01 May 2012
Posted in Other
I'm going to start by saying "Well done" to ESPN. They had the stones to air an EPL match on their flagship station during their prime afternoon programing slots. And, of course, they're being hammered for it by some of the idiot sports fans that live in this country.
Someone sent me a link to this article and I almost didn't want to read it because I knew where it was going. Haven't I had enough anger and rage over the past few days? I guess not. So, of course, I decided to click the link and read the article - or more accurately the tweets listed in the article. This is 2012 people, and there are still people out there who are ignorant enough to say that soccer doesn't belong on American TV, or that a Spanish commercial shouldn't be on air because in the US we speak "American". Really, guys, really?
I understand that some things aren't for everyone. I don't much enjoy watching bowling on TV, but when it's on do you know what I do? I change the channel. I don't go on and on about how it's a dumb sport and no one cares because, quite frankly, who am I to bash another persons sport?
Soccer isn't for everyone, I get that. Full disclosure, there was a time where I wasn't crazy about the game. But there's something about it that just sucks you in and never lets go. Anyone who reads this post probably already knows what I'm talking about. There's a reason that it's called "The beautiful game". The history of some of the top clubs and leagues around the world is incredible. The quality of players throughout the worldwide game is remarkable. The atmosphere and die hard support that people show their clubs is breathtaking. Look at some of the stadiums and supporters groups all over the world, they all add to the storyline that each club has.
Sure, other "American" sports have their storylines too. Who doesn't love Wrigley Field or Fenway Park? Who wouldn't want to see a Saturday afternoon game at the Big House in Michigan or at Notre Dame Stadium. But even the history and support that these teams have (and I'm a DIEHARD Cubs fan) can't match up to what soccer clubs worldwide have.
Don't believe me? Look at Chicago. In the MLB we have the Cubs and the White Sox. North side vs. South Side. One team draws a sellout almost day in and day out, yet the other team just 8 miles away struggles to fill the lower deck at times - and they won a championship just 7 years ago. Chicago is a world class city, and at times it struggles to support two MLB teams.
Now look at a city like London, or even Manchester. They have multiple clubs in the same city that are all competing in their top division. London has 5. There's no typo there, London has 5 top flight clubs. All with their own unique history and passionate supporters. It's incredible. It's passed down from generation to generation, and they stick by their club through good and bad, even relegation. Could you imagine how quick fans would bail on their teams if US sports had a relegation system? It's insane.
The match that ESPN televised today, the Manchester derby, is another perfect example. Two clubs that are battling it out for a league championship, with a history that dates back over 100 years. Each has their own supporters. (Insert joke about Man City fans here) Each has their own identity. And oh, by the way, their stadiums are less than 6 miles apart. That's the beauty of this game.
It's that same passion that has started to catch on in the US. Look at how far MLS has come in the last 10 years. Expansion teams are building soccer specific stadiums before they ever play an MLS match - and they've got incredible fan support. Look at clubs like Portland, Seattle (yes, I said something nice about you guys), and LA - huge fan bases and some big name players. That passion is why I can write a post about something that happened that I know I saw, and supporters on the other side of the country can come back at me saying they know it didn't happen. I love it. I'm GLAD you guys got so fired up, I don't care who you support, I care that you are supporting a club.
The popularity and respect that MLS has worldwide is on the rise as well. Look at what the Ireland boss told Robbie Keane when he was relegated with West Ham. He gave him an ultimatum. If you want to keep playing for Ireland you need to play in a top flight league somewhere, and MLS was one of his options. We've got the likes of Beckham, Keane, and Henry - international superstars. Right here in Chicago we have Friederich and Pardo - national team legends in Germany and Mexico. And we've got some of our own greats as well. Beckerman, Donovan, Shea, Zusi, Sapong, and Wondolowski - just to name a few.
It maddens me to see Americans continue to be so ignorant towards the game. If you don't like it, fine, sit down and shut up. There's no need for racist or homophobic tweets about it. Terms like, "grass fairies" and "gay" are tweeted out there by people who don't want to see it on ESPN. "Nobody cares" is what several people said. Clearly a lot of people care, ESPN isn't a dumb organization - they aren't going to take this risk without knowing the reward ahead of time.
I think a new day is dawning for soccer in America, and I truly believe that within 1 to 2 more generations, there will be some tradition established in the US, similar to that of the other top leagues. Children will follow the clubs their parents follow, and they'll pass it down to their children, and so on. Rivalries will continue to develop, and more and more top players will be playing for MLS clubs.
There's still some work to do, on both the part of the league and the individual clubs themselves, especially in terms of the salary cap issues, but we're making real progress.
And don't get me wrong, I love my Bulls, Bears, Blackhawks, and Cubs, but there's something different about soccer supporters - there's no bandwagons, there's no let's go to the games to check out the cheerleaders, there's none of that. It's pure love of the game and club. It's stand, scream, shout, sing, wave your flag for 90+ minutes.
Wake up America, soccer is coming to a park near you.