Bob Ryan's Approach to Soccer

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 | View Comments

During my last real rant, I lamented the treatment of soccer by the American sports establishment; I specifically targeted sportstalk radio, the only real place I hear any any of the general (albeit locally-focused) sports discussion anymore, but the anger could have just as easily been directed at columnists and talking heads with national profiles. Tony Kornheiser, Jim Rome, and a few select others are worthy of vitriol almost day-to-day, though it's tired and not worthy anyone's time.

My biggest beef isn't that these voices don't like the game, or even that they outwardly hate it (though that bugs me, obviously); simply put, I'm tired of soccer's popularity, and the question of "Will soccer make it in America" being a required byproduct of any talk about a specific game. The World Cup can't just be discussed as a sporting event, it has to be examined as a influence on soccer's place in American sports.

This inevitably goes something like this:

Radio Guy 1: What a great goal by Landon Donovan to win that match for the U.S. Did you know 19 million people watched it? That's impressive. Does that mean soccer is here as a major sport in America?

Radio Guy 2: No. People only care about soccer every four years.

Radio Guy 1: Let's go to Jim in his car.

Jim In His Car: Soccer sucks, man! It's boring and they never score and even though I watched some of the World Cup, no one in America will care for another four years.

Repeat, ad nauseum, for most markets. By the time the caller enters the picture, my head has already exploded.

This pet peeve of mine is exactly why I was so happy to see Max Bergmann's post today at Association Football. Max talks about Bob Ryan's approach to the sport, that being one of someone who might not understand the intricacies but nevertheless recognizes the value. Ryan doesn't condescend, and this attitude appears to have carried over to ESPN's sportswriter round table, the Sports Reporters.

This is all I ask. If the games are to be discussed, discuss the games. Ask questions and debate about lineups and strategy, and if you don't know enough to sound authoritative, admit as much or make it up (as they do for so many other things). It doesn't take a genius to see that a team sat back, or that a particular player might not have been a good choice to start. Additionally, there are thousands of outlets with quality information on soccer from people who do truly understand the game; read one or two, take that information to the discussion, and talk about soccer like you would anything else.

Let's end this media referendum on soccer's popularity. Everyone be more like Bob Ryan.

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