In soccer, you have no choice but to keep your eye on the ball. The game never pauses. Therefore, your opponents never really materialize in your head as an enemy- there is no way to concentrate on trash talking when you are fixated on the white orb flying around. It takes constant attention on the ball to evaluate its trajectory, flight, and the placement of your body to contact the ball. It takes close observation of the ball to approach it and strike it, especially while it is rolling or flying toward you. It takes constant visual cues with teammates to set up offensive drives, and there are almost no ways to talk out offensive movement. Soccer is much more about conditional situations in the moment. Soccer is all about performance, feints, and talents.
In football, you have frequent interruptions in the action. That leaves a lot of time to look at your opponents and trash talk. Since you get penalties for crossing the invisible line of scrimmage, you spend the whole game gazing across the barrier at your opponent. You barely look at your own teammates, instead watching the men you need to cover. You barely look at the ball, only glancing to see who is carrying it or who the pass is going to. Each play becomes a physical challenge and also an ego challenge. Will he smack talk you down, shaking your confidence? Do you look intimidating, and do you have a deadly reputation? Football is all about following directions, watching the enemy, and committing fierce and rapid offensive movements designed to destroy the opponent. Americans are obsessed with the idea of completely vanquishing a challenge; not only do you defeat him, but you have to do so by incapacitating his body and demoralizing his soul. Americans can’t stand thinking of obstacles as people who still have some respect after losing. You don’t dwell on the players after they lose; you casually forget them until the next performance, crossing your fingers that they do better.
I have always considered soccer to promote more heroic thoughts. The most famous players are such because they literally outplay every other pro on the field. Not only that, but famous players also have a sixth sense at employing performance art-like gestures to craftily maneuver the ball. It is easy for a child to project veneration onto soccer players. It is easy to find heros in the game.
I have always considered football to be more gladitorial. The best football franchises are able to cultivate a fierce lineup like arranging pieces on a chessboard. The quarterback is usually the only personable player; despite that, his role on the field is extremely reactive and has little proaction. He just stands there watching for an open man to pass the ball to. Coaches have as much a presence on the field as the quarterback, gesturing madly at the team and attempting to direct all the movement with his voice. The gladiator’s handlers are just as important as the gladiator himself. SEC college football is like chaining down a bunch of colossuses and unleashing them on game day. You never really develop a heroic image of a player.
Until now, I have avoided a moral judgement toward both sports. But now its time: ultimately I think soccer is a more masculine sport. It requires proaction from every player, requiring every player to cultivate a high level of intellect, physical conditioning, talent, and practice. Balance is hardly useful in any other masculine pursuit; most male pursuits devolve into expertise in one small role (think: football punter). You cannot be a good soccer player by having tons of experience and a little physicality. You cannot be a good soccer player by being extremely physical and having a little talent. Your players cannot be disposable. Ultimately they are treated with more value than men in other sports.
I will add more to this post as I evolve my position.