know what he meant by womens soccer having to sell a better image with tigher clothes and for which he got blasted a while back..

    I watched euro womens volleyball 1/4 finals and he was right… that game has changed so much in 20 years, new rules, tight, armless shirts, tights short shorts on tall lean girls about 6ft to 6ft6 tall and closeups on their faces, and hand signals non stop. this wasnt beach volleyball g strings but tight fitting thin clothes.
    Youd stare at their faces,, then someon gets stuffed..ooh look this one has cold nips…OOH my god did you SEE that smash? that was unreal…ooh, I can see butt cheek..GEEZ!! she blocked that shot wtih her face… and so on..

    yeah, you stare at the chicks but the action is such that you can not but be impressed at their skills and the action.
    Aroused AND entertained. What more can you want? (i had beer already)
    You can be sure Im going to try to catch the rest.

    Am I immoral because like Blatter I think now that womens’ soccer with its hassidic-amish kneehigh shorts and baggy shirts has far less to hook in a viewer than tus counterparts in volleyball or handball?
    Seems to me that the average football fan has no problem staring at cheerleaders so I dont see why this would be any more immoral. Volleyball decided to market what they had and did it very well.
    Womens’ soccer has to bring people in that cant even be bothered by to watch the best men in north america play and they have to look at what works in other sports.

    And if I am immoral, then that only means that career in politics is in my cards.

  12. Reckon I’m somewhere near hedonism…getting up at 6 am for a Spurs match in the Southeast US during college football season is blasphemous. It’s probably worse for ESPN, however, filling the early morning block with proper football when the rednecks are probably gritting their teeth because there’s no SEC pregame or Nick Saban biography..

    I never drink in the morning otherwise. Something about watching footy requires a pint. It also helps kill the pain when Spurs lose to someone like Stoke.

  13. I’m not sure where I fit. More towards the Categorical Imperative end, but only in CONCACAF. It’s -my- region. I love the CCL. The sheer craziness of it both astounds and fascinates me. I love MLS. I love the crazy playoffs. I watch CONCACAF internationals down to ridiculous levels. I watched a stream of El Salvador and the Cayman Islands in World Cup Qualifying a few weeks ago. I watched Canda and St. Lucia.
    I’m less interested in the rest of the world. The Europa League gives me a headache. I won’t watch Euro qualifiers involving Moldova or Luxembourg or poor little San Marino. I do watch the regional championships of everyone though. The Asian Cup, the Copa America, etc.
    In terms of league interest, I watch MLS and the Mexican league the most, followed by, yes, the Eee Pee Ell. Because it has a game at 7:30 AM before I’m stuck at work for the rest of the Saturday. It tides me over.

  14. Question – where do fans (or a fan if you must) who were forced to endure countless Saturday afternoons watching Benfica play in the Portuguese league in smokey Portuguese bars on Dundas St West with old construction workers and drunks, while practicing one’s vocabulary of Portuguese swear words when the referee is blind as a bat?
    (and I plan to carry on the tradition for the next generation to come…)

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