August 7, 2007
Soccer bashers need to wise up
This is a column 30 years in the making.
Iíve held my tongue, or in this case typing fingers, for that long, deciding it was better to ignore the soccer bashers than to get into a war of words with them.
That held true in my days with the Cosmos, and later as a newspaper reporter and PR executive. It followed me to my job as President of an ASL team (Penn-Jersey Spirit) and to the early days of helping with the World Cup efforts, and even in the last decade and a half as an editor and publisher of a variety of sporting journals and web sites.
But, Michael Lupica of the NY Daily News, Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press and Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel, to quote Popeye, ďThatís all I can stands, Ďcause I canít stands no more.
Soccer is here. Itís here to stay. It has made it. Itís Major League. Itís accepted by more people than you would believe. It doesnít need saving by David Beckham or anyone else, and, most importantly, it doesnít need your approval.
Donít like it? Fine. Not your cup of tea? Ok. Then ignore it. But for some reason, you canít, and it only makes you seem ignorant.
Hey, Iím a sports fan. Have been all my life. Spent most of my life working in sports. There are sports I like, and some I donít like. When I was a young newspaper guy, my editors sent me out to cover everything imaginable. I was the low guy on the totem pole. I covered golf, tennis, the Easter Regatta, marathons. But I wanted to cover soccer, baseball, basketball, hockey and football.
When I started freelancing, those were the sports I covered. I just didnít pitch stories to editors on sports I didnít like or had no real interest in. I never wrote a column bashing golf, although I can think of nothing more boring to sit and watch. Play on a nice Saturday afternoon, thatís different. But sit and watch? Forget it. The same with sailing.
So a few important facts to those that bash soccer, and think it needs saving: Two MLS teams outdraw most of the clubs in the NHL. MLS also has a better TV deal than the NHL does. ESPN pays for the rights, and you can actually find the games.
The World Cup final had a higher TV rating than the World Series. And, smarter sports guys than you, like the owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Oakland Athletics and the Colorado Avalanche, have bought into soccer.
So, David Beckham is not here to save soccer, any more than the Yankees signed Alex Rodriguez to save them. David Beckham is here to sell tickets, sell jerseys, boost TV ratings and help his team win. No different than what the Celtics hope Kevin Garnett will do for them.
So, wise up, soccer bashers. Accept it or ignore it.