Sunday, June 27, 2010
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Back in college I tried really hard to get into soccer.
I swear, I did.
I spent a couple of days surfing the Web, figuring out the teams, deciding who I would pledge my undying love to (It was a draw between Michael Ballack's Chelsea FC and Liverpool's much cooler logo), learning the rules, rosters, etc.
It didn't take.
And it's not because I don't like the concept of liking soccer. In fact, I'm in love with the concept of following soccer. Who wouldn't want to be an aficianado of "the beautiful" game? On paper it sounds great, very sophisticated even. Like having a taste for 12-year-old single malt highland scotch and Cuban cigars.
But in reality it means scheduling your day around games (or "matches") taking place across the Atlantic, following multiple leagues and ever-changing rosters with little to no emotional connection to what's going on. For me, watching a soccer match was like trying to get excited about a San Jose - Anaheim NHL game. And for me, sports is all about the emotional connection.
But once every four years I have the opportunity to watch and actually enjoy soccer and that time is quickly approaching. The only thing not to like about the World Cup is how it seems to divide sports fans - American sports fans - into three camps: the self-righteous footballers, indignant soccer haters and everybody else.
Of course this could just be overhyped by the ol' sports media, but just wait we'll be inundated with columns, articles, podcasts discussing why Americans can't/don't/won't embrace the world's most popular sport. Here's ESPN's Jeff MacGregor:
Hanging there somewhere between the comic and the tragic, the right and the wrong, the left and the right, the truth and the lie, is our American relationship to soccer. Well, to football. Futbol. Fußball. Whatever. Even as the world gets smaller, how is it possible that at this late date we remain such strangers to The Beautiful Game?
The 19th World Cup, under way this week in South Africa, will at last change all that.
Unless, of course, it does not.
Because predicting the arc of soccer's popularity in the United States is a fool's errand. It is also a cottage industry. Never more so than during the quadrennial global tournament. Thus, by mid-July, we'll all be up to our necks in the oracular math of "what if?" What if the U.S. men do well? What if they do not? What if TV ratings are up? What if they are not? What of Slovakia? What of Slovenia? Or Fredonia? What if Landon Donovan plays like Landon Donovan McNabb? Whatever happened to Beckham and Pelé and all those sky-high hopes for stateside soccer? Who at long last will become the Prometheus of American footie? Of what real use is a goalkeeper, anyway? And what if tens of thousands of words a day are spilled into the Gulf of Lexico in service of the idea that meaning must be made of it all? Who cleans that up?
"Help!" cries the American sports fan. "Enough! I just want to know whether to send my noncontact sons and daughters to soccer or to band practice after school!"
I hope soccer becomes popular in this country. Because sports are fun. But hearing why the American public is boorish by failing to follow MLS or FIFA on non-World Cup years or why American sports are so much better is the real bore. So sportswriters, do you part, help me learn about the history, passion and everything else there is to love about football without the psychoanalysis.
UPDATE: Just came across this Joel Dreyfuss column on largely the same topic. At least I'm not alone:
"There's still a certain amount of snobbishness in following international soccer from the U.S. It doesn't rank up there with squash racquets peeking out of your briefcase, but by rooting for proper "football," you join that secret society of snobs who talk 4-4-2 versus 3-5-2 lineups and actually understand the offside rule. I have to admit, since it's gotten a lot easier to be a soccer snob, that's probably not a good thing for exclusivity. But there are definite benefits in being able to lie on your couch over the next several weeks and flip your remote between two World Cup matches."
Saturday, June 5, 2010
I've got Metro on the mind lately, it seems.