Josh Byers


Writing about books, culture, ministry, design and my family

What if???

to.jpgSorry to write another post about soccer, but Jason Kottke had some interesting thoughts that I read today and I though I would rehash my version...I watched most of the Germany/Italy semi-final yesterday and I have come to the conclusion that I would enjoy following soccer. Yes, the scoring isn't as high and the action isn't constantly faced paced but it is very interesting and these guys are world class athletes right up there with the top basketball and football players we follow.

So why haven't I ever nor will I ever be a devoted soccer fan? Back to that in a minute.

It is interesting to note that the number one youth sport in America is soccer. Knowing this one would conclude that it is a very popular sport in America as well. But it's not - how come? David Jabobs recently offered up a great explanation and one I had never thought of.

Our best athletes go to basketball, football, and baseball, roughly in that order. Soccer gets the dregs, sadly. Don't you think Terrell Owens would be a better striker than Landon Donovan? Even a 50-year-old Darrel Green might be faster than the fastest player on the US Soccer team, and so on.

Jeffery Toobin of the New Yorker also made the following observation which I again I think is right on the money.

Every kid in the American suburbs, it seems, owns a pair of shin guards. Soccer accords nicely with baby-boomer parents' notions about sports: every kid gets to play, no one stands out too much, there's plenty of running and trophies for all. If [John Robert's] children are typical, they will play neighborhood soccer for a few years, with enthusiastic but inexperienced parent coaches, and then wander away from the game by adolescence. Great high-school athletes tend to migrate to football and basketball, where they can play in front of big crowds and perhaps qualify for college scholarships. Soccer in the suburbs serves mostly as a bridge between Barney and Nintendo; it's a pleasant diversion, not a means of developing brutes like Jan Koller, to say nothing of the magicians who stock the Brazilian team.

So it seems we have a vicious circle in the making. Kids don't want to play soccer because they can't get a college scholarship or be famous in their blue collar home town, which dilutes the talent level, that then brings down the quality of the game and doesn't really interest the casual fan who is corporate America's main target for advertising who then doesn't provide the big money and exposure althletes crave which then sends the best athletes who have actually chosen to play soccer overseas. And so on and so on.

How can I be a devoted fan when I am presented with a watered down product that will never win and has one tenth of the excitement of a NFL game?

What could Dwayne Wade or Kobe do on a soccer field? Do you honestly think anyone would ever contest Terrel Owens for a midfield header? Michael Vick on a breakaway?

Ahhh, the possibilities. What athletes do you think could be superstars in another sport?