Saturday, January 13, 2007

Soccer? I barely punched her

Dave Checketts, former Knicks president and current owner of the Real Salt Lake Major League Soccer team (and also the St. Louis Blues NHL team), was on Mike & The Mad Dog today (sue me, I didn't want to listen to local radio harp on the Eagles). He was on to discuss the major signing of David Beckham, and the interview was rather informative. I couldn't listen to the end of it, and there were three issues they didn't cover (from what I heard) that I was wondering about.

1) Checketts claimed that 1 in 5 Americans 24 or younger have at least one parent born outside the U.S., and 1 in 8 themselves are immigrants. Therefore, they are soccer fans. By the 1930s, millions of Italians had immigrated to the United States, and in 1934 and 1938, Italy won the World Cup. Where was the big interest? No one in my family really cared, as far as I know, and it certainly wasn't handed down to me. Baseball, the American pastime, is what Italians followed. Granted, Italians tried to assimilate more than, say, Hispanics today, who are smart enough to try and retain their culture. Also, with television and everything else, it's easier to follow international sports. Still, you would think the Italians as well as the Irish and Germans would have brought with them some affinity for soccer that would have been shared with their children. Clearly this did not happen.

2) There are 13 teams in the league, and eight playoff spots per season. This is ridiculous. I cannot take the MLS seriously if most of the teams get into the postseason every year. (Lightning Edit: According to Wikipedia, apparently they reduced the number of teams by two. That's still nearly half the league).

3) The New York soccer team (which I don't care about as it came into existence after I left the area) was purchased by the Red Bull soft drink company. They are now known as the New York Red Bulls. That's terrible. I know we complain about stadiums having corporate names, and in Japan their baseball teams have financial patrons listed in their name (for example, the Yomiuri Giants of Tokyo), but to actually have the name be the corporate item, that's just too much. Sports team names should be fun, or at least generic. They shouldn't be advertisements.

Although kids seem to love it (keep in mind kids eat bugs), soccer has a long way to go in the U.S. As far as professional sports teams, besides the big four and not counting minor league hockey, Philadelphia has indoor and outdoor lacrosse, arena football, and arena soccer (as someone said, "the arena football of soccer"). Philadelphia, while dirty and violent, is still a major metropolitan city, and it has more of a lacrosse presence than a soccer presence. Lacrosse. The mutant child of badminton and hockey. There will probably be arena croquet before there's an MLS team in Philadelphia.

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