AN: Omake from darienqmk! All credit goes to him for this wonderful piece
Sports in America and its Relationship with Early American Warfare
The United States of America has a deep cultural history despite its relative age, in part due to the presence of the first president, Samuel Kim. Known as the last of the so-called 'Renaissance Men', Kim was not only revolutionary in the most literal sense, but also had deep, long-lasting cultural impacts that affect the average American lifestyle to this day. Among his accomplishments, one that has perhaps had the most widespread impact, and yet go unnoticed by most, is his development of standardized sports. Football (or soccer, in some areas of New England) and baseball are two sports credited to Samuel Kim, through some letters written by Continental soldiers during the Revolutionary War. This fact is generally overshadowed by Kim's other achievements in politics and warfare. However, one can argue that these sports — the rules being more or less the same since their inception — are the most timeless of Kim's legacy. Indeed, both have spread throughout LAN member nations, and football has spread even further, and today, firmly remains the most popular sport in the world.
However, these 'all-American' sports were initially only popular within the United States. Major League Soccer was established in 1791, and its popularity spread like wildfire within the next two decades; while the cost of providing stadiums limited the size of the MLS initially, plenty of Minor Leagues popped up within and between states, where amateur football became extremely popular. It was perhaps due to Kim's influence that football became popular in the United States — it was occasionally played among his soldiers as a way to unwind while exercising, and the soldiery brought the game back home after being discharged — but a curious fact to note is that it never caught on much outside the United States, and if it did, certainly not with the fervor that it had within. Indeed, football, alongside baseball and other sports, remained uniquely American phenomena until the Anglo-American War. Mexican and Central American soldiers, who had participated in joint operations with US forces during said conflict, were the first group of foreigners to be introduced to football and baseball in any significant number, and even then, it took several decades more until the first official 'fútbol' league was formed in Mexico. It was only with America's total military and economic eclipsing of European powers in the late 19th century that it spread beyond North and South America.
Most conclude that America simply did not have the cultural influence by that point, especially not towards European monarchical empires, to whom republican values were somewhat antithetical. This is further evidenced by the fact that American cultural exports, such as comic books, evoked a similar lack of interest internationally. However, American sports, football in particular, has had strong ties with the US military first and civilians second, which is what differentiates it from other cultural exports. The US military that would, in coming years, be forced to adapt and improve as it secured its western territories and with the Anglo-American War. Since antiquity, certain sports had been used as military exercises; for ceremony, to improve coordination, or to hone their tactical acumen, such as in chess. Football was no different; the adoption of the sport as a team exercise, requiring not only individual skill but coordination and a fine sense of strategy, honed the American soldiery into something that better reflected their doctrine.
While Kim was well-known for his groundbreaking (sometimes literally) military doctrine, he also instilled the value of leadership and adaptability. While it was ultimately he or other commanders that gave broad orders, officers and even soldiers were not only permitted, but encouraged, to make informed decisions on their own. Kim spearheaded the development of Special Operations Forces and produced the majority of the initial combat doctrine; he placed a heavy emphasis on adaptability. This included elements of the chain of command, such that were any commanding officers were incapacitated, the operation could continue without difficulties under a second individual who also possessed a complete understanding of the situation and military goals. It also emphasized that, if every individual in a team possessed better understanding of the combat scenario, then the team as a whole would be more adaptable to enemy movement.
Intentionally or not, football provided similar insights towards the players. In the early days of the league, the team hierarchy was more or less similar to pre-Kim troop doctrines; there was a captain that dictated the pace and movement of the team on the field, and a coach that developed the strategy pre-game and refined it during. It was also during these days that the Iroquois Warriors utterly dominated the league, almost handily crushing every other, generally white-majority teams. Perhaps as a result of their warrior culture, in which ritualistic combat was less uncommon than European counterparts and placed a heavy emphasis on synchrony between allied combatants, the Warriors placed heavy emphasis on teamwork over individual skill. This is not to say that the Warriors were not encouraged to be aggressive; indeed, the Warriors still possesses the record for the most red cards in a single season, but they were encouraged to think on their feet and punish enemy weaknesses, not to individual benefit, but to team benefit, in a way that maximized long-term success. The Warriors continued to dominate the first dozen seasons, not only because the other teams failed to adapt but sometimes even regressed; promotions and sponsorships encouraged players to excel, sometimes even at the expense of their own teammates, as pro football players, even in the early days of MLS, could see a substantial fortune compared to the average farmer or uneducated laborer. Thus, most teams continued to see disharmony among their teams, with no clear direction save scoring goals.
It took a new, entirely American generation of children growing up for football tactics to shift. Having grown up with the importance of working together for a common goal almost hammered into them but Kim et al., the 1810s saw the rise of new team lineups that adopted the Warriors-style strategy of teamwork and unpredictability. In fact, it was in 1814 when the Warriors were finally toppled after a nine-season victory streak by New York S.C., and though the Warriors would remain as formidable as ever (all the way to present day), they would never again see championships as routinely as they did.
About fifteen years into the 'Golden Age of Soccer', the Anglo-American War began. This conflict saw widespread devastation and pressed not only militias but resistance groups into the war out of necessity. Among the factors of American victory in the war outlined by Prussian General Carl von Clauswitz in The Aspects of War were: a close relationship between military and civilian, military intelligence, and strategic flexibility.
Given it was originally a sport developed and enjoyed by the military, football teams in the early 19th century were often coached by veterans of the Revolutionary War, who were at or around retirement age at that time. Aspiring football players often knew a military serviceman or veteran personally, and war stories were often passed along through this medium. As such, the youth leading up to the outbreak of the Anglo-American War experienced a close, firsthand relationship with the military and military servicepeople, entirely due to the sheer popularity of football. This is believed to have contributed to the mass volunteering that occurred in American-held cities, as well as the (unofficial) deployment of civilian informants in occupied territory, which in turn increased the available military intelligence of American forces. Indeed, there are some records of fleet-footed youths acting as messengers for various militias and US military attachments after the destruction of railways and telegraph lines, their athleticism cultivated by playing football.
Finally, militias and resistance groups experienced a surprising amount of success against invaders. While they would never be on par with people who attended military academies, their basic knowledge of strategy and tactics, as well as the connection they had with veterans, allowed them to prioritize goals and refine their movements. They often acted as saboteurs and raiders, and if their enemy were in sufficiently small numbers, they regularly pulled off successful ambushes. It was due to not only the American revolutionary spirit, but also their surprising effectiveness, that European forces enacted 'total war' tactics and civilian casualties massively exceeded military casualties on both sides — but ultimately American victory as well. Undoubtedly, these militias and resistance groups would have formed with or without soccer; however, it can be argued that their effectiveness had been greatly enhanced with the sport being ever-present in their lives, and subsequently, tipped the war, of not just two peoples, but two conflicting ideologies, in America's favor.