Are Soccer Goals Really That Big of a Deal?

Soccer fans celebrate scoring harder than fans of any other sport. A goal in hockey and or a run in a baseball will bring about a few high fives. Touchdowns are fun, but there is a big difference between the excitement of a 90-yard run and a 3-yard dump off into the end zone. Unless the score is tight and the hour late, a layup might bring a smile to a basketball fan’s face. Might.

But you already knew all that. The more something happens the less exciting it gets. That’s why NFL Sundays are so big, because a win for a football team is worth ten for a baseball team.

But isn’t this GGGGGGGOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLL shenanigans just a little overkill? How much bigger is a goal in soccer than a touchdown in football?

Average points scored per team in each game:

Points Per Game

If we divide everything out so that soccer goals are equal to 1 then round everything off, we find this:

Adjusted Points

One goal in soccer is the equivalent of two goals in hockey, a three-run homer, two touchdowns and a field goal, or 35 slam dunks.

Football and basketball, which award more than one point per score, are the most interesting. Our brains have difficulty understanding such differing values. For the same reason, you do not become ten times happier if your blog gets 100 hits as opposed to ten hits. If you did, a million hits would paralyze you with utter joy for a fortnight.

In football, even without the field goal, two quick touchdowns are indeed a very big deal and would have even the most passive fan pumping her fist.

The NBA is on a whole different level. Try to imagine some absurd shot in a basketball game that would award 70 points to your team. It’s almost incomprehensible because it would significantly, and I mean significantly, boost your team’s chances of winning the game. You would lose your mind if your team sunk that shot.

This obviously isn’t a perfect comparison. On occasion, a soccer or baseball team will score three times or more the average—four goals or 12 runs, respectively. No basketball team will ever reach that point. The record for points in an NBA game was 173, which was 2.1 times the league average in 1953.

Still, the numbers give us the general idea that soccer fans aren’t all that crazy after all.