FCC transcends generations. How many?
"If you want to win, why do you allow some of your best players to leave midseason, to compete for their home countries?"
The clubs don't love it, but soccer exists at two levels...the club level and the international level. The best players, in addition to playing for their professional club teams, also represent their respective nations in international competitions. International play extends very far back into the sport's origins...for example England was playing matches against Scotland in the late 19th century. The fact that (apart from a one-off during the London Olympics) there is no "UK" national team, but four separate national sides (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) speaks to how how important national identities, and international competition, are to players and fans alike. Clubs therefore have to deal with that.
For someone who has only ever followed North American sports, which exist in a bubble separate from the rest of the world (yet still has "world champions")....yes this can be "disorienting". But the way soccer manages to exist at both a local and international level is, to many of us, quite remarkable.
I guess different strokes for different folks!
"Clubs “lend’’ players to each other. What?"
Players who are not getting on the starting 11, rather than gathering dust on the bench, are given opportunities to stay sharp with other teams (as long as those teams pay the wages for the loan period). Usually, players are loaned out to other leagues so as not to compete against their parent team. Seems like a good way to keep players active and help with the wage bill all at the same time. Often, loans can lead to permanent moves to the other team.
"Soccer has tournaments right in the middle of the season. FCC hosts Pittsburgh Tuesday night, in a US Open Cup quarterfinal."
In most hard core soccer nations, the tournaments preceded the formation of the league. For example, in England the FA Cup was first played in 1876, whereas the actual football league structure was not formalized until the late 1880s. The Cup survived as an open competition for every team under the auspices of the FA, from semi-pro teams all the way up to your Manchester Uniteds and Liverpools, and still exists in this form today. When the league was formed, with its separate divisions, the FA Cup continued and simply layered into the playing schedule. When a team is able to win both the League and the Cup, its called "doing the double". Seems like the MLS wanted to have also want to have this model of a league + separate Cup competitions. Fans love it...it gives the team multiple opportunities to win trophies during a season, and the do-or-die tournament format can be a nice respite from the more grinding nature of the league schedule.
"We claim baseball is boring, yet we’re good with 1-nil outcomes in soccer. In FCC’s 1-0 win Saturday over the Chicago Fire, the home goalie had exactly zero saves."
I agree, sometimes soccer is boring. But I've been bored by basketball, football, boxing...virtually every sport I enjoy at times has produced boring games. The point is that soccer is very often not boring, and can be exhilarating under the right conditions. I've been to many Ohio State football games, which are fantastic, but none of them have matched the atmosphere that I experienced in trips abroad to see, say a game between Liverpool and Everton (a huge local rivalry), or watching A.C. Milan and Inter at the San Siro.
All in all, I'm not sure what to make of your recent comments about soccer. I grew up in Cincinnati when you were at your pomp at the Enquirer, I was one of those kids who chose soccer as his main sport, and I remember that a) you rarely covered soccer and b) 95% of your comments about it were derisive. It's international appeal meant nothing to you and aroused no curiosity whatsoever. You clearly disliked the game and did not want to spend any mental energy learning about it. I read you for your knowledge on other sports and your insightful, justified and often hilarious criticism of the Bengals.
I don't think anything has changed. Most of your questions about soccer could easily be answered with a little bit of research. And they're not so much questions as thinly veiled jibes...."hey look at this strange thing that the silly soccer people do."
After all of these years, you still seem to assume that if soccer is doing something different than how we do it in America, that is is "weird" and therefore inferior...as if the American way is always the default correct way. There doesn't seem to be any inclination to give the game the benefit of the doubt...to consider that perhaps its different ways of doing things have some rationality behind them, or at least some interesting historical reasons.
Your attitude towards the game, by the way, is very similar to the way other sport writers (and fans) from your age cohort across the pond view traditional North American sports. About 20 years ago, I got into a heated argument at a pub in England when I was defending American football...my older English interlocuters all seemed to think that literally all American football players were "fat, padded up poofs". It didn't matter what facts I threw back at them...in their minds football/futbol/soccer was the "real" football, and believing lies about "fat American football" players just made them feel good. They had zero interest in learning anything that might challenge their false belief that American football was a ridiculous sport.
Likewise, I think for you, in a deep emotional way that is impervious to any rational argument, that association football, aka "soccer" aka "football", despite its deep history and international dominance, is somehow not a real sport. To you and many Americans of your generation, it will always be an oddity and self-evidently inferior when compared to the True Sports of baseball, American football, and basketball. And maybe we have to question basketball now that Johnny Foreigner seems to have a knack for it, at least the FIBA version.
Just stick with baseball and American football then. And big-time college sports, which is a completely unique American institution. No one will ever challenge our hegemony in American football, because no one else plays it. And even though Central America is becoming the real source of talent in baseball, they all still want to play here. Ignore the World Baseball Classic, pretend it doesn't exist, especially when America loses.
Soccer is weird!
You're not too old to learn to appreciate soccer. Building a connection to it is a start. Interview one of the players. Get to know them, watch them play. That will get you focused on a facet of play in a sport with a lot of moving parts.
It was called the "beautiful game" because of its flow. Not the staccato of American football where you get maybe 15 minutes of playing time squeezed into a one hour game that is somehow spread over three hours from kickoff to final whistle. But I remain a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
I grew up playing soccer. I started at 5 years old and played damn near year-round until I graduated high school after 4 years on varsity as a goalie (that’s what we were called back in the day). I coached my sister when she was in high school. I coached my son a couple years before the pandemic. I’m 51, so I was the first “wave” of youngsters to embrace the sport and I loved it, clearly
I understand the game and how exciting a nil-nil tie can actually be.
I don’t, however, understand the structure of the schedule at the pro-level.
Now, the question of whether or not you are “too old” to enjoy it, I share a story. In 2018, I was the only coach for 18 twelve-year-old boys for our son’s team. My husband, who loves sports but had never played one game of anything his whole life, stepped up to be my assistant. He knew less about soccer than Ted Lasso.
Now? He understands enough to appreciate the drama of a close match as he watches plays develop, and we have a mutual desire to attend a #HellIsReal home and away.
So, there’s hope for you yet, Doc!
As for the Reds…there are flashes of brilliance, but they’ll still lose 85-90, I fear.
Soccer takes hands out of the game (except for grabbing each other or breaking a fall during a flop). No thanks. Hand-eye coordination is a huge make-or-break skill. The other day I asked my hypothetical son, the soccer whiz, to grab me a wrench when we were working on his car. He did a perfect windmill kick and it nestled right in my hand. He also hit his head on the driveway and scratched up his back in the process. I said "Why didn't you just hand it to me?" and he said, "Uh....I don't know how." I did a SMH. My son stared at the ground, worried about his lack of manual skills.
I prefer sports that emphasize teaching kids hand-eye skills along with leg/feet skills. I think the former is extremely valuable. I've never seen feet play a guitar, sew an alteration, flip a pancake, cast a fishing line, drop a wedge shot 3' from the pin, type a TML comment, etc. How often has a MLB player, other than the fabulous Paul O'Neil, thrown a ball with his feet? Or swung a bat? Or in BBall, swished a 23'er from 3? Manual dexterity is an amazing tool that needs to be cultivated. I like to see athletes use both hands and feet, always have, always will. I agree with the poster who said that soccer only take a ball and 2 sticks as goal to play, which is why it's the first thing kids play in poor countries. That explains its popularity in the 3rd world. But when it comes to skilled athletes, there's a reason why soccer players are only kickers in the NFL.
Most of us are fans of sports we played as kids. I played soccer in the early 80s in central Ohio before it was anything. Also played football, basketball and baseball, huge Reds fan. Like one on one defensive oriented soccer action these days. Premier league the best to watch
Very well written and thoughtful TML today, Doc! As a certified OG, I am in agreement except for one particular issue. In my childhood, we grew up on basketball instead of baseball. We had Little League and whatnot, of course, but everyone in my suburban hood was obsessed with being the next Wes Unseld or Dan Issel rather than Pete or Joe. Yes, we were BRM fans to the max but most of the summer was spent on asphalt instead of the diamond. Maybe it was just a Ville thing, I can't say, but baseball was over after league play ended and then the year round with hoops returned.
Late today. Been to at least 15 FC games since '16. Only attended three Reds games since then with two of those being in a suite and the third in the first row of the Diamond Seats. Otherwise, hard pass on Reds tix. Always yes on FC.
My son has no interest in baseball but has always enjoyed soccer. Bonding with him over any sport is important. We had a blast last November watching World Cup games together and discussing them when we were not together.
Nice shout out to Liz and Judd. For the record, they have the best Christmas card year in and year out. Always clever and witty.
Converting people to any sport is a dubious endeavor, at best. People either jones for what's going on or they don't. But I've had love for soccer for four decades (plus some) and can address a few of your musings on the sport.
+ Sometimes you see a good game and sometimes you don't— much like every other sport. I was at the FCC match this past Saturday and it was pretty dull from a soccer standpoint. The visitors decided to defend all match and the home team rested a significant portion of the staters (games are coming on thick now).
+ That particular game, however, was one that can actually be described as a great win (1 FCC-0 CHI). When the manager saw the opportunity to break the game open by subbing-in guys he had been resting, he took it. And it worked. It was an 'ugly win' and good teams know how to win ugly. Good managing, good result. Great win.
+ Like baseball the above anecdote demonstrates that within soccer there is always a game within the game being waged. If you follow it closely, subtext adds to what happening on the field.
+ Soccer's appeal is the simplicity of it. All you need is one ball and more than one person— the rest can be improvised. And like a lot of sports, improvisation married with good plans can make for some pretty compelling stuff.
+ The disorienting movement of players and teams is just something you have to get used to. If players are good enough, they play for both club and country (and those organizations vie for their services... clubs own the contracts so they always have first choice, but there's an unwritten code about developing players talents and country participation plays a part in that).
+ Money makes the world go 'round and that's why there are ancillary Cup competitions throughout a season. In the old days you played these for glory and bragging rights, now clubs play them for the $$$$ (and glory, if you're lucky... or owned by an oil state).
+ The play acting/ feigning fouls sucks and it definitely hurts the game. Unfortunately it takes unilateral worldwide agreement and coordination to nip it completely in the bud. And the odds of that are?
+ FCC (or any soccer team you support) is a great night out because you get the unpredictability of sports, a big shot of communal energy and it's all done in 90-plus minutes (roughly 2 hours at the stadium). Low effort required, good upside.
+ Soccer everywhere else but in the USA is like the Big 162 in baseball (even moreso)— the domestic league champion (in this sport of attrition) is decided by whomever is on top of the league on the very last day. The grind of the season sorts the best from the rest. And that makes it very hard to dispute who truly deserves the glory at the end.
+ You're never too old to connect with soccer. It welcomes everyone. But liking particular sports is not much different than liking particular ice cream flavors... you either like 'flavor ABC' or you don't. I'm a big fan of soccer, but I accept it when people say the game is not for them. That's OK. I've seen plenty of stinker soccer matches in my life, but when it's good.... maaaaaannnnn, it is good!
I'm 50 and I have zero interest in soccer. I started playing both as a kid at about 5 or 6 years old and I was bored with Soccer by junior high. Plus it conflicted with basketball. I know I just don't get the beauty of guys rolling around like they've been shot and stretchered off the field- only to return 5 minutes later. Nor do I "get" the beauty of no shots on goal and passing back and forth to nowhere. But to each their own. I was a baseball kid and despite the Reds ineptitude for a decade, I still remain that way. Pace of play this year has really improved the game of baseball, they've removed most of the grab-a%% that used to slow it down. No need to go to the dark side PDoc, stay with us baseball guys
If my 78-year-old mom can start taking a strength and conditioning class (which she did today!), you're not too old to be come a soccer fan. Too jaded? Maybe. But never too old.
Meantime, I imagine Ken Oaks, Kerry Byrne and the crew at TQL are pretty pleased there *hasn't* been a nickname attached to their (alleged) $60M in naming rights at the stadium and wouldn't be surprised to learn a nickname could result in forfeiture of the money by the club.
Soccer and hockey do not translate well to television. I've been to hockey games and they are a three ring circus, in a good way. I attended some Madeira High School Boy's soccer games back when they were really good. I don't get the nuances of soccer. Just watching players sprinting up and down the field for no shot on goal. I've been told from friends that go, they attend FC games for the experience, not so much the game. I have watched the first two Heat/ Nugget's games and am in awe of the coaches game management ! The Reds ? We were told, over and over, it's a rebuild. They are giving the youngsters experience you can't get in the minors. One of them, teams will figure out pitching. It's up to the Reds to teach theirs to adjust.
As a fellow OG, I grew up on baseball and Bengals ... through good years and bad. Admittedly, winning is fun. The interest ebbs and flows with the W's.
FCC brings us hometown pride and a victorious side (that's team to you Doc). I "discovered" soccer when I coached my kids SAY teams in the 90's and 00's ... and learned to appreciate the nuances of positioning, ball skills, pacing/speed, and the excitement of that rare goal.
"The play's the thing" to steal from the great English bard. Attend TQL in person, and you will be struck by the game's speed and physicality. Sadly, not as evident on TV.
Better though, than googling Reds player names!
Soccer is ultra boring. A lot of running around with little results.
I never played organized soccer…ever. I am definitely in the OG category. The school attended did not have a soccer team and I only experienced it in PE class. However, that was then and this is now. I’ve been to 1 professional soccer game and found it to be really exciting. The noise level there is intense and, even though there might be only one goal the whole game, it saps your energy. Add to that, my kidsplayed it growing up so I’ve learned.
Now…with grandkids who are approaching high school and living in Pennsylvania, soccer is normal to me. BUT…nobody told me I’d have to try to figure out LACROSSE and FIELD HOCKEY! You think soccer is hard to figure out, try these!
Olympics. World Cup. If I still lived close, I'd probably attend a game. But that's about the extent of it. Go Reds!!!