Wednesday, August 05, 2009


I must admit, I am a newbie to the world of soccer. I was introduced to the phenomenon with our trip to Mexico. We would roll into a town that was obviously impoverished, they always had a little tienda that sold jerseys and stuff of that sort. Rolling through towns, kids would be playing soccer on big dirt fields (not basketball). Back to the states and this year Seattle came on the scene with the Sounders. Alex, my office mate and die hard soccer fan got season tickets. I heard about all the games. Then a few weeks ago I went for myself. Now I am hooked! What a fun sporting event to watch. The next thing I know I am trying to get tickets to a few more games here and there. Today, John and I are packing a bus with some friends and going to watch Barcelona game. What fun... cheers... boos... chants.. and a packed stadium.

Here is an excerpt from the Stranger for a little reading. Go to the entire article for a good read.

The average attendance for Sounders league matches at Qwest Field (as of July 25) is 30,204. People. In one place. For comparison's sake: a rock show at the Paramount (2,807), a concert at KeyArena (16,641), a festival at the Gorge (25,000). Picture Sasquatch! Now add SIFF opening night at the Paramount. Now go ahead and add David Byrne at the Paramount also. Now put them all downtown and let them fight for parking or try to find a bike rack. That's what happens at nearly every single match of a sport that people have always said could never catch on in America.

The Sounders' average attendance is nearly double the estimated Major Soccer League average of 15,599. Attendance greater than 30,000 has been announced at the last several recent Sounders home matches, against teams like San Jose (average attendance: 10,657), D.C. (14,003), Houston (15,632), and Chicago (12,838). These crowd figures place Seattle at number one in Major League Soccer—which the Sounders only joined this year—comfortably ahead of the other 14 teams. Number two is Toronto at 20,277. Dallas is last with 9,464.

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radraspberry: Women Seeking Men The average Sounders attendance is less than half the number of people who go see the average Seahawks game (67,995 last year) in the same stadium. But it's just about equal to the number of people who go see the Mariners (28,761 last year, 32,992 in 2007). And lest it be forgotten that there used to be a professional men's basketball team in this town, Sounders attendance is greater than the combined averages of the last two years of Sonics supporters—though the comparison might not be fair, since everyone knew the Sonics were leaving town and many decided to cut their losses (ambiguity intentional). The Storm, despite being the best sports ticket in town before the Sounders' emergence, drew an average of only 8,265 last year.

Why should Seattle, of all places, have so raging a boner for so anti-American a pastime?

Well, the easy answer is in the question. But to go slightly deeper, let us consider the anti-soccer faction. It's easy to find middlebrows and neocons grinding axes about the sport on blog after loudmouth blog. Franklin Foer's otherwise somewhat-impenetrable book How Soccer Explains the World offers a dedicated list of prominent footie opponents, including USA Today's Tom Weir, who once wrote that "hating soccer is more American than apple pie, driving a pickup, or spending Saturday afternoons channel surfing." The late senator and 1996 vice-presidential candidate (and retired pro "real" football player) Jack Kemp derided soccer as "socialist" on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Radio sports loudmouth Jim Rome has long made his antipathy for soccer a point of pride ("I will hand [my son] ice skates and a shimmering sequined blouse before I hand him a soccer ball. Soccer is not a sport, does not need to be on TV..."). Fractionally less-hysterical language comes from Allen Barra of the Wall Street Journal: "Yes, okay, soccer is the most 'popular' sport in the world... So what? Maybe other countries can't afford football, basketball, and baseball leagues; maybe if they could afford these other sports, they'd enjoy them even more." I did say fractionally.

You may detect a recurring tone in these objections. Soccer is not simply unenjoyable, it's a threat to our way of life (however bovine that way of life may be), our government, our economy, our manhood. You'd think they were talking about electric cars. But no less a liberal pinup than Keith Olbermann is a notorious mocker of the sport and its worldwide appeal; his dismissive asides began when he was an ESPN anchor and continue on his MSNBC broadcasts. And in a hilarious report occasioned by Team USA's upset victory over Spain, Stephen Colbert declared soccer "the sport for fourth graders that foreign people take seriously." Fair enough.

The truth is, complaints against soccer may not be fundamentally aesthetic, but psychological. It issues from the unalterable human tendency to interpret other people's preference for things other than your favorites as a judgment against you—you like soccer, so you must be saying that football is for assholes. In which case, soccer is for assholes, asshole. The details are just filler. Why else would anyone care? People make fun of the sport the way people make fun of Canada—it's the easiest target imaginable. Until you go to Canada, that is.

1 comment:

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