Thursday, March 18, 2010

De-constructing Stupidity: In Defense of American Soccer

Editor's Note: This is the first time we've ever done this (so go easy on us), but we couldn't let this inaccurate, poorly written, and blatantly stupid article just pass under the radar. Too often major media outlets let the columnists take a swing a soccer, sport's whipping boy and run said column as a big "F you" to the American soccer community. Today... we defend this house. The article comes from Alex Beam of the International Herald Tribune and was published in the New York Times on March 18th, 2010. His words in bold, our responses in italics.

This little piece of brilliance is also cross-posted over at the great American soccer site, Match Fit USA.
The World (Minus the U.S.) Cup

If you are a man, you know the feeling. At a party, you encounter a beautiful woman, perhaps a tad exotic. She speaks with a hint of an accent — South American? — and she dresses a notch above the people you hang around with. Is that a Sapphire martini in her hand? You think about approaching her. But in the end, you shy away.

America is that man. The World Cup is the exotic, unattainable object of fascination. The Quadrennial Awkward Date resumes

First off, this is just the worst bit of metaphor I've read in a while. Must Read Soccer better save some space for worst writing of the week because we've got a nomination right here. I've written better leads when I wrote for my high school newspaper. Honestly, if America was at that party... America would walk over (being the greatest country in the world) and charm the shit out of that South American? hottie. Case closed. Metaphor over.
It would be great if Americans could embrace the World Cup, because then big U.S. sponsors could make even more money.
Big U.S. sponsors already make a ton of money from the World Cup. Take a look at the sponsors of the upcoming Cup: Coca Cola, McDonald's, Continental, Visa, Castrol, and many more. You don't think they didn't get into the game to grab a slice of the pie? Those are some of the biggest companies in the world. Not to mention Nike who isn't sponsoring the competition, but might as well for how often they'll show up there.
The American audience for the World Cup has increased in past years, but rarely approaches the viewership for red-white-and-blue sporting events. This year’s (admittedly excellent) Super Bowl attracted over 100 million couch potatoes. The mind-blowing, head-butting 2006 Italy-France World Cup final lured 17 million American viewers.
The problem being that when you compare finals head to head, yes, the World Cup comes up short. Too bad the tournament isn't... wait... JUST ONE GAME. So let's multiply 17 million viewers times 64 matches, OK? How about we compare one massive tournament in the U.S. to the World Cup and see how they match up? In 2009 the NCAA basketball championship game between North Carolina and Michigan State garnered 17.6 million viewers. Oh wait! That's almost EXACTLY the same as American views of the World Cup... must be that college basketball hasn't arrived yet in the United States. Oh, and another thing, the 2006 World Cup ratings in the U.S. you cited was a 152 PERCENT increase from 2002 whereas the NCAA tourney finals has seen a decrease over the last five years. You want more? The World Cup final regularly outdraws the NBA Finals and World Series in the U.S.
For Americans, soccer is just not a sport you play hooky for. What American boy hasn’t played sick to watch a World Series baseball game a few times in his life? I feigned many a flu to watch Juan Marichal of the San Francisco Giants pitch against Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. But I can confidently predict that classrooms will be full, and workplace absenteeism will be at normal levels, when the United States plays its first round matches in South Africa this June.
Soccer is a sport you play hooky for. During the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan I faked having to take my little sister to basketball camp every morning so I could show up late to work. I've taken over a week of vacation from my job to travel to both Washington DC to see USA versus Costa Rica on a Wednesday and USA against Honduras in Los Angeles. Those are stories that were repeated by almost every other soccer fan I met there. Those committed to even water polo skip work to watch their sports. Be surprised... watch the work place numbers this year.
Why? For one thing, America has yet to develop a soccer culture. It’s the most popular youth sport in the country — there is lots of “sharing” — but in most surveys, professional soccer ranks 10th or lower in fan interest, after stock car racing and several college sports.
According to this recent Harris poll there is no foundation (other than the author's mind) that soccer falls outside the top ten for fan interest in the sport. In fact, soccer ranks in the top ten while numerous other sports have seen dramatic drops in popularity (i.e. baseball, men's tennis, etc). And what the fuck is that random aside about "there is lots of sharing"? What do you mean by that? What place does that have in this professional journalism writing? Are you against sharing? Is that some frat boy inside joke about soccer?
To indulge some gross stereotypes, white Dads play catch with their sons in their backyards. Black kids play basketball. Hispanic-American kids may play soccer, but there are only one or two of them on the 20-man American roster.
Great now you're engaging in stereotypes to justify your argument. I'm sure that's going to go over real well. Another factual error here as well. The US roster contains 23... TWENTY THREE players. And among those 23 players include such notable Hispanic Americans (which by the way IS NOT the proper way to call Latinos... "Hispanic" implies they are from the island Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and not from Latin America. I digress... Carlos Bocanegra, Jose Fransisco Torres, Edgar Castillo, Alejandro Bedoya, Jonathan Borenstein (Jewish-Mexican), and Nick Rimando to name a few recent USMNTers. So that's more than "one or two". Again, good research.
For another thing, U.S. soccer just isn’t cool. It’s no accident that the only TV ad I remember from the last World Cup featured the Brazilian soccer team horsing around in the locker room, bouncing a soccer ball off of every conceivable appendage while grooving to samba music.
Did you see what our boys did to the "cool" Brazilians in the Confederations Cup last summer? Black is the new white. USA is the new Brazil.

Where do they get those names, anyway? Dida, Cafu, Kak√°, Fred. By comparison, the current U.S. team roster reads like the letterhead of a white-shoe law firm: Evans, Goodson, Findley & Marshall.
Where do I start here? Evans... not on the team. Goodson... maybe. Findley... not if Charlie Davies is back. Marshall... nope. Oh, how about "law-firm" names Onyewu, Bocanegra, Cherundolo, Hejduk, Bedoya, Klejstan, Torres, Edu, and Adu.
Who are you going to fall in love with? Nice white boys from California and the mid-Atlantic states, suburbs, or the funky futbolistas of the favelas?
Sigh. Exhibit A: Clint Dempsey. Grew up rural poor in Nacgodoches, Texas. Had to drop out of soccer so his sister (who died by the way) could play travel tennis. The rest of his team raised money so he could still play with them. How about Freddy Adu (if he ever gets another look), who's single mother immigrated from the Ghana so he and his brother could play soccer in the U.S.? Or maybe Jay DeMerit from Green Bay, Wisconsin who paid his way to a tryout out with a non-league side in England and then was picked up and is now the captain of Watford, a big English club. I'll fall in love with my Yanks.
And it’s not just the Brazilians. The current English national team is a hotbed of wife-and-girlfriend swapping intrigue. I haven’t seen an American footballer on the front page of the New York Post, well, ever.
Maybe you missed it, but the same thing happened over here. The news broke at the same time, but you were probably too busy being entranced by the "sexy" English scandal. John Harkes, back in 1998 slept with fellow USMNTer Eric Wynalda's wife. Harkes was then dropped from the 1998 squad. This was all just revealed, but if there were any mainstream journos following soccer back them you could have easily uncovered it and added to the "intrigue" back then.
Big-time soccer cued up its shot in the U.S. and missed. Football god David Beckham was supposed to save the American game when he joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007, but he never broke through, on the field or in the popular imagination. Not only was he bedeviled by injuries, but his greatest skill — serving parabolic passes from the outside midfield — is one that scoring-obsessed Americans could never appreciate. His wife Victoria’s frenzied attempt to become a celebrity in a town that already had celebrities, thank you, likewise gained little traction.
The only people that said that Beckham was going to "save" American soccer were the people that hoped that soccer in this country dies. It’s a set-up argument. If I said, "the New England Patriots MUST not lose a game this season and win the Super Bowl otherwise football is dead" and then they don't do it... I win. I certainly don't remember anyone in any position of authority, not commissioner Don Garber, the president of the Galaxy, or Beckham himself saying he was here to "save" American soccer. Soccer in America DOES NOT NEED SAVING. It is strong, stable, and growing in this country. Only from pretentious fucks like you maybe who keep looking for the silver bullet to slay the sport here.
The Beautiful People assembled to tout the opening of the David Beckham Soccer Academy in Los Angeles in 2005. When it closed a few months ago, a brief press release did the job.
So what? His flashy, exclusive soccer camp closed. Too bad you mentioned earlier in the article that soccer is the largest youth sport in the nation so I think soccer for kids will be just fine.
Hope springs eternal at ESPN, the network that will broadcast the games to most Americans. On the one hand, ESPN’s vice president of programming Scott Guglielmino allows that if, by some miracle, the American team plays deep into the month-long tournament, that could produce a possible ratings bonanza.
But no matter what, this summer's World Cup WILL BE a "ratings bonanza" because viewership is up across the board for soccer. Face it.... ESPN is doubling down on soccer in the country. They are investing in the English Premier League, Major League Soccer, and even rolling out 3D TV for this summer's Cup. The Worldwide Leader in Sports intends to make soccer in this country.
Just in case, he says the network will be rolling out some “team predictor” Web software that will match fans up to teams whose style of play they might enjoy. “It’s O.K. to root for more than one team,” he says. “We want the non-core fan to buy in and connect with the World Cup.”
That sounds like ... a dating service.
Great another good ol’ boy joke at the expense of soccer. Good one. You got us there.

FUCK YOU. We will win.

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  1. "What American boy hasn’t played sick to watch a World Series baseball game a few times in his life?"

    All of them. All of them have not done this, because there is no need: World Series games are played at night.

    "But I can confidently predict that classrooms will be full, and workplace absenteeism will be at normal levels, when the United States plays its first round matches in South Africa this June."

    Of course, it really helps that the most important of these games, the one most likely to spur absenteeism, the first one, the US v. England -- is on a Saturday.

  2. lol at anyone who doesn't think World Cup Fever won't surpass March Madness this summer. is this guy writing out of the retirement home or?

  3. Dan, nice point-counter point. This guy is obviously a know nothing about the beautiful game and his ignorance shows with every word penned.

    My favorite statistic is the number of viewers for the Super Bowl versus the number of viewers for the last World Cup Final. 100 million viewers vs. 17 million american viewers. Why did he only qualify one of the stats was the 100 million world wide; were some of the 100 million infants who had no choice in the matter?

    If you want to make a fair comparison, compare the US vs. World viewership for both the Super Bowl and World Cup Final. Or how about , as you mention, comparing the trends over the last few World Cups. what about the viwership for the 2002 World Cup when the US made some noise.

    Someone should point this guy in the direction of the Soccer Commercials website, it's amazing how much better the commercials for this sport are than for the regular sports. End Rant.

    I read this article in the NYT and it made me want to punch a wall or kick a poodle. Great counter-points. Except, that that Harris poll was actually quite pessimistic in that the change in percentage of american soccer fans hasn't changed since the inception and growth of MLS. Of course one could argue that the Harris poll only asks for favorite sport, and perhaps more Americans consider soccer a favorite 2nd or 3rd sport... w/e I digress... the point is you kick ass and I'll def check out this website in the future for soccer

  5. Good stuff man. I'm already planning my vacation days in June *cough cough*

    Along with our Latin players you might also mention a few of the "black kids" that apparently put that basketball down on the grass at some point. Jozy, Edu, Onyewu, Beasley, Clark, Adu, and Howard all have at least some African American heritage. Come to think of it, we're pretty darn diverse.

  6. Great work. Part of loving American soccer and the sport, in general, is defending the sport when people pull stuff like this.

    It's going to be a great summer. I'm really looking forward to the cup.

    Bring on the Brits!

  7. The writes for a squash blog. Enough said the guy wouldn't know what a real sport was if hit him is his dumb ass face. And no disrespect to squash, great game, good for staying in shape and stuff.

    here is my source:

  8. The guys is a total prick. here is another gem i found about him.

  9. Well put Dan. Great counterpoint with actual facts to back up your statements. I find myself defending soccer to douchebags like this far to often. Ill-informed idiots like this are always shooting their mouths off and it is our job to defend the sport.

  10. Oh man, great stuff, thanks for finding this guys.
    I couldn't say much after pointing out the facts...
    so I dug up a little history on the guy, nothing major

  11. "It would be great if Americans could embrace the World Cup, because then big U.S. sponsors could make even more money."

    ...yeah...Coca-Cola is in the middle of an 80-country world tour with the FIFA World Cup trophy...I saw it down here in Argentina.

  12. great stuff man. you just got yourself a new fan of the site. We will win, it is inevitable

  13. Hey, I think the US will do really well this world cup, watch out England - your defence looks very shaky!


"Anyone who tells me soccer is boring, I'm going to punch them in the face."
- Former Dallas Burn (aka FC Dallas) coach Dave Dir

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