How Overzealous Nationalism Can Save American Soccer
I was driving up the New Jersey Turnpike Sunday afternoon (June 10th, 2007) and we got caught in a huge traffic jam at around exit 13. Our exit is 16W (Route 3, Giants Stadium). Now a traffic jam in North Jersey is nothing unusual, but the cause is what caught me. I saw license plates from New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, and even North Carolina. All of the people in the cars had two different flags waving out the windows of their heavily decorated vehicles. The flags were from Mexico and Honduras, who were playing soccer match in Giants Stadium. Each car had exuberant people shaking their flags boastfully at their opponents and with their compatriots in solidarity.
What did I C? A couple of things that makes big-time sports go: Passion, Enthusiasm, Tension, oh yeah, and one other very important thing A Large Group of Paying Customers! That last thing seems to be the one thing that American soccer never manages to get.
Why? Poor play, Lack of star power, people don’t like soccer? Wrong, wrong, and wrong again! Have you ever driven by an athletic field on a saturday? That’s soccer that millions of kids and adults are enjoying. People are not connected to these teams. I’m a huge sports fan and I played in an adult soccer league a few years ago and I can’t name any of these teams. Even the one with Beckham.
Now, if the MLS (Major League Soccer?) wanted to fill the seats and generate some real enthusiasm, here’s what they should do:
- Release all of the current players
- Make them declare their nationality (allow up to 3 nationalities for a player)
- Paint Flags on a bunch of Lottery Balls and put them in a Hopper
- Let teams take turns picking out balls (countries)
- That team gets all of those players
- Repeat until all of the teams are full
You tell me what would bring more excitement? Hey do you want to go see those guys wearing shirts that say the name of our city play against guys wearing shirts from some other city?
Hey Tony, Vinnie, Carmine, our Gumba’s are coming into town this week to play against those Irish @#*&! (Before you get mad, I’m part Italian and part Irish) I can’t see anyone getting excited about that kind of event. You probably couldn’t sell much beer either.
It’s the same reason Olympic hockey does awesome in America and the NHL can’t get out of its own way.
I know, your going to say “What about Baseball and Football?” Well they got their foothold half a century ago. Those uniforms ARE like flags to Americans now. They already own the collective attention span, they’re not trying to break through like soccer or even hockey.
Does this sound harsh? Yes
Does it sort of play on the worst part of human nature? Yes
Will some civil rights group protest it? Yes
Will their kids, neighbors, and friends buy a ticket? YESSSSSSSS
How are the ratings on every horrible reality show, or Ultimate Fighting event, or Paris Hilton’s criminal proceedings? Exactly!
Bring on the idiot fest. And mark me down for a few tickets.
Please leave your comments, it will help settle an argument that my wife and I had about my theory.
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