I’ve just spent 30 minutes on-air discussing with my boss the game called ‘football’ by approximately 96 percent of the world and ‘soccer’ by the remaining 4 percent, most of whom live in the United States of America. He thinks the game is boring, that there’s not enough scoring, and there’s no reason at all why America should take any interest in it.

This, about the most popular sport in the world, a game played by around 240 million people at some level, and watched by billions (with a b). How could such an overwhelmingly popular game – the biggest sport on the planet – possibly be boring? Hasn’t the majority of the human population noticed how dull it is?

Perhaps some other facts explain why it’s not big in the United States. My theory? It comes down to political history. Football spread from Britain to its colonies about 150 years ago. Little surprise, the US wasn’t very receptive. America was all about being independent from Britain and doing things its own way; football wasn’t accepted simply because it was British.

I read an interesting theory by The New Republic editor Franklin Foer. He says he’s identified a correlation between anti-soccer sentiment and conservatism in the US, which tends to focus on what they see as a culture war in America:

The reason it’s a small touchtone in the culture war is that there’s some anxiety over baseball’s decline, to some extent. Baseball, of course, is the ultimate American tradition. And baseball fans face one fundamental fact: their game is in decline. Little kids don’t play it anymore, because they’re switching from Little League to soccer. And this is, I think, a lot of what the culture war is about: traditional American values giving way to another set of ideas coming in from abroad, especially from Europe.

According to conservatives, liberals are trying to “destroy this country” (can’t tell you how many times I hear that on a regular basis) by tearing down traditional American values. This culture war is taking place over religion, politics, tradition… whatever they grew up with. A whole cross-section of the population of the United States harkens for the 1950’s. (Not to mention the fact that football tends to be most popular among the most recent immigrants who brought it here from around the world; the conservative movement these days is not exactly standing on the border with open arms.)

Thus, somewhere within many of the Americans who deride soccer, they are standing up for the preservation of the real America.

During the course of the conversation, I asked my boss if he thought America would be less American if football were suddenly popular here. He said no. But it’s my belief that many conservatives think it would. Our opinions about football are some of the ways Americans are fighting a culture war over the future of this country: liberal or conservative, nationalist or internationalist, traditionalist or progressivist. And I think that’s pretty interesting.

Who knew so much could be staked upon how we kick a ball around?