I am sitting here watching the Major League Soccer (MLS) final realizing I have been watching more soccer over the last year. I have been mainly watching the KC Wizards (the home team), Manchester United in the English Premiere League, and the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) and others in the World Cup Qualifiers.
I have always enjoyed soccer. I played it as a kid, stopping after my freshman year in high school when it was interfering with my performing. I have continued to watch the bigger events such as the World Cup and when the MLS first started. That was sporadic, though. It has been my son’s, Parker’s, playing of the “beautiful game” that has really gotten me into watching more and following it more closely.
But still, why soccer? Why not American football, baseball, basketball, etc.? They don’t interest me. American football & baseball are too slow. Stopping, starting, stopping, time-outs, commercials… Also, if I am nearly in shape to play it, should it be called a sport? That’s right, baseball, I’m talking to you. Basketball, hockey, & others just don’t interest me. They seem viable sports according to my personal criteria, I just don’t watch them.
Soccer has speed, tactics, aggressiveness, vast amounts of skill, and non-stop action. The players are arguably the most fit of any sport. They have to focus for 90 minutes. Hey! That’s something. The games are supposed to be 90 minutes and ARE 90 minutes. That’s right, football, I’m looking at you. I guess there is an exception for the final games so they don’t end in a draw.
I love the international aspect of the game. It is something the entire world shares. It is something all classes share. It is something people of all ages share. It is something you can play yourself no matter your circumstances. All you need is a ball. Anything else is just extra. It doesn’t even have to be a soccer ball. It just has to be round. (OK, a bowling ball might a little inappropriate.) You don’t have to be a certain height or weight. You don’t need wealth to afford the equipment. It truly is a game for anyone & everyone.
I know people in the US have problems with soccer. It is not a high scoring game. We are not the dominant country in the sport. There isn’t much that can be done about the scoring, but something can be done about our dominance. Youth today are really taking to the sport, although it will be another 10-15 years before we see the US starting to put pressure on the bigger soccer programs from Europe and elsewhere. We need more of the kids that have grown up with the sport to age in.
I do appreciate ESPN and others covering soccer more. While their coverage isn’t the best, the exposure is there. Watching this game MLS Final right now, I can see how the coverage has been “Americanized”. Special graphics, explanations in terms that those who are more familiar with other sports can understand, and more replays seem to be their coverage. I will say it there doesn’t seem to be a huge effect on watching the flow of the game. I am happy that they are avoiding major close-ups during play. If this helps make soccer more palatable for the US, I say go for it.
I know I have covered a lot, but I have started to become pretty passionate about the sport and my favorite teams (my son’s, the KC Wizards, Manchester United, & the USMNT). I have been learning a lot from watching the leagues in other countries. If you find the MLS too slow to watch, you need to watch some English Premiere League or Italian Serie A games. I encourage you to read The Shin Guardian. It is a well written blog that covers all aspects of soccer both here & abroad.
Personally…there isn’t anything else to compare.