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 "McBride Scores Another Goal and USA Don't Care"
 (Sung to the tune of "Jimmy Crack Corn"):
 Comments from the Cheap Seats on World Cup Action

Well, for the second time in two weeks the United States Men’s National Team scored a historic victory by beating Mexico and, well, yawn, only two million or so of you Americans watched it. I did have a bit of an advantage as kick-off was 7:30 am on my side of the world, so I lost little sleep or time at work. Just for the sake of comparison, 40% of the workforce in England did not go to work when England played Argentina, and many employers just allowed time off during the day for employees that did show up to watch.

On 21 June, I hope you noticed that the USA had many new friends as quite a few Englishmen raised quite a few pints after the England v Brazil match hoping the Americans would put down those pesky Germans (they didn’t). See, England is still only a generation or so removed from the “Blitz,” and the “two world wars and one world cup” is still chanted with the Germans in mind (even though, on the World Cup front, the Germans have three cups to England’s one).

But, you know what, I really don’t give a rat’s fat ass whether or not you care. I am tired of trying to sell football (and I like the name football – it fits). Advertisers don’t even want to sell it anymore. Time and time again we are told the American sports calendar is too full for “fringe” sports. Tell me why it’s considered fringe when eighteen million people play football – far more than in any sport in America? The women won the last World Cup in 1999, and we hosted it. The men made it to the semi-finals of the last Olympics (oh, that’s right, none of the Olympics were ever shown live in the USA). And how about this overlooked fact? The men won the recent Gold Cup.

And don’t tell me football games are too long and slow. Remember when American football games were over in three hours? You could go outside and replicate Terry Bradshaw’s plays in the street. No more. Time out. Time out. Commercial break. Commercial break. Baseball in four hours? Forget it. My buddies and I could ride our bikes to the local park, play double-or-nothing, and still be home in time for dinner in the amount of time it takes Derek Jeter to bat. But football can’t be sold in America (though FIFA are trying) because it’s too long and slow. The game takes ninety minutes. Ten minutes for half time including water and orange slices (some Europeans enjoy a smoke or two).

I’m convinced that most in the media rail against it because they’ve never played it. As I was growing up, soccer geeks were on par with band nerds. When I quit the high school football team for the soccer team, you would’ve thought my crime was on par with choking down a few beers and puking on all the chaperones at the prom. And this was (oh my god!) less than twenty years ago. I had no idea what the World Cup was, but soon the Pele and Shep Messing autobiographies were well thumbed on my floor.

I’ve played football for twenty-five years now. I started at ten in the first youth league in Tallahassee, Florida. Played through college in North Carolina and with the FSU club team during my brief stay there. Recently, I’ve been in two teams in England, and I playing five-a-side every Thursday.

My travels in England and Europe have taken me to stadiums in Prague, Barcelona, and Dublin (a memorable occasion – my first national game, Ireland v USA). I have visited about fifteen different grounds here in England ranging in size from tiny Scarborough to giant Manchester United. Football is in my blood (much to my wife’s chagrin). And you know what, I tried to watch the recent NBA finals on the satellite, and it was worse than watching cricket (but that’s another article). Utter horse bleep. Endless play stoppages. Timeouts. Fouls. Missed shots. Hack a Shaq? Hack this.

Do you need huge salaries to get interested in players? Try this on: the world’s richest footballers are on about £100k ($140k-ish) a week (either David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, or Roy Keane, but who’s quibbling). And they have all won domestic and international honors.

But American soccer still suffers from a lack of funding. The average salary of players in the MLS is in the $50k range (some as low as $30k). The players in the US team at the World Cup have made a little over $100k for their run over these two weeks. Good money to you or me, and fair enough to them for a historic run (the USA hadn’t made it that far in a World Cup since 1950). Money well earned. But peanuts.

Alex Rodriguez, for example, is on $480k A WEEK. What he has won? Who is selling whom? Who’s buying it? You go on and pay your couple hundred bucks to take your family of four to the game. That’s right. Bend over and take it.

I'm teaching my kids the beauty of the step over.

June 2002

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