Deep Cuts: The Exclusivity Edition

Friday, September 18, 2009 | View Comments
Chelsea FC v Inter Milan

We're going extra deep in this round, to places that soccer fans would almost never find themselves (unless you were looking for them), so bear with me.

An intelligent friend of mine recently commented that sometimes American soccer fans work too hard to force their "differentness" on others. He meant the statement in a myriad of ways, but most pointedly about the innate need of some to separate the game from the big American sports through deference to mode of competition used in places like England and Spain. He's passionate about his soccer, but advocates for things "traditional" fans usually don't, like conferences, unbalanced schedules, and evaluation of players through statistics; for many, those things are anathema, "American" ideas that have no place in the sport.

But each of his views are equally as valid as anyone's, and unlike some fans, he makes it a point to back them up with reason and logic. Give him a few minutes, and he just may have you convinced that MLS needs a conference system with an unbalanced scheduled to accentuate regional rivalries. He rejects the notion that soccer fans are "special" and therefore need to push for our leagues to operate differently from the tried and true methods of other domestic sports; we're just fans who happen to like a game that has yet to catch on with the masses.

My point, if I can ever meander my way to it, is that the "uniqueness" of being a soccer fan in a country that doesn't generally embrace the game is part of the draw for many who follow it passionately. Caring about soccer makes some of us feel like we're part of a special club in which only a select few have membership. In other words, it's cool because it's not popular.

Most of us, even if it were the case, wouldn't voluntarily admit to this snobbery. Not this guy, who somehow turned a post about a song on his iPod into a whine-fest about soccer becoming too popular. I guess some people would just prefer that the sport stay "undiscovered" in the United States. Yea for exclusivity.

    • Meanwhile, a Northern Ohio paper tells us the story of two English brother playing high school soccer in the States, with the reminder that all is not always black and white when it comes to the way the game is taught between the two Anglophone nations. Too many of us take it as a given that coaching is better there than here; that might be true for the famous academies of England's biggest clubs, but doesn't necessarily hold on other levels. Then again, maybe the English kids are just trying to be nice.

    • Michael Brett at Pop Matters gives us something I'm surprised we don't see more often: a piece on the similarities and parallels of the world's two biggest "football" leagues, the English Premier League and the National Football League. As America continues to embrace soccer on a larger scale, and because the Prem dominates headlines and attention in that realm (for better or worse), the two leagues are bound to become more and more linked in subtle ways. How long before millions of Americans are spending their Saturday mornings at the pub watching English football and their Sundays at the bar watching the American version?

    • Finally, a young writer in Canada attempts to put the issue of looks and talent in context, using Mr. Beckham as an example, and wonders why sports fans (both men and women) can't seem to rise above carnal instincts when observing the opposite sex playing the game. While her question is clearly broader than soccer and is focused more on gender roles than anything else, I find the subject fascinating, and certainly believe that "attractive" players often receive more praise than they may actually deserve. It's not a hard and fast rule (see Ribery, Frank), but it clearly plays a role the way certain players are viewed.
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