Archive for September 2011
As an American who dipped his toe in the soccer pool (and got distracted by the NFL) I feel that after two years I can start seeing the reasons why the majority of my country men aren’t latching onto soccer. And if you’re a ‘foreigner’ who enjoys soccer and always wondered why America, with so much money and resources, always ends up face down on the pitch then please read ahead. I think you’re more likely to gain something from this post then the massive numbers of soccer phobics that live here.
England tried to overtax, punish and control our government in two major wars.
I’ve been reading up on soccer in my sparetime and I haven’t heard this argument, but I do feel it’s valid. During the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 England sent multiple war ships to fight against thousands of Americans. And if England loves soccer and considers it their national game, and England also wanted to overtax our tea and control branches of our government by a separate monarchy …. then it makes sense that the United States would have a difficult time enjoying soccer right?
I hear from people on both sides of the Atlantic that American’s are just bad at this sport but I feel that America has two hundred years of difficult history with Great Britain to deal with. I have nothing personal against Englishmen because I wasn’t alive when this happened but when soccer was becoming a major sport in the mid 1800s America was fighting a civil war and laying the foundation for international importance. And what Englishmen would want to move here with a soccer ball during 1850? We had Irish, Italians, Chinese and Polacks pretty much send boat after boat here but English people were content to stay home during this time period and I don’t blame them.
In addition, other countries have had problems with England and enjoy soccer (Ireland and Argentina come to mind) but I think in cases like those either proximity is a case (Ireland, France, Sweden) or Spanish/European pride boosts popularity (Spain, Italy and as a result Portugal, Mexico, Brazil etc). I know next to nothing about African soccer, but Hong Kong soccer is still huge due to the English influence.
America could be also be excluded from following soccer because of our national size and also the fact that after three generations of people living here most Americans just stopped labeling themselves as descendants from somewhere else, instead they just started acting American. The guy rooting for his NFL team Sunday Morning doesn’t call himself a quarter German and three quarters Swedish … he’s just a Texan who drives a Ford F-150.
Reason 2: American Advertising doesn’t want us to watch soccer … yet.
I implore you to watch this video:
. I can’t embed it into this site but you’re going to have to click through to watch it. Don’t worry it’s worth it. It’s essentially a small six minute video showing how some capable and bright advertising executives have the wool pulled over their eyes by a subliminal advertising campaign. Giant corporations with countless millions of dollars are the ones pulling the strings behind ESPN (Disney), NBC (Comcast and General Electric) and ABC (Disney again). They’re only going to promote soccer when a) there’s money to be made in it or b) there’s money to be made in it. I’m watching it happen year by year to oblivious Americans (like myself) who are being surrounded more and more with soccer until it becomes a bigger pull to advertisers.
Big businesses will only sell what the people want and their sales figures are showing that more soccer balls and goal nettings are being bought. Do you think they care about the difference between the NBA and soccer? All they know is that a few more people are catching soccer on TV every once in a while and 60,000 people will show up to watch Real Madrid smack around David Beckham’s team. Big deal. Like I keep mentioning over and over again, Americans won’t jump (or be pushed) into the soccer hype until the World Cup (or maybe the Olympics) because that’s when top caliber advertisers will unleash their marketing nirvana for soccer fans.
Trust me, during the next World Cup it’ll be like us Americans are Indiana Jones running away from a giant rock of soccer commercials.
Reason 3: There’s no bridge yet between America and soccer.
I live in New York City and am always amazed when people visit the city for the first time and they immediately go to a McDonalds or Starbucks when there are hundreds of diverse options literally surrounding them. They can have Korean fried chicken from actual Koreans, or they can get some classic New York pizza that puts Dominoes to shame. They can go to Chinatown for Peking Duck (I love eating duck, sometimes I order it now just to eat duck, it’s crazy). But for some reason their flight comes in and within two hours they’re sitting at a Subway sandwich shop that’s just three blocks from some of the best Japanese street food you can imagine.
But do you want to know what I did when I first visited New York many years ago? Where did I go when I was starving in a new place that was loud and foreign to me? That’s right, I went straight to McDonalds and bought a cheeseburger and fries, oblivious to so many other good foods I could try out. Because it’s safe, it’s What I Knew, and the positives of eating at place I’d ate at hundreds of times before outweighed the negatives of venturing into a place where some person might yell at me in a foreign language or a New Yorker might smirk at my menu choice behind my back. That same logic (the benefits of ‘safe’ outweigh the negatives of trying something new) is applicable to thousands and thousands of Americans. Why should they waste their time watching a soccer game when they don’t even know players? What is ‘Champions League’ when the Lakers are going to play Miami?
The bridge I speak about is the same bridge that made me try out Brazilian food when I first moved out here, after like five months. A friend dragged me to a Brazlian place and although I couldn’t speak Portugese I pointed at barbecued beef and tried out Guarana soda. And years later I still think Guarana soda tastes a thousand times better than 7-up. There has to be a bridge that connects Americans to soccer and it’s not there yet.
America is the McDonalds, soccer is The Foreign Place. If it’s any consolation to soccer fans McDonalds has a habit of taking things from different companies and then repackaging them in its menu such as breakfast burritos, beef wraps, ‘gourmet’ coffee and healthy apple parfaits. So, yeah, eventually America should catch on ten or fifteen years down the line. But for now …
4. American soccer just sucks.
The European soccer teams are investing so much money and support into their squads that MLS squads can’t keep up just yet. And that means that Americans will keep getting knocked around by teams like Man U, Barca and Real Madrid. We’ll see what happens later on down the line when one of the MLS superteams act more like men of steel than newspaper editors at a second job.
If any of you are new readers you might have missed one of my first posts about why American Soccer sucks so much. In mid-July I wondered, could American soccer ever have anyone that could do for soccer what Jordan did for the NBA? That post is here:
It’s been about two months and not very much has changed on that front. If anything, the only thing on my end that was even a tiny bit interesting was finding out from my blog database that someone googled ‘Michael Jordan Spanish Club’ making me go all conspiracy theory that his Airness would try and buy part of a Spanish soccer team (and if you do find that out later you can thank Suckyball for breaking the story first). But as far as an American player dominating MLS play the way Jordan would dominate his league, we’re not close to that yet.
In the interest of looking forward though it might be a good idea to look at three young up and comers who can set the bar a little bit higher for the U.S. Since these three players are already being hyped by ESPN.com it doesn’t seem outlandish to state they’ll affect the national team when either Landon Donovan retires or can’t keep up anymore.
For the record, The Michael Jordan of American Soccer will be shorted to MJAS. Also for the record I am in no way comparing these players to a young Michael Jordan nor am I stating they should ever be compared to Jordan. This is strictly hypothetical to see if they could come close …
1. Brek Shea
MLS club: FC Dallas
Wikipedia page: Brek Shea
Why people are saying he’s the MJAS: He’s pretty much a tall physical freak with a lot of upside potential compared to his peers. Since he has a unique vibe going on (he paints abstract art, is heavily tattooed, he decided to put his hair in cornrows a while back and his name is BREK). So he’s very easy to single out if you’re looking for a new MLS stand-out. It’s also important to consider that he hasn’t played much in Europe and the majority of his international play is with FC Dallas playing outside the country.
MJAS grade: Incomplete. For most American soccer fans they only just heard about him this past year (for me it was two months ago). For European soccer fans they follow young players when they’re 16 or 17, not 21.
I will give Brek Shea this though. He’s due to have a great niche as the ‘crazy, unpredictable player’ that will draw in new supporters and extend television coverage. It’d be great if one day he ended up making a play like this Columbian goalkeeping classic (is there anyway to get this guy to play MLS even if he’s 45 now?):
2. Juan Agudelo
MLS Club: Red Bulls
Wikipedia page: Juan Agudelo
Why people are saying he’s the MJAS: He’s just 18 and already commands good playing time on the national team. And even though he doesn’t seem like the type to score tons of goals, in soccer it’s not that important. One of the greatest players in the world right now is just as famous for setting up plays as he is for goals (Messi). So if Agudelo can keep learning from world class players and cash in an MLS Championship or sign a big deal with a European powerhouse then he could be a top 5 American player easy.
MJAS Grade: C+. In any other conversation about the future of American soccer Agudelo would be a shoe-in (pun intended) for his all around solid play and upgraded game. But I can’t see him converting legions of new American fans because he’s not that controversial and doesn’t have any mystery surrounding him. He’s sort of the opposite of Brek. I don’t think he would ever paint or get insane tattoos. He just seems the type to train seven hours a day with Thierry Henry. That’s good inspiration for the younger wave of ten year olds to emulate but for America to make him a huge star he has to have an unbelievable news story surrounding him.
Which brings us to …..
3. Charlie Davies
MLS Club: DC United
Wikipedia page: Charlie Davies
Why people are saying he’s the MJAS: They’re not! Despite scoring multiple goals for the U.S. national team and having years of experience with European soccer teams nobody in America brings his name up anymore? How can that be?
Oh yeah, I forgot: He was in a car crash that could have easily killed him two years ago and then has recovered enough to be one of the top goal scorers of MLS. While Landon Donovan is out making Gatorade commercials and drivng through tinseltown, Charlie Davies is just one goal behind him and stuck on a team that nobody really covers. Charlie could’ve been a featured player at the World Cup in Africa if it wasn’t for a bad decision hanging out with drunk girls at three in the morning. After the car crash nobody expected him to make much of a comeback, and then when he finally did start making some MLS noise there are now dozens of other young hopefuls being written about. But don’t you think soccer stars are easier to cover in the press if they’re out doing ridiculous things at one o’clock in the morning? One of Brazil’s top players was in the news for hanging out with night club prostitutes and then begging them to leave when he found out they were men. The infamous Diego Maradona was signed by an Italian club after hundreds of local people walked into a bank with hands full of cash to deposit with no questions asked. In my opinion, the part of Charlie Davies that thought it was a good idea to take a joy ride with drunk girls at three in the morning (at the worst possible time for his career) is a part of Charlie Davies that is human. I just wish that crash had never happened.
MJAS Grade: B -. Out of these three players I find myself rooting most for Davies only because he was taken to hell and back and is scoring MLS goals at a good clip. In fact, he just pulled a hat trick earlier this month and because D.C. isn’t Los Angeles or New York (or even Seattle) not a lot of soccer fans paid attention. Would it be an exaggeration to say that he could easily score a few goals in the next World Cup? Keep in mind that he would’ve been a lock to play in the last World Cup if the car crash didn’t happen. Even though he missed that huge media exposure for 2010 maybe in some way it’s a blessing in disguise. From now until 2014 he has time to pad his resume a bit, score more goals than Donovan, maybe play for an English or French club again and then he can come back for the World Cup in Brazil (but please no car crashes Charlie!!!!).
So Godspeed you three representatives of American soccer. May Michael Jordan’s footprints guide you as you walk over competition and set new records of achievement.
If American soccer ever continues to grow it only makes sense to build a strong hold in Texas. It’s one of the largest American states, it’s economy is stable (which is amazing considering how other parts of the country are doing) and the sports teams coming out of Texas rumble outward into the rest of the country. The Dallas Mavericks just won the NBA Championship. The Dallas Cowboys just built the most expensive NFL stadium ever created and the Texas Rangers just went to the World Series just last year.
So how’s their MLS team doing? I wrote Daniel Robertson, from Bigdsoccer.com, asking a few questions to guage where his teams at.
SB: 1. I haven’t been following soccer as much because the NFL started and I can’t imagine a Dallas soccer fan during an ‘American Football’ season. Do you feel any pull from the Dallas Cowboys for your attention?
Daniel: Well not so much from the Cowboys because FCD doesn’t play very many games on Sundays, but I’m sure there’s an effect from college football on Saturdays. I know as a University of Oklahoma alum and huge fan, it pains me to have to Tivo this weekend’s big game at Florida State to go to FC Dallas vs New York. Dallas is a hugely competitive sports market in general with the Rangers, Mavericks, Stars, Cowboys, high school football, college football and to a smaller extent Frisco Roughriders(AA baseball team). The city loves its winners though so as long as FC Dallas keeps winning, I think they’ll rise in attendance.
SB: 2. After reading up on FC Dallas history I noticed that they were part of the league’s inaugural season. Could you describe those early MLS years if you followed the team back then?
Daniel: I didn’t really follow MLS much until 2004 when I attended my first game. There was definitely a very different vibe even back then as the league was a bit less stable and things were a little more wheels off. Nowadays you don’t really have anyone on an MLS roster that doesn’t belong there, but back in ’04 there were definitely players that had no business being on a professional sports field. There was more jock jams music and gimmicks surrounding the game. While the MLS product is obviously way better now, sometimes I still miss the fact that there was a big black horse that would come out onto the pitch before Dallas Burn games and prance around.
SB: 3. Does the stadium do anything to help the fans in 100 degree weather? Anything?! I would think it’d be a great time for management to give back to the people that sit in such extreme heat.
Daniel: No, there is nothing. A major flaw in the stadium was the fact that there is no roof on top of Pizza Hut Park. The east(sunny) side of the stadium is pretty much empty during any game that happens before the sun goes down in the summer and with the bowl design of the stadium it can be an absolute sauna in there. There really needs to be a roof built on the stadium that would have the whole thing shaded by the afternoon hours.
SB: 4. What made you decide to become a part of Big D soccer? Have you been a soccer fan your entire life?
Daniel: I started Big D Soccer last year because I wanted my own site to showcase my skills and just have a place to talk about FC Dallas without any editors. I had always wanted to start my own site to shape it how I felt a soccer blog should be run and just to see if I could be successful at it. It’s one of the things I’ve done in life that I’m most proud of and the growth of it is humbling and exciting. I actually didn’t really get into soccer until I was 18 and attended my first Burn game. My parents wouldn’t really take me to games so I had to wait until I got my driver’s license to go. Once I saw the first game I was hooked and spent the next couple years taking in all the knowledge I could about the game in America and abroad.
SB: 5. In my office whenever I talk about soccer I have to talk about Spain or Mexico because I don’t want to get blank stares from people who don’t follow MLS. Do you think following soccer in the south is turning a corner and people are starting to ask about the club more?
Daniel: Ehh, not really. The run to MLS Cup last year certainly helped, but things aren’t really where they need to be. I think most people in DFW still view FC Dallas as a minor league sport that is not on par with the big 4 teams so you get minor league type crowds. As I said, however, winning cures everything and the more FC Dallas wins in MLS and Champions League the more things will improve. Mexico and the Mexican league teams will always be king around here though.
To begin with I’ve just spent the past two hours peeling back the corporate layers of ‘SUM’ and now I’m beginning to realize what a huge deal this company is to U.S. Soccer. Where to start? Well, let’s look at the website:
www.sumworld.com (Here’s an update in May 2013, they changed the main website so it links to mlssoccer.com. The first incarnation had a more detailed break-down of how they promoted soccer).
If you click around the site you’ll be stricken by how many different aspects of American (and Mexican) soccer are affected by this one company. It brokers deals for the MLS, the U.S. Soccer Federation and none other than the promotional rights for the Mexican National soccer team (and Barca FC too) when they come to visit. And if you look at the company executives you’ll again see very powerful people (the MLS commissioner is the CEO of SUM, the woman who represents the U.S. Women’s Soccer team is SUM’s active president and SUM executives are heavily involved with the U.S. Men’s World Cup teams). Keep in mind that S.U.M. isn’t part of MLS, it’s a side division formed by their owners. If the U.S. plays Jamaica and S.U.M. receives payment from Gatorade commercials, then MLS will get a percentage of those payments later down the line. It’s tricky to understand how MLS and S.U.M aren’t the same thing but you can read up on it more like I did (try and focus, I had a hard time of it. Music might help):
And now Soccer United Marketing is considering selling a 25% stake valuing them at 600 million?
Could this have anything to do with MLS teams not making enough money? It does if you look at this website:
That link references the fact that a lot of owners are having a tough time with cash and would just rather do a major deal and then divide the payouts. That’s understandable. But what’s not understandable to me is why doesn’t S.U.M. ask for more money? P.E.P. isn’t some friend from the neighborhood willing to strike up a deal because they’re both in the same area. S.U.M. and P.E.P. are in a different stratosphere of cash financing. P.E.P. can pay a lot more than just 150 million when it comes to the future of American (and Mexican) soccer.
On the wikipedia page for Providence Equity Partners you’ll find that it’s a much bigger player than one would think: Providence Equity Partners Wikipedia Page
They want to buy this giant chunk of American soccer for 150 million at a time when the league has been happy (or so I thought) to accumulate wealth at a slow and measured pace. If you read the Wikipedia page did you notice that P.E.P. controls about 22 billion in different funds? Did you know they do deals like this pretty much all the time (a Hong Kong TV station here, MGM Films there, Auto Trader, American Soccer Federation, whatever)?
The reason I even wrote this article is that so fans of American soccer can see further up the field for a second when it comes to the growth of the league. The league isn’t a small baby anymore that’s ecstatic when 20,000 people show up at a game. The owners and Providence Equity Partners want it to hurry up and start working. If MLS won’t grow enough then schedule more friendlies, more Barca visits and more World Cup T.V. specials. When the World Cup comes around expect more hype and coverage because 150 million extra dollars are being spent on the teams.
My only question is …. with all that extra money can they buy a victory or two over Italy or Spain?
I know I haven’t updated for a while. The reason is that I’ve been doing extensive research in the graphical abilities of Microsoft Vista. It took me three or four days just to put together a game plan of what I wanted to generate in a graph, but after reading dozens of tutorials for charts, data sets and ‘vectors’ I can now present a more accurate numerical representation of American soccer.*
Here’s a new visual chart to reference:
Remember when I said that American soccer could benefit if the NFL stagnates? I must’ve been wrong because the NFL’s new deal (
) is 73% more than the last one signed. While the NFL was crying poor house during the lock-out their executives were about to cash in multiple billion dollar checks from ESPN!!! Unbelievable!!
Although NBC’s new deal with MLS (which puts most games on a separate cable channel anyway) was a step forward for the league they still have a lot of work cut out for them. They’ll have no problem with the over-hyped three or four games that happen every year, but how will they market the games that no one really wants to watch? Kansas City fans might fill up their new stadium on game day … but will the millions of people outside of Livestrong field tune in for the broadcast? Best of luck NBC.
* That was a sarcastic paragraph.
I think the above video is funny enough if you follow soccer stateside, but it’s also pretty funny if you look at the soccer section it’s located in:
Of course the Onion specializes in satire and gross exaggeration but how much does ESPN.com cover soccer? Let’s take a look …
1. Major MLS updates occur about once every three or four days, other minor links are continuously updated but aren’t presented the same way that the European teams are covered. In fact, if you click on ESPN.com’s soccer home page the majority of news is European and Spanish clubs. If there’s a major story about the US Men’s national team I suspect it’s only because ESPN is broadcasting it.
2. The NFL, MLB and NBA sections are continuously updated 24/7. Today ESPN.com is updating it’s NBA section about the Boston Celtics title chances when the league is in the middle of (a locked out) off-season.
3. One of ESPN’s favorite sportwriters Bill Simmons, with millions of readers, will write about MLS about the same time he writes about professional frisbee qualifiers. It just won’t happen. He’ll write about Barcelona and the World Cup but I wouldn’t bet he’ll make a big deal out of the MLS Championship. For a good example of what I’m talking about look over this link:
I think Bill Simmons is a great guy, very intelligent and has to be hard working to put together some of his extensive mail bag updates. But in the above article he picks a favorite English team to root for and maybe five years later never mentions them again (despite constantly updating his other website with soccer news written by a different person:
ESPN.com isn’t the greatest, and neither is Yahoo Sports. About a week ago Yahoo Sports pulled out the entire soccer section from their front page to run a breaking story about college football recruitment mishaps. It lasted about a week and most soccer fans had to click around in different directions to get news, but who’s to say it won’t happen again? Maybe the best website for MLS is majorleaguesoccer.com but it’s a bit biased right? Do you think they’d break a story on any financial problems or trade disasters?
Going into the near term expect more news for soccer games that ESPN makes money off of (or at the least great coverage of Wayne Rooney). Long term I’ll have to trust that the slow, tentative growth of MLS doesn’t run into a litany of brick walls. Let me put it this way, the most overhyped team (the Galaxy) will win MLS’s most overhyped game (the MLS Cup) and ESPN will not really make a big deal out of it (not enough hype for their advertisers).
Now why do you think Bill Clinton and Mick Jagger are hanging out together here? It turns out they were attending the U.S. Ghana match-up in the last African world cup. This game is where the Americans watched in agony as the Ghanians decided to waste fifteen embarrassing minutes with acting and flopping that would’ve made Daniel Day Lewis give a standing ovation. But why does Mick Jagger have his hands up that way? It seems like Mick is trying to say ‘ey mate, this whole football thing never goes right does it?’ And Mick would be right, it’s very difficult in global soccer to stay close to the top when there’s such a large competitive field.
America sacrificed it’s soccer skill to hone baseball (slightly related to cricket), football (slightly related to rugby) and our unique game of basketball (ironically related to soccer and peach barrels. If you lived in Massachusets in 1890 you could do the math). The American national soccer team just can’t show up to a World Cup (as much as Clinton and the NBC morning show would want it) and just coast on talent to the final rounds. But if the American players are women it’s a different story.
So without further ado I’d like to post up this recent Q&A with a great friend of mine who knows nothing about soccer and is open to sharing his opinions a second time. If you didn’t read the first question and answer you can check it out here:
Let’s find out what a typical American, with no soccer reference point, thinks of on a few topics ….
1. Since Hope Solo is a contestant on dancing with the stars, would that make you watch soccer more?
First off, let me say what an honor and a privilege it is to quasi-guest write for a site named “Suckyball.” However I am afraid of bookmarking it, because I don’t want my wife thinking my fetish for Thai porn has resurfaced.
Ok. Here we go. If Hope Solo is likeable enough on Dancing With the Stars, then the short answer is yes. I’ve only seen pictures of her, no interviews, no nothin’ (pardon the double negative). So if I tune into Dancing with the Stars, then that’s only step 1. The sale is all in her hands at that point. When I say “likeable” I mean she’s humble in a cute way but she dances like she’s trying to get 2 Live Crew’s attention in skimpy skimpy and skimpier skirts. It’s the “lady in the streets but a freak in the bed” mentality that most guys have. I seriously watch that show sometimes just for that Cheryl chick, and once she gets kicked off I don’t tune in anymore so there you go. That’s my shallow 18-34 year old male demographic view point. That being said, if Hope Solo nabs my attention on that platform, then I will probably crossover to soccer in a small degree. In other words, I’ll pause on ESPN if I see her playing for a while instead of doing what I usually do: which is flipping through channels trying to find something good like “Tombstone” or an old episode of “Fresh Prince.”
2. I saw an MLS jersey at a store for 110$ and it didn’t come with any free stuff like a free backpack. Is this overpriced or ridiculously bloodsuckingly evil empire overpriced?
$110 is bullshit. But if you think about it, real legit Chargers jerseys are more in that price range. I tried to buy a Merriman Jersey for my pops a few years ago, and I was expecting to pay like $20. $40 tops. Nope. Any piece of clothing that costs $110 better be like X-Men suit quality. Like fucking Mithril or something. And it better be machine washable on top of it. At least delicate cycle and tumble dry low.
3. Just based on their names, who would you think is a better player? Robbie Keane, Freddy Adu, Darlington Nagbe or Ronaldino?
I literally know who none of those people are. And for the purposes of this questionnaire, I will fray from googling them. I’m going with Ronaldino. He’s the only one from that list with a single name. I don’t even know if it’s his first or last. He must have a certain degree of pimp.
4. Someone named Chicharito is huge in Mexico, like Mexican Michael Phelps and the Olympics are every year, and you live half an hour away from that country. I know you probably don’t know who he is and I can’t blame you (if you do please explain how you found out). Now what would have to happen for you to finally say ‘Dude, that Chicharito is crazy!!’
He would have to give Jessica Alba an STD like Derek Jeter. Or have a small but memorable role in some badass movie like The Expendables 2 or The Dark Knight Rises or something of that nature.
5. American soccer fans gloat that every year there’s four or five percent growth, but since I interviewed you last time have you been tempted to even watch a single game? I know you probably didn’t actually ‘watch’ a game, but were you ‘tempted?’.
Sorry. If I’m being honest I haven’t really even been tempted. Sometimes people’s passions and interests can rub off on each other. I got really into the B-boy scene when you bought that Freestyle Session 5 tape back in the day. And honestly, I wasn’t into MMA at all until like 2007 or so when my friend invited me over to watch a couple UFCs. I didn’t know any of the fighters or their stories at the time, I just knew what the UFC was to us when we were in high school and Royce Gracie was the shit. But he was out of the game by then so I wan’t that into it. But I became a casual fan and I am slowly waning into the hardcore portion of the venn diagram. So who knows?