Thursday, January 20, 2011

Just A Snowball Fight, But Also A Little Something More

I called in sick to work this morning. I usually only get sick once a year so here it was. After finally managing to get out of bed I plopped down in front of the computer and pulled up the ol' Twitter box to see what was going on in what appeared to be a painfully slow soccer day.

Midway through the morning, though, the Twitter box started rocking. What? A snowball fight in Kansas City? Organized by Sporting KC player Kei Kamara? Players versus fans? In the good way? "#SpecialKCSnowmageddon" was on at high noon.

In between fever-induced dreams in which I win the Ballon d'Or, I caught the sledding, the snow soccer game, and the snowball fight streaming on Sporting KC's website. Then Kamara took everyone out to his favorite restaurant, Chipotle (Kamara is, apparently nutso for the Mexican burrito chain), on his tab.

I started thinking about how unbelievably amazing an American soccer world it is.

That Kamara even wanted to and then did organize, with big time support from his club, such an event with local fans is a testament to the amazingness of soccer in America.

This sport is more accessible to its fans in this country than possibly anywhere else in the world.

Certainly not one player organized a snowball fight in England when all their matches were snowed out last month?

Certainly not one player from any other major sports league in this country did so either.

American soccer players ARE John Q. Public. Nearly all of them make just as much (or as little) as the rest of us. If you read Grant Wahl's "The Beckham Experiment" you learned that some Galaxy players lived four to an apartment because none of them could afford to live in Los Angeles.

It is this sort of accessibility that leaves me optimistic about soccer in the United States. While other sports' athletes are mired in sex scandals, arrests, and tales of extreme opulence, soccer carries on and moves forward with the quiet do-goodiness of the "boy next door".

For all the mainstream sports media's whining of the "foreign" nature of soccer, this sport and their athletes, here, has more in common with the average American than basketball, baseball, hockey, and football.

Follow any MLS team on Twitter or Facebook and their stars, new draftees/signings, and front office personnel are out and about their community connecting with fans. As I write this Seattle Sounders just Tweeted that Freddy Montero is going to be out at a doughnut shop signing autographs. I bet LeBron sends someone to get his doughnuts.

There are hundreds of examples of this; the accessible American soccer player and team.

It bodes well for the long-term success of any sport that its players, its teams, and its fans be able to interact with each other in a way that goes beyond the one-way street of fans coughing up their hard earned dollars. Certainly the NFL, NBA, and MLB aren't in danger of collapsing because they mostly just run with their fans' money, but it definitely is alienating.

Major League Soccer teams must realize that their greatest asset, beyond the product they put out on the field, is their ability to connect with their fans and potential fans. Events like today's snow ball fight just underscore the positive and long-lasting connections teams and players can make with their fans.

Photo Credit: Sporting KC Twitter

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  1. LeBrons doughnut guy probably makes mad cash. Kei Kamara FTW

  2. I loved Kei when he was on the Dynamo. He would always come give the fans a high-five.


"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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