A few years ago (by the looks of it, back when I still had room for Michael Landsberg in my life), I wrote this little column for The Voyageurs website (check out their forum: It's the web's premium gathering place for Canadian soccer). I've dusted it off a bit and am offering it to you as a reminder that there are ways for soccer fans to survive in our American-centric sports landscape. Also check out Neate Seager's interesting blog on how he vows to become a soccer fan. I wonder if he was successful?
Survivor's Handbook in a Hostile Soccer Society
Dick Howard, TSN’s venerable soccer analyst, recently appeared on Michael Landsberg’s OTR along with the usual assortment of sportscaster, eye candy and Ignorant Loudmouth. OTR deserves credit for kicking off its show with a question we in the soccer community have been asking for years: “Will soccer ever become part of the mainstream in Canada”?It turns out that Ignorant Loud-Mouth was one of those “soccer sucks” blowhards. You know the type: the guy at the bar or family dinner who feels he has to come down hard on the sport with half-witted arguments, no matter if he’s alone or surrounded by 20 English hooligans. The problem with these Ignorants is that the people who might be prone to enjoy soccer if left to their own thoughts become useless lemmings in the company of Ignorant Loud-Mouth. They nod in fearful agreement to his discourse, which is usually just a regurgitation of something he heard on the Jim Rome Show. Ah, and the radio show analogy is a useful one in this case – these people remind me of the Right-Wing radio people across North America: the Rush Limbaughs, Lowell Greens and Bill O’Reilly’s of the world. It's quasi-impossible to turn these people into soccer fans, but you can at least stand your ground and give observers of the debate food for thought.
With that in mind, I thought I’d put together a quick-reference list of intelligent comebacks to these unsavory opinions, for use by you the reader the next time you encounter Ignorant Loudmouth.
Ignorant Loudmouth: I can’t get into a sport where the players flop and dive all over the place, as if they just got shot. Then they just get right back up like nothing happened.
Refined Soccer Enthusiast:
• You’re correct to say that some players dive, but the majority of the pain you see is genuine. The difference between soccer and other sports is the frequency at which studs are driven into various parts of the players legs. Just imagine I went into the closet and pulled out a soccer/baseball shoe, and drove the stud into your ankle right now. You would probably drop to the ground or hop around on your good foot. After about 10 seconds, the pain would subside and you would be good to go.
• If that's how you really feel about divers, then you'll be restricted to watching golf. Anytime a quarterback or kicker even feels an opposition player close to him after letting go of the ball, he'll go down and roll around, hoping to draw the roughing flag.
• Darcy Tucker.
• Baseball fans know what I’m talking about. Any time you see a runner slide into the 2nd baseman studs up, the next thing you see is that same second basemen rolling around on the ground. Rarely does that player need to be taken out of the game. The only difference is that it happens much less frequently.
Ignorant Loudmouth: Soccer players are sissies. They go down too easy.
Refined Soccer Enthusiast:
• That’s because you’re used to watching North American sports like American football, basketball and hockey where players use their hands. The reason soccer players go down so easy is because they are almost always off-balance – that’s the nature of having to dribble with your feet! When a running back plows into a defensive player he’s got a low centre of gravity because he is hugging the ball and lowering his shoulders. A soccer player doesn’t have that luxury: he has to be light on his feet in order to avoid the countless metal-spiked shoes flying at his ankles. (you can even demonstrate this by asking Ignorant Loudmouth to keep possession of a prop by holding it in his hands while you mock-tackle him, and then repeating with the prop at his feet. You’ll have illustrated your point beautifully!)
Ignorant Loudmouth: The field is too big.
Refined Soccer Enthusiast: Slightly bigger than an American football field, smaller in square feet to a baseball field.
Ignorant Loudmouth: I only like American sports.
Refined Soccer Enthusiast: There is no such thing (unless you count Roller Derby!!).
• Baseball is a modified version of Rounders and Cricket (Britain)
• Football is a modified version of Rugby (Britain)
• Basketball was invented by a Canadian, Dr. James Naismith
• Hockey was invented by Canadians
• Golf was invented in Scotland
Ignorant Loudmouth: It can’t hold my attention because there isn’t enough scoring.
Refined Soccer Enthusiast: Okay, let’s take American football for example. A respectable score in football is around 21-14, which equates to a 3-2 scoreline in soccer (not exactly unheard of). Considering that it takes 2 hours to watch a soccer match, and 3 ½ hours to watch a football match, there’s more scoring in soccer than your beloved football.
Ignorant Loudmouth: The game is so slow. It’s like watching paint dry…
Refined Soccer Enthusiast: …yet you love watching baseball and golf.
Ignorant Loudmouth: I don’t think I could ever get into a game where you don’t know when it will end.
Refined Soccer Enthusiast: In fact, a soccer match never goes beyond 2 hours (except in tournaments where extra time and penalty kicks can stretch the match to 3 hours). In basketball, the final 5 minutes can take up to 30 minutes of real time. In baseball, a game could technically go on indefinitely (ever read W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe?).
There are many more criticisms that Ignorant Loudmouth loves to jam down everyone’s throats, and I’m sure this column could go on for countless extra pages. I hope I’ve sufficiently armed you for your next encounter with Ignorant Loudmouth, and that you’ll successfully turn him round with his tail between his legs.
This weekend's soccer on tv:
7:30 am Sheffield United v. Chelsea (stay in bed) (Sportsnet)
10:00 am Liverpool v. Aston Villa (this should be a good match, with star players) (Sportsnet)
11:00 am Watford v Tottenham (Canadian Paul Stalteri plays for Tottenham) (FSW)
12:30 am Newcastle v. Charlton (Sportsnet)
2:30 pm MLS Playoffs: New England Revolution v. Chicago Fire (FSW)
8:00 am West Ham v. Blackburn (Sportsnet)
2:00 pm MLS Playoffs: Houston FC v. Chivas USA (FSW)