The world is full of surprises. One of them, for me at least, was finding someone willing to mount a passionate defense of Field Turf (see the comments on my post of a couple of days ago). Well, live and learn I say. I didn’t find his arguments particularly convincing. He was certainly spot on when he called me a curmudgeon, but this also left me feeling like the kettle being addressed by the pot. Anyway, just another interesting outgrowth of putting one’s opinions up on the interweb.
Then there are those things in life that are not so surprising. As Exhibit A I give you this from FIFA president Sepp Blatter (or as he shall be known from here on, Der Truthahn):
FIFA president Sepp Blatter took a sharp jab at Major League Soccer during a television interview this weekend, saying it has yet to catch on as a legitimate professional league in the United States.
Blatter suggested league officials have had ample time to get the world’s most popular sport to take hold in the U.S., but the MLS has failed to generate much interest among mainstream American sports fans. “It is a question of time, I thought — we had the World Cup in 1994,” Blatter told Al Jazeera TV. “But it is now 18 years in so it should have been done now. But they are still struggling.”
The rest of the article is here, in case you’d like to feel your blood boil further.
As sunshine will gladly attest, I have an obsession with things German. But there are some things related to Germany of which I am not so fond. Schlagersänger, for instance, I could really do without. I do not love their passion for suspending things (meat products generally) in various forms of gelatin, or that the hours of operation of German government offices seems to be set using a random number generator. Least of all do I like the FIFA president (sure, he’s Swiss but he’s German-Swiss).
Practically everything that Der Truthahn says makes my head feel like it’s going to explode. For instance, his opposition to goal line technology. The reasons that he adduced during his long opposition to it were so risible that one can hardly imagine that an official of a major international sporting body could be responsible for them.
Even against the backdrop of other ridiculous things that he’s said, I found the comments about the MLS quite shocking. Fans of the game in this country already have to cope with frequent gestures of contempt from the domestic sporting media. Whenever some good thing happens for the game in the country, be it the staging of the World Cup, or the USMNT beating Spain in the Confederations Cup, or what have you, you can count on Jim Rome or some other soccer-loathing numpty to blight the public sphere with some self-satisfied garbage about how this isn’t the “turning point” for soccer in the US. After such a turning point, one assumes, soccer will sweep aside all the other domestic sports, force NASCAR drivers to pilot Yugos around a go kart track, and establish a millennial reign of European socialism and same sex marriage.
Of course, this completely misses the point. Building the game in North America is not about a single home run moment, so to speak, but about a long term project of incremental growth. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times this point is made in the public sphere. The soccer haters are convinced that we are coming to destroy their sports and to sell their women into slavery. There is a certainly (misguided) underlying logic to this. Sports in this country are not exactly a zero sum game, but it is nonetheless the case the increased interest in, and support for, soccer is going to result in at least a modicum of bleed from other sports. People believe, and not entirely without justice, that sports either expand or start dying. In this light, the animus against the game from the domestic sporting press (or from major sections of it at least) is understandable.
It is much less easy to understand when a figure like Der Truthahn, who should be one of our partisans, comes out with idiotic comments like these. He seems to engage in just the kind of thinking that the game’s domestic opponents do. Does he not understand that the building of the MLS must take place in the context of an already existing and massively powerful commercial sporting culture? The game grew in Europe without serious competitors. Even today the next biggest draws of interest are things like Formula 1, or cycling, or the anemically supported domestic basketball leagues. Der Truthahn seems to have no conception of the differences between that and a country with three major sports that have 80+ game seasons, and that’s before we even get to the NFL or NASCAR.
Here’s how it is: the fans of game in this country are going to continue the process of building it here. We don’t care about the opinions of Der Truthahn, or of the idiot sporting press; we’ll carry on regardless. With friends like Herr Blatter, who needs enemies?
Well, enough of that. So we’ve come to the last day of the year. 2013 was certainly not the greatest in this team’s history. I think that there are reasons to hope that next year will be better. Every time I get down, I just watch one of the replays of our matches. Irrespective of how the team is doing, I hear the home support singing their hearts out. We have our differences, we argue about the team and complain about the leadership, but to the outsiders we present a united front: one heart and one voice united in support of the side. We’ve come through some dark times. There will be more to come. But there will be sunny days as well and we can hold on to the prospect of that. In that regard, I know I speak for all of us here at The Axe.
Happy New Years to you all. #RCTID