Tuesday, June 27, 2006

some 'friendly' advice

A lot has been made lately about the disaparity between the popularity of soccer around the world and the lack of interest here in the United States. If you have caught any commentary on this subject during the World Cup, it boils down to this:

The rest of the world sneers at us for our inferred ignorance, and we respond with a shrug, along with the statement that "soccer sucks."

At first, I am tempted to go ahead and nod my head in agreement with this sentiment. But that would be too easy. Furthermore, I wholly enjoyed the sport at Rutgers. (It is important to note that any soccer enjoyment derived from the college years came as a fan, and not as a media member dealing with a certain cantankerous, pear-shaped publicist).

Not to pat ourselves on the back, but our tailgates for the Scarlet Knights soccer tilts were nothing short of extraordinary. Preparation of the food and beverage took all day. The festivities started a good four hours before gametime at Yurcak Field. We'd be there before the teams arrived. Grills were transported to the parking lot where ribs, brats, burgers and all the fixings were consumed. Along with lots of alcohol.

I realize this happens for lots of tailgate events, but not a whole lot for regular-season soccer. That's why it deserves the 'extraordinary' label.

Anyway, I digress. The games themselves were excellent too. It was a sport that was worth watching. There were a couple classic Rutgers-St. John's matches that stick out in my memory.

Yet that fervor doesn't translate over to pro soccer. I'm apparently not alone on that, because more kids now play grade-school soccer than Little League baseball. It's the fastest growing participant sport in America.

I will not profess to understand why pro soccer fails to make that connection, but I do have some ideas on what might make Joe Average fan like me more interested in watching.

1. Ties suck.

There is nothing American about a game ending in a tie. We like to win, or at least go down trying. So here is what I propose. Stealing a page from the revamped NHL, once a soccer game goes to overtime, you remove one player from each team every five to 10 minutes.

It's sudden death. Even if no one scores early, you eventually get a 2-on-2 game or something like that. Someone is going to score. End of game, and it's a little more representative of the entire game than a shootout.

2. Don't listen to so-called experts.

As in the NFL, it drives me insane when stupid executives try to give us fans "what we want" in the game, i.e. a high-scoring affair. A good defensive struggle is just as entertaining provided the level of competition is high.

You want high scoring? You'll wind up like the Arena Football League, which is a gimmick more than a sport. Sorry, but tilting the rules to favor the offense makes a mockery of the sport.

3. Let players use their hands.

What's wrong with this picture: We take a crop of elite athletes and limit their ability to use their body. No other sport does this. In fact, in other sports, we like our team members to use every ounce of their athleticism, skill and savvy. It's truly my best versus your best. Mano a mano.

Not in soccer. We get this no-hands nonsense. It's like blindfolding Roger Federer while he serves. Or telling Rajah Clemens he cannot throw fastballs more than 90 mph. Or tying Doc Gooden's hands behind his back while he goes bobbing for cocaine.

It's stupid. These World Cup guys should come up with some scenario in which players can use their hands.

4. Amputees.

I don't expect to get much support from FIFA on my no-hands resolution. So here's the alternative. If hands are such a hindrance to this sport, then perhaps they should recruit players unencumbered by gangly limbs.

Amputees might even be at an advantage, since they would be incapable of incurring any sort of penalty involving the use of hands.

If there are not enough amputees to form an entire league, then each World Cup country should be required to have a certain number of them on the field at a given time. If you think this is an unreasonable idea, I have one response for you:

You know you would watch.

As such, I have achieved the goal of solving the unpopularity problem of soccer here in the United States.

Perhaps some of my more media-savvy friends can forward these suggestions along to someone at FIFA.

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At 5:05 AM, Blogger SJPSandman said...

Until I covered it for the CN, I couldn't STAND soccer.

A-I always hated playing it as a kid because there was too much fucking running around

B-I always hated watching it because I didn't see the point of watching other people running around and only seeing someone put the ball in the net once a game, if I was lucky.

But when I began covering it, I gained an understanding of the game and realized there was more to it than whether or not anyone scored, and I actually enjoyed being on the beat.

And I was fired up about the World Cup, especially the US's chances, and I have watched pieces of quite a few games during the tourny.

That said, soccer still sucks!

At 2:59 PM, Blogger Local Shill said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3:00 PM, Blogger Todd Cohen said...

Those Rutgers/St. John's matches were my only highlights of RU athletics. I don't think flying oranges during a 50+ point loss to the 'Cuse on the gridiron ranks as a top memory.

I did sit in a Vegas sportsbook at the Mandalay Bay and watched the entire Mexico/Argentina soccer tilt. Plenty of cats fired up.

"What are yoo doin' hyere?"
-- Pear shaped man

At 3:02 PM, Blogger Local Shill said...

"...not as a media member dealing with a certain cantankerous, pear-shaped publicist."

Another classic line from you Pete. That's what keeps me coming back for more!

At 9:35 PM, Blogger Joependleton said...

Cat, who's more overrated?

Reasso or Arena or Tom Hayes?

At 5:27 PM, Blogger Pete said...

The clear answer to that is Mr. Tom Hayes. No one did less with more.

At least Reasson was hooking up with student managers on the road.

At least Arena got an untalented team to the Cup, and they tied powerhouse Italy.

Local, that line was for you. Glad you enjoyed it.

At 8:20 PM, Blogger Joependleton said...

FYI: Hayes in the LAX Hall of Fame.

At 7:52 AM, Blogger Dan said...

About a decade ago, a certain mustached writer from the HNT insisted that soccer would soon experience skyrocketing popularity due to the high level of child participation.

I'm still waiting.

I think the lack of interest comes down to this: "Good balls" are not exciting.


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