Being a sports fan in the United States is easy. On every corner, at every bar, and in every conference room you’ll find conversations about the upcoming Super Bowl. You might hear dialogue about the latest NBA marriage fallout. There is always someone near who is spouting off about their fantasy team. Or, depending on where you are at, you might overhear discussion about Tim Thomas the hockey player versus Tim Thomas the activist. However, being a soccer fan in the United States is still not that easy. If I walk in to my local bar or restaurant and start talking El Clasico I can guarantee one of two outcomes:
Outcome one: background music screeches to a halt, children scream out quickly and then are suddenly silenced, and every set of eyes in the place glares at me in rage until I spontaneously burst into flames.
Outcome two: background music screeches to a halt, a bouncer comes out of nowhere (even at this nice, family-owned bar and grill), and fires me through the plate-glass window at the front of the establishment while everyone in the restaurant cheers.
Alright, those might be slight embellishments. (And I do mean slight. I damn near got beaten to a pulp and left for dead at a Dairy Queen for arguing about how soccer was better than basketball. I’ll share that story with you when I feel that you are old enough.)
In all honesty, being a soccer fan in the States has gotten better – but not due to public perception. It has gotten better because of the Internet and cable/satellite television. Growing up as a child in the 80’s, my access to soccer information was limited to outdated encyclopedias in the local library, outdated articles in random outdated publications, and in Subbuteo ads in the back of said random, outdated publications. (Damn, I wanted a Subbuteo table in the worst way.)
Soccer on TV? That was unheard of, with the exception of “Soccer Made in Germany.” If I could haul may happy behind out of bed on Saturday mornings I could watch this nugget of pure gold. It was an hour long weekly that was played on PBS in the late 70’s and early 80’s. This program focused on the old West German football teams and it might of well have been sent directly from the heavens. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t pronounce Kaiserslautern or Koln. It didn’t matter that the video was grainy and that the players’ shorts were so tight and tiny that they looked like briefs. All that mattered was the fact that soccer was being shown on American television. I was hooked.
As the years went by, soccer news and soccer games started making inroads towards the American psyche. We saw Paul launch us to Italy. We were able to see the World Cup come to our shores. We saw Brandi rip off her shirt. We saw Landon personally keep our country’s hopes alive. In spite of that the collective consciousness of soccer is somewhere behind hockey and tennis in America.
Today, access to soccer is available 24/7. FSC and the Internet have been priceless gifts to me and other struggling Yankee soccer fans. We can now catch up on highlights in the middle of the night or take off work early to catch an FA Cup match. We have the power! Well, the power to consume soccer at least. The power to have intelligent discussions with strangers in public is still a ways away. But that’s fine for now. I can’t ask my neighbor if she thinks Messi should play more of a holding role without having her look at me as if a chupacabra is on my head. But I have people like you guys for that, and I’m grateful. I’ll just have to stick with asking her if she thinks Tom Brady will have a good game or if LeBron will ever come back to those of us in Ohio. She’ll answer that crap and think I’m normal. I feel bad for her…
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