I am a lucky man for many reasons. I was born in the greatest country in the world and live in the 2nd greatest country in the world. Though I am constantly told that the latter is the former. But that separate issue aside, I feel fortunate to have lived in or visited many countries with vast and varying histories, cultures and people. So I believe I live my life with something I value, a broad perspective.
I don’t remember a day when I didn’t play or love soccer. So I will not say “forgive my passion.” I will say, this explains my passion. That said I have spent most of my life in America. So I have played and have a love for many sports. From baseball to skiing to golf to ice hockey and many in between, sports have ultimately been a thread through my entire life. They say there are times in life when you never forget where you were or who you were with. The historic comeback by the Red Sox over the Yankees in the 2004 ACLS I watched every game on my parents couch. The epic 6 hour game 5, I didn’t get off that couch once. Seven months later I watched the first half of the Champions League Final (Liverpool vs. AC Milan) with Liverpool legend and my former coach, Steve Nicol. As we watched them go down 3-0 at halftime all hope seemed lost. That is until the LFC fans in Istanbul produced their halftime rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone and another historic comeback ensued. Those are in the Top 10 sports moments in my life, and I will never forget those memories. One sport I was born into, the other sport I learned to love…
What makes it worse is when it is broadcast out to the masses. Recently an announcer working on the NHL playoffs on NBC doing an MLS promo repeatedly called out soccer players for being divers. That is just bad business and embarrassing for an announcer promoting something on his own network to make fun of it. This highlights another side of my point, that such negative soccer coverage has seemingly created this “angry soccer guy.” Recently during game 1 of the Western Conf. Finals, I had a tweet ready to go making fun of the fact that in the NBA the string-pulling coach needed to call a timeout and remind his team (who were losing) to “take better shots, good passes… how about a little nasty?” These are professional athletes in one of the biggest games of their lives needing simple reminders. Not something that happens in my game. Ironically, the “nasty” speech has become a rallying cry in San Antonio and better judgment as usual held me from hitting ‘send.’ Next time, their coach should point at each of them and remind them of their salaries, “$21 million” “$12 million” “$13 million.” Again, that is my point. While I love baseball, at times the constant attack on soccer has caused me to think of things I don’t like about it (insert fried chicken & beer joke here) or when I hear “soccer is boring” when there is literally only 12 minutes of action in an NFL game. But I don’t say those things because I have a little perspective and a great appreciation for all sports and the skill needed to perform them. I don’t attack other sports, I don’t want to be “angry soccer guy,” but sometimes we are almost pushed to it.
Now to my other friend and the ever too oft referenced “diving.” I will start that this was prefaced with “no offense, but…” I always found the use of “no offense” funny, because it excuses what is coming next as “I don’t mean to offend” but I kind of do. This good friend of mine, to be fair has expressed interest in the game and admits his knowledge level. Yet he did make the comment, to which now he will bare my retort. Sure there are those that dive, eh hem, Mr. Drogba. But there are “issues” with every sport. Drawing contact in the NBA is akin to said “diving,” but I will not highlight issues in other sports other than address diving in soccer. It exists, certain countries have a culture of it, most don’t. It is just that those who don’t understand the game take that primarily as what the game is about and it gets the spotlight on it. Particularly and especially with events like the World Cup when the mass audience tune in. When talking heads create the pervasive message equating soccer as a bunch of divers, the novice American fan just tuning in only has more fuel to mock something that they clearly are not educated on. And that is sad. A full-time opinion with part-time information is not a good thing, anywhere in life.
Let me be clear, I love sports. To me, they are the ultimate theater. But I love one above all. It has given me most of what I have today. And unfortunately I spend a lot of time biting my tongue when my sport is sullied. I guess today was different. This chance to put down these words will have little effect on those of whom I am speaking, but once again I at least feel better having gotten this out. I can start anew in deflecting those comments for which I have become so accustomed. Ignorance is bliss for those spewing nonsense… but not for those who know better and have to listen.
Bring on the EUROs!!!!