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The sport everyone loves to hate/The Red Line

May 17, 2012
By Brandon Veale - DMG Sports Editor (bveale@mininggazette.com) , The Daily Mining Gazette

You may have seen that Manchester City came from behind to beat Queen's Park Rangers to win the Premier League title in Britain over the weekend at the expense of rivals Manchester United.

You may have watched the game yourself on ESPN2 if you got home from church in time, or maybe you had better things to do.

The intent of this column is not to convince you of what you have been missing. Nor is it to pooh-pooh the folly of shouting at a television showing a sporting event between two teams thousands of miles away.

This sport holds a unique place in American culture, partially because of persecution (a term I use loosely) and resulting complex that really never made it out of the 20th century. It is the at-best fourth most popular sport in the country and, yet inspires an inordinate number of columns from scribes who either love it or hate it.

The list of soccer clich columns is a mile long and goes something like this: 1. Which English Premier League team is most like the Oakland A's? 2. Wouldn't it be cool if we had relegation in other sports? 3. Everyone loves soccer and if you don't, you're a hopeless troglodyte. 4. Soccer is for communists. 5. David Beckham is a god. 6. David Beckham is a tool. 7. Why can't soccer be more like (fill in the blank sport)? 8. I just watched the USA beat Antigua 8-0 and am filled with patriotic fervor I must spill onto the page.

Of course, that's because most of the movers and shakers in the domestic sportswriting cabal don't know what they're talking about ... in comparison. And, as in many other walks of life, we rely on crutches like the ones above to keep the pot boiling. Heck, I've done it.

Here's where I come from: I never played on a team in a league, but mostly for lack of opportunity. I've watched the sport casually at least since the 1994 World Cup (in the U.S. when I was 12). As you might remember from my column during the 2010 World Cup, I can get excited about it, but I'll admit that Sunday was probably the first time I watched a game for more than 15 consecutive minutes in several months. Primarily this is because no domestic team is on TV often enough up here for me to build a following and because most European matches air at unusual times that require appointment viewing (Saturday is my one morning a week for crashing.) The dreadful season put in by my favorite English team, Aston Villa, did nothing to make me want to cut short my chance to sleep in.

I'd love to have a pro team to support in person, but Major League Soccer's closest franchise is in Chicago, and to suddenly get behind a team two states away who I'll see on TV maybe two or three times a season seems ... forced.

The next World Cup is two years away, and perhaps in a year or so, the U.S. will start playing qualifiers that matter.

Upward mobility is severely lacking. The ranks of Europe's best clubs are littered with teams that simply stopped caring about the balance sheet 20 years ago (Barcelona) or are run by oil-rich shiekhs (Manchester City) or shady Russian oligarchs (Chelsea).

And for all that's wrong with the sport, there's a lot that's right. It requires no special equipment, no special arenas. Few players have had their health ruined by making a profession out of it.

Even relatively new teams in the U.S. have developed passionate followings. The U.S. team has developed to the point where the second-round exit of 2010 is viewed as a disappointment.

Then you have moments like Sunday, when a long-tortured fan base went to hell (relegation to the third tier in 1998) and back to snatch a championship in the most improbable of ways.

If you don't like it, all I ask is you keep the hatred to a minimum. After all, it's not like there aren't 200 other channels devoted to sports out there these days. Just know I won't feel sorry for you if you miss a moment like Sunday's.

Brandon Veale can be reached at bveale@mininggazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/redveale.

 
 

 

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