- Jason Davis

Robbie Keane landed in LA yesterday. The Irish forward was greeted by a small collection of Galaxy supporters sporting scarves and (I imagine) chanting his name. I'm in danger of making this blog a little too Keane-heavy, but as I do see his signing as a seminal moment in the history of a league with the reputation of Scrooge McDuck when it comes to transfer fees, it's a hard development to ignore.

The "Welcome Robbie" contingent reportedly surprised Keane, who was no doubt expecting the anonymity footballers typically enjoy in the States (though, with his wife on his arm, it's not like he could go unnoticed). Rather than point to that fact and turn it into yet another "the game is growing" pillar, let me instead focus on the tenor of the crowd.

Watch me spin what was admittedly a tiny welcome party compared to that which Keane would have received in most other countries into a commentary on the character of American soccer in the present day.

The phrase "soccer/football mad" is thrown around quite a bit. Almost universally, especially when used by someone within the soccer community, it's meant as compliment. Cities are "soccer mad." Nations are "soccer mad." Cultures, particularly, are "soccer mad."

Ours, from a national and mainstream perspective, is not. We have pockets of soccer support that seem notably more intense than those in other places, but even they falls far short of "soccer mad" as determined by standards established elsewhere.

Which is bad, or so goes the implication. Because the United States (and let's throw Canada in there too) is never given the "soccer mad" tag, it matters less as a soccer-playing nation. The soccer mad countries care about the game more, in the sense that a greater proportion of their population is engaged in the sport. "Soccer mad" is code for "legitimate."

But even the most passionate among American soccer fans aren't so much "soccer mad" as we are "soccer happy." There's cheery border of clouds and rainbows framing our fandom that gives us small groups of very excited, very jovial people showing up at LAX to hand their new Irish striker a scarf and politely ask him for his autograph, their faces frozen in perma-smile. Far be it for me to imply those fans aren't as passionate as their counterparts around the world; the passion simply manifests as sweet and nerdy rather than frenzied and exclusive. In Greece, Turkey, et al, Keane would have have been smothered by heaving masses of humanity, the type that is so fervently engaged in their expressing their joy over a new signing that a sinister edge clings to every song and chant. There's a fine line between "welcoming party" and "mob" in many of those places.

That's "soccer mad" at it's maddest. As stellar an example of idealized passion as it might be, it's also obsession to the point of dangerous tribalism. That's the kind of "passion" that breeds violent fan conflict.

I'm not here to make a value judgement about whether it's better to be "soccer mad" or "soccer happy." Each comes with inherent negatives that make neither a preferable condition. "Soccer mad" might mean better players, a more successful national team (though not always), a stronger reputation around the world, etc. "Soccer happy" is a handicap when it comes to breeding talent and filling stadiums.

Can American soccer still be just as fun if it transitions from "soccer happy" to "soccer mad"? More than likely we'll never have to find out. Rather than lament that fact, perhaps we should be striving for a happy medium, where "soccer mad" is no longer the goal.

blog comments powered by Disqus
    KKTC Bahis Siteleri, Online Bahis



    Privacy Policy