Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Soccer Isn't Going Anywhere or Why It's Too Bad Every American Couldn't Experience Today's Triumph

June 23, 2010 - South Africa - Football - United States of America v Algeria FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010 - Group C - Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria, South Africa - 23/6/10..USA's Landon Donovan (C) celebrates scoring their first goal with Edson Buddle.

The soccer landscape has changed in the United States. Those of us who have been life-long fans have noticed this change. For better or worse, some people will continue to trash talk about the world's most popular sport and it's sad that these people fail to appreciate exactly how big this moment was for the United States in the world's most popular sports tournament.

But today, the rest of us, novice and hardcore fans and everyone in between, witnessed the biggest moment in recent US sports history. Donovan's goal is arguably the best single moment (as opposed to best result) in US soccer history. Ever. Period. And you know what? I, and millions of other American fans here and abroad had the luck and privilege to witness it. Today I saw a goal I will remember for the rest of my life. This is a moment I wish I could share with everyone. I shared it with many of you, but for some reason there are still Americans that actively dislike a sport that matters so much to many of us and certainly to the rest of the world.

Soccer haters can parrot the same reactionary anti-soccer garbage I've heard since 1990. That's ok, it's your right, but it won't stop the game from continuing to grow in the US. 2002 was a wake up call. In the middle of the night, a 3-2 win against Portugal, one of the best teams in the world, got people more interested as it was the first major win for the US in the modern era. In 2006, the country was poised to get behind the team, but instead watched three horrible games that ended our World Cup.

Finally, last summer, a year out from the 2010 World Cup, the excitement was building. When an improbable 3-0 win over Egypt sent the US into the Confederations Cup Semifinal against Spain, a team that was unbeaten in 35 games and was arguably the best team in the world at the time, people started paying attention. We won the game 2-0 and showed everyone back home that we were contenders. We could play with the best of them. People took notice. In the US's first game of this World Cup, the TV audiences for the England v. US game rivaled the NBA finals. ESPN finally woke up and has covered the World Cup as it's meant to be covered (aside from Lalas and Harkes being idiots). Every game is broadcast, dissected, analyzed by (mostly) first rate commentators, former players and current coaches.

I understand that some Americans don't understand soccer. That's ok. But, the failure to give it a chance, to try and understand why so many people around the world and in the US love it, is really unfortunate. There is just not the same kind of passion in US pro sport fans as there is in soccer fans the world over. I'm not sure why this is, but it certainly isn't because it's a dull sport or not "legit."

As for the canard that only children play soccer in the US- the state of our team today speaks to the reality of youth soccer in the US. You don't produce players like Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, etc. without a strong base of soccer players up through high school and college.

I hope some of you who may not have been interested in the past have started taking note. Watch some games with a friend who knows what's going on, read up a little on the sport and give yourself some time to adjust to the way it's played. I guarantee that if you give it a shot (like going to a bar on Saturday to watch the US play Ghana) you'll be hard-pressed not to get swept up in the beautiful game.

In the end, I don't expect to have convinced anyone who is a die hard hater (like Glenn Beck, for instance) that soccer is worthwhile. There will always be soccer haters in the US. It's just getting harder and harder to hear you over the buzz of the vuvuzelas and the cheer of the pro-US crowd after a day like today.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Soccer = retarded. Oh, it's the most popular sport in the world? Cool, what's number two? Cricket! It must be huge in the U.S. too then, right?

No. No it's not.

6/23/2010 6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you can't embrace the game, at least embrace WINNING, Anonymous.

Soccer is one of the few world sports in which the US is the underdog. I embrace that. The goal was FANTASTIC, and it was fantastic because US soccer isn't Brazilian soccer, or Italian soccer, but the players still fought their way to the top of the group with grit and determination.

6/23/2010 7:01 PM  
Blogger McWho said...

Well, at least we know 6:04 isn't Andy.

6/23/2010 7:16 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

James's post can be summed up accordingly:


"I like [insert hobby here]. You should like [hobby]. I enjoyed [hobby event] today. It's sad if you don't enjoy [my hobby] because I would've liked to share [hobby event] with you."

Thanks for the kind thoughts, Jimmy.


"If you don't like [my hobby], its because you don't understand it."

This statement is so stupid and blowhard-y that its doesn't merit a substantive response, aside from the simple truth that EVERYONE UNDERSTANDS SOCCER.

6/23/2010 7:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think soccer is popular enough now that I don't need to care whether or not other people like it.

I can watch every game of major international competitions live in HD on ESPN and soon I'll be able to watch a large number of the Premier League games in HD (once Comcast picks up FSC in HD).

FSC and Gol even do a serviceable job of covering Serie A and La Liga.

If I want to watch with other soccer fans, there are dozens of bars in the Bay Area to choose from.

I don't see anything left to gain from proselytizing. Let people like soccer if they want to.

6/23/2010 7:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or not like it . . . because it sucks.

Yay cricket!

-Not Andy

6/23/2010 8:24 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Good post, James. I agree with your sentiment. Anyone who appreciates sports in the slightest would have LOVED the last two games. It's just impossible not to dig that kind of action, and the high stakes and global enthusiasm just make it better. I also think it's a shame that more people didn't experience them.

This is not James' "hobby;" it's a fucking fantastic sporting event for anyone who enjoys watching top-notch physical competitions with real emotional stakes.

One other point. I am really looking forward to the day when MLS is worth watching. I am loving the World Cup, but that's because--as I have now said too many times--the competition is riveting and the stakes are high. You just can't say the same for the struggling MLS. Sure, we can follow the Premier League, but I just can't bring myself to care about a team from any place I have never even visited. Makes me feel like a major poser. Soccer itself may be a "legit" sport that all of us should follow more closely, but the MLS has a ways to go...

6/24/2010 12:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it odd that someone like Glenn Beck wouldn't have loved yesterday, or that people think soccer isn't "American" enough. Watch the videos of people watching the goal (there's only about a million on Youtube, all fantastic)--in each case, about 15 seconds after the goal, everyone breaks into spontaneous "U-S-A! U-S-A!" chants. When else does that happen for purely positive reasons?

Even if you don't like soccer, or hate sports in general, anyone who watched that game in any type of group atmosphere would have loved it. Because of its mostly downs and giant ups, soccer is without a doubt the best sport to watch in a large group. The exasperation of all of yesterday's near-misses was worth it for the exhilaration of the goal. At the bar I was at, after dozens of strangers were done high-fiving, screaming and hugging, we walked onto a street and two other bars were emptying out as well, with everybody smiling, cheering and more U-S-A chants.

I'm not going to bother defending a sport that is in no need of defending (though I still prefer my football and baseball by a mile), but if you couldn't enjoy what happened yesterday, the problem isn't soccer, it's that you just plain old don't enjoy life.

6/24/2010 10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh whoa! You know, I could have sworn I was going to visit Nuts & Boalts, you know, a blog at least tangentially related to my law school, not James's Soccer Diary <3<3<3. Weird how that happened.

6/24/2010 10:18 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

James is your classmate. In law school. At Boalt.

There's your tangent.

6/24/2010 10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I said blog, not blogger, Patrick.

Reading comprehension is your friend.

6/24/2010 10:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There is just not the same kind of passion in US pro sport fans as there is in soccer fans the world over."

What? I'm way too passionate about football and baseball to spend all my energy during the games blowing through a plastic horn rather than yelling, screaming, swearing, and cheering.

What makes you say this? Was it that only 2 million people showed up for the Blackhawk parade?

I mean, an American (probably) wouldn't murder a player for blowing a game but is that a sign of passion or brutality and incivility amongst most of soccer's worldwide fans?

6/24/2010 10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:15 again--

One more funny thing about Beck. Part of what he said was that soccer shouldn't be shoved down our throat, because we don't shove our sports down the throat of the rest of the world.


Ever heard of NFL Europe (which was awful)? The yearly game in London (and sometimes Mexico and now Toronto)? The World Baseball Classic, which can't even find enough countries for a full field? Or that David Stern's obsession the past two decades has been to internationalize basketball?

Say what you want about soccer, but there's no denying it's popularity is very organic. If the NFL, NBA and MLB are Top 40 radio, then soccer is the indie band that broke out on the strength of a catchy song.

6/24/2010 11:25 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Patrick and James: What makes a man like 10:18, Doc? What makes him do the things he does?
Doc Holliday: A man like 10:18 has got a great big hole, right in the middle of him. He can never kill enough, or steal enough, or inflict enough pain, or write enough douchey anonymous internet comments to ever fill it.
Patrick and James: What does he need?
Doc Holliday: Revenge.
Patrick and James: For what?
Doc Holliday: Bein' born.

6/24/2010 11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

womp womp

6/24/2010 12:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doc Holliday: Hey Patrick and James, why does your lame friend Dan have no sense of humor? Why must he refer to funny posts as "douchey."

Patrick and James: I don't know, Doc, he's just a big loser.

Doc Holliday: I reckon he needs something extracted from his pursed buttlips.

6/24/2010 2:20 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Cause "reading comprehension is your friend" is fucking comedy gold! A real Lenny Bruce, that 10:18.

6/24/2010 2:59 PM  
Blogger James said...

My two favorite parts of 10:18 - the "oh whoa!" I mean, really, was it that startling? I hope it was because it's making me laugh just thinking about someone exclaiming that upon opening N&B. And of course "James's Soccer Diary" is also gold. I laughed.

6/24/2010 3:06 PM  
Blogger McWho said...

Has 10:18 ever visited this site before? I would say that (especially while you should be on SUMMER VACATION) max about 50% of posts on this site are about Boalt. Another 25% are law in general, and 25% are random and fun.

If you have an issue with only 50% of your reading being about Boalt, then you probably have lots of other issues.

6/24/2010 3:23 PM  
Blogger Carbolic said...

"But today, the rest of us, novice and hardcore fans and everyone in between, witnessed the biggest moment in recent US sports history. Donovan's goal is arguably the best single moment (as opposed to best result) in US soccer history. Ever. Period."


6/24/2010 3:57 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I don't get it?

6/24/2010 4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:30 said "reading comprehension is your friend," not 10:18.

Reading comprehension seems to be your nemesis, actually.

6/24/2010 10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Portugal and Brazil collude for a tie?


6/25/2010 10:06 AM  
Blogger Armen said...

I don't know if this was as bad as bad as the Nichtangriffspakt von Gijon, but it certainly did not smell right. Seven yellows in the first half to sell competition, then settle down and kick the ball around the midfield.

6/25/2010 10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was no collusion because no collusion was necessary.

Brazil had already q'ed and Portugal was basically q'ed with their goal difference.

The game sucked because neither team cared.

6/25/2010 2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:06 has a point though. I mean, could you imagine Peyton Manning taking a game off because he was more concerned with staying healthy for his already guaranteed upcoming playoff game? He would never!

What? He did what now?

6/25/2010 3:41 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

@10:21, 10:18 and 10:30 are the same person. Note the use of the personal pronoun "I." It seems you have also earned reading comprehension's enmity.

6/25/2010 6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Get your cheering voices ready and your drinking hats on! It's almost game time!

6/25/2010 9:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well, i gave this stupid sport a chance. after seeing that absurd no-goal call against england, i give up. this sport is too retarded to watch. what's the point if rarely scored goals are wrongly given/not awarded consistently. laughable.

6/27/2010 7:48 AM  
Anonymous Matt said...

To people who generally love all forms of athletic competition, particularly when your nation's pride is on the line: The US made a good run and it was fun while it lasted. Hopefully we'll have better luck next time.

To pseudo-hipsters who generally don't like American professional or collegiate sports who only latch onto soccer due to his "underground" and international appeal, eff you. Your attempt to get in on the ground level and try to shove your newfound "obsession" (which you don't actually watch regularly) in our faces has, and will always, fail to work. Nothing will change. Now, continue to NOT watch NBA, NFL, MLB, and all collegiate sports, you nerd.

6/27/2010 10:12 AM  
Anonymous Soccer Uniforms said...

There are so many people who have their own choices but i think "Brazil had already q'ed and Portugal was basically q'ed with their goal difference."

7/21/2010 10:44 PM  

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