SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

In Case You Were Wondering

The U.S. men's soccer team is well on its way to qualifying for the 2006 World Cup, as they shut out Costa Rica in impressive fashion over the weekend in Salt Lake City.

Okay, so it's not the ALCS between the Yankees and the Red Sox, but the World Cup is something that the rest of the world really cares about.

So much so that an odd phenomenon has occurred in the U.S. -- the home team sometimes gets roundly booed in its own country. How odd/awful is that? The reason, according to the article, is that there are many recent immigrants who cheer their own country at the expense of their new one. That's bad, and it's also lamentable that so many tickets are available in many of these venues, presumably because the home fans are attending baseball games or NASCAR events.

This isn't a political blog, but there's something wrong with booing the home nation's team in its own country. Those who do so should appreciate (as I am sure they do not) the irony that the freedoms that America guarantees enable them to behave so obnoxiously in America (as opposed to certain of the countries from which they came). Moreover, American soccer fans are perhaps better mannered than soccer fans anywhere else in the world -- by acting peacefully. Try booing the home team in Manchester, Cardiff, Dublin, Beijing, Budapest, Quito, Sao Paolo or Mexico City and see what happens.

Thankfully, as soccer takes some root in America, it isn't bringing along some of the rest of the world's ugly soccer habits, such as soccer hooligans. No, it's probably just the travel soccer parents that we have to worry about in this country.

The World Cup is a great event, and soccer players are great athletes. In the U.S. names like Pujols, Clemens, Jeter, Schilling and Bonds are known all over, as are those of Manning, McNabb, Brady, Owens and Moss. I know I've missed many outstanding players, but you get the point. But how many of you can tell me about Kaka, Pires, Ronaldo, Shevchenko, Del Piero, Tacchinardi, Trezeguet, Henry, Rooney, Seedorf, Cole, Scholes, O'Shea, Beckham, Juan Carlos, Keane, Giggs and many others? Ask a twelve year-old boy in Manchester, Lyon, Barcelona or Dusseldorf, and he probably can tell you.

Take a chance, watch some games, be patient, appreciate the skill, get to love the tension that's out there when the game's in the 88th minute (of 90, for the uninitiated) and there is no score, but your team's midfielders and forwards are passing the ball with laser-like precision and aiming for the one good shot only about forty feet from the goalkeeper. It's pretty good stuff.

Because, you see, kids in most of the rest of the world do not dream of becoming Barry Bonds or Peyton Manning. They dream of becoming the next Thierry Henry or Ronaldo.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post; couldn't agree more with everything you said.

Two other points:

1. Because USSoccer is always fighting the uphill battle for domestic notice/success/money, the World Cup qualification process brings a special terror to US fans. The concern is that the World Cup is the one soccer event that can generate mainstream media interest and advertising dollars. Miss one, and soccer disappears for four years.

2. Given the nature of CONCACAF, the US Soccer players go to places, and play under conditions, that would make most other pro athletes wither. Can you imagine a pro baseball or basketball player and their posse facing what the US Nats face in Guatemala, Costa Rica or El Salvador, in terms of creature comforts (or lack thereof) and fan abuse? They wouldn't last 1 minute, nevermind 90.

2:22 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks for your comments. I agree wholeheartedly with point one -- they need to get into the World Cup badly. It's kind of like the low DI men's hoops school making it into the NCAA Tournament -- it makes their year (in this case, four-year period). Except for one thing: the U.S. team has gotten a lot better. Agree with the second point, too, and what does CONCACAF mean?

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Thanks you for the definition. I doubt I can commit it to memory, though.

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