Balls to the Wall
By Gary Singh
SINCE THERE still exist sports writers in this town who can't function unless they're continuously bashing the sport of soccer from every possible manufactured angle while basking in their own irrelevance, I feel it necessary to hurl ridicule in their general direction. They know who they are, and it's not unique to San Jose, really. Pretty much every rube from the backwaters of every wasteland everywhere in America who doesn't understand the sport develops an irrational fear of it. For whatever reason, they feel threatened and they honestly want Major League Soccer to fail.
So, now that the San Jose Earthquakes—the oldest pro sports franchise in the history of the city—will finally emerge again next year, and despite the undeniable growth of the sport in the United States, there still exist farmers town armchair commandos masquerading as sports journalists who continue to bash soccer because they just don't get it. Simply put, there is no other country on planet Earth where people are so hysterically against one particular sport.
Here are some of the foolhardy, nonsensical and clichéd reasons they constantly cite for not understanding the world's biggest game:
1. There's not enough scoring. Hmmm. Well, at first, there might seem to be a shred of logic behind such an absurd analysis, as Americans do tend to watch sporting events primarily to see people score points, and soccer is a sport in which it's very difficult to score a point, so some Americans immediately refuse to accept it and thus feel threatened. And if you don't understand the fundamental basics, then you automatically just focus on wherever the ball is, so all the subtleties taking place off the ball wind up going completely over your head.
2. Statistics. American sports fans have a ridiculous craving for statistics, and in soccer there is simply no equivalent for something like, "Best slugging percentage with runners in scoring positions and less than two outs against Cuban left-handed pitchers in the second game of a doubleheader in domed stadiums on Thursdays."
3. It's not an American sport. This is perhaps the most ludicrous argument of them all. Of course it's not an American sport, in the same way that it's not a Mexican sport or a British sport. It's a world sport. Wars have been stopped and/or started because of it. If you're a soccer fan, there's no such concept as just following the league that's in your own country. It's an international sport.
4. Major League Soccer is a minor league. This is so irrelevant and immaterial of a point that it becomes difficult to conjure up a response. It's like arguing that baseball in 1883 was a minor league. MLS has only been around 12 years. That's nothing. Do you think American football and basketball grew into what they are today in just 12 years? Of course not. It took half a century. Go look up the attendance figures for the first two Super Bowls. They only filled half of the stadium and that was after the sport had been around for 40 years. Major League Soccer is currently going through all the exact growing pains that every other major league went through during its initial stages.
5. Finally, it all breaks down to this attitude: America is the only country in the world. Bar none. I mean, why is the World Series even called the "World" Series? I've never understood that. I mean, if baseball is our "national pastime," why did Japan beat Cuba in the World Baseball Classic last year? Not to bash America, but I just get flaming sick of reading Sunday School sports writers who obviously know nothing about the game of football—yeah, real football, not the kind where you pick the ball up and run with it.