The U.S. fan's bill of responsibilities
In my last column, I wrote the
I obviously don't agree entirely with the entitlement criticism, but it got me thinking about the flip side -- that is, the responsibilities of the American fan. Just as the U.S. Bill of Rights guarantees certain inalienable entitlements, there is also civic duty.
It's hard, sometimes, to be a soccer fan in the U.S., but we can take pride in our Nietzschean toughness.
Growing up in Detroit, I remember going over to Canada to watch the Windsor Wheels. They were pretty awful, but this was pre-Fox Soccer Channel (gasp!), so it was the best we could get. And we felt that it was important to support a new quasi-Detroit team.
This is still true. The ability to watch Liverpool every Saturday now doesn't mean we shouldn't catch the Columbus Crew or Real Salt Lake or the Portland Timbers in person. That's what real fans do: They support their local club.
But the reality is, the game is, and will always be, interesting. Even this same reader admitted as much, continuing, "Soccer is about creativity and subtly as much as speed and athleticism." Exactly. And wouldn't the world -- even beyond soccer -- be a better place if more people learned to appreciate creativity and subtlety?
The best way to do this is to take a non-fan to a game, or have him over for breakfast and an EPL game on a weekend. Then, enlighten him. Describe the nuances of the holding midfielder's role. Explain offside and the difficulties of being a target striker. Show him the passion of the fans -- yes, there are many intense fans in the U.S.: the Barra Brava, the Texian Army, the Midnight Riders. And be sure to include some statistics -- "Did you know that the average soccer player runs about six miles in a game?" -- so it'll sink into his fantasy-game-numbered mind.
This comes from an OTB reader. I think we all feel his pain. But there are plenty of painless soccer-friendly spots in this country. And they need our support, need to be heard -- with a ka-ching of the register -- that their soccerism is appreciated. Other places will catch on. So every now and then, skip the couch and watch a Champions League game at the 11th Street Bar in New York or the Cock n' Bull in L.A. or the Soccer Taco in Knoxville.
Slamming American soccer -- and American soccer fans -- is a great pastime for many non-American fans, particularly Anglos who are subconsciously bitter that their national team can't even qualify for the Euro Championship. One of their favorite insults is some variation of this: "Americans will never be good at football -- and, yes, it's called 'football,' you stupid arse."
But the truth is the word "soccer" derives from "association football," the game's original name, as opposed to "rugby football." In other words, it's a British word. The haters really hate when you point this out.