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Look, an anti-soccer sermon! What, is it 1992 again?

Mar 4, 2013, 4:01 PM EDT

Jamaica v United States - World Cup Qualifer Getty Images

We reached a point somewhere along our grassy-pitch way that these anti-soccer sermons are just amusing.

Whereas I once just shook my head and moved along, now I feel a bit sorry for the dinosaurs who cannot see their own extinction. I mostly just pat them on their silly and fearful heads, figuratively so, and move on.

(I have long stopped defending soccer in any passionate way; I mostly just say “You like what you like, I’ll happily do the same.” Mostly. But since it’s meatless Monday, and that always puts me in a mood … )

Seriously, I could live 1,000 years and not fully understand why anyone devotes time, energy and effort to telling the rest of us why we should not like something.  Truth is, these dated and toxic discharges of anti-soccer venom aren’t for soccer fans. This is the fearful, anti-change faction of the Baby Boomer set, writing with wounded monotony in newspapers for the only people who still read newspapers: other Baby Boomers who like to believe that 1982 might just happen all over again. Good times!

With informed content providers, this kind of thing crumbled not long after the Berlin Wall. But not for Matt Zencey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, apparently.

Ever notice these things almost always come from an older, white, male baseball lovers?  Hmmmm.  Changing world … Evolving likes and dislikes in our own, wonderful country … Baseball as metaphor for “good old days syndrome.”  … Yes! There is something there.

At any rate, Zencey’s work checked all the usual boxes:

Vast over-generalization. Check.

Factual inaccuracy. (Usually in the lack of goals, assertions that scoreless draws are far more frequent than they are. Never mind the data, my man. Carry on.)

Helpful suggestions of rule changes. Check.

Sophomoric sarcasm disguised as actual description of the game. Yup …

The teams run around for an hour and a half and if the fans are lucky, their team may – hold your breath! – score a goal or two.

Zing! Good one, dude!

Other ignorant, America-centric ideas on how to improve a sport that’s doing just fine in almost every corner of the world (including our own, I say). Got it.

Ridiculously dated references to hooliganism and tragedy (like Andres Escobar’s horrible death), obtusely uninterested in the reality that every sport comes attached to a few darker elements. Check.

Zencey did provide some nod to the game’s continued growth and popularity. That represents some improvement, at least, from the typical exercise in convenient oblivion.

Still, it hit most of the usual tone-deaf notes. (He did miss the old “enlarging the goal” tender, a staple of the 1970s era helpful suggestions from American newspaper sporties.)

Should I mention quickly that all this was written after a very entertaining match at sold-out PPL Park in the man’s hometown, where the Union fell to Sporting Kansas City? A match the former Philly Inquirer editorial board member failed to attend. (Too bad, too. It honestly was quite a match.) That fact wasn’t lost on the Brotherly Game site that went to whuppin’ on Zencey.

I suppose the only thing more cliché than anti-soccer rants is … yes, guys like me who point out the nincompoopery of it all. But, so long as I’m at it, I have one more thing to say:

By the way, dude … soccer will be around in this country far, far longer than your newspaper industry in its current incarnation. But you probably know that.

  1. capsfan19 - Mar 4, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    Dude i feel the same man. I really love hockey, but soccer is my sport man. It’s so frustrating to try to tell my coworkers, “i just watched the most epic victory, ac milan beat barca!” And they say “LAME”.
    I love america, my country, but to say soccer is dumb is rediculous. Ok so its the most played sport around the world, the most viewed, makes the most money. Come on! Even those buffoons cheer for the mens national team during the world cup! How stupid.
    These people need to get a grip. The only aspect that really bugs me is the diving. Ohhh and do they dive, especially in la liga.
    Ha sorry! My rant is over. (And hopefully this match fixing business begins to be taken more seriously)

  2. twalkray - Mar 4, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    Don’t know why anti soccer articles hold this weird fascination for me, i guess the motivation for people to write them is a bit baffling; I mean is baseball so dull this guys has to write about another sport? Anyways I’ll concede soccer is boring when this guy admits witnessing a no-hitter is just watching a couple guys play catch.

  3. Steve Davis - Mar 4, 2013 at 5:11 PM

    Absolutely correct. 11 guys vs. 11 guys with no history, context, etc. is just a distraction. When you care (about any sport) and when you dive in, in makes sense. Otherwise it doesn’t. This isn’t complicated math … but it IS easier to just to be the cool kid in school and pick on the “little kid in the lunch line,” if you know what I mean.

    Thing is, that “little kid” is growing up. And now he can punch back.

    • phuryk - Mar 5, 2013 at 8:42 AM

      I did a VERY low budget film about soccer’s place in America two years ago. I got opinions on soccer from three different groups of people: Sports talk radio hosts that don’t cover, international players who play in the US and a MLS Exec. It made for an interesting personal project.

      • phuryk - Mar 5, 2013 at 8:45 AM

        I have no idea why that link post ALL of my videos rather than Identity Crisis Part 1 but oh well.

      • phuryk - Mar 5, 2013 at 8:54 AM

  4. berlintexas - Mar 4, 2013 at 5:16 PM

    When I hear this kind of rant it reminds me of the Boxing community’s view of MMA in the early days. They can’t understand why everyone is getting excited about this other sport and hate that their once mighty pastime is fading from the national consciousness.

    • mvktr2 - Mar 5, 2013 at 10:40 PM

      ^This is quite true, and they still do it. I enjoy MMA & Boxing, grew up on boxing watching it with my grandfather and it holds a special place in my psyche which brings me to make this point.

      Anyone know what the #1 sport in America was circa 1900? Nope, not baseball, it was boxing by a fairly large margin. Around 1920 baseball began to pass boxing and reigned through the 60s. Yet NFL began to take over around 1970 yet NBA basketball emerged in the early 80s to claim the #2 spot away from baseball. My point is that the sports landscape in the US has ALWAYS been and always will be in flux with sports and leagues ascending and descending.

      The #1 sport to watch among kids 12-18 in the US currently is soccer, in 15-20 years those kids will be dads watching the game with their kids. The culture here is changing, and just like the other sports/leagues it takes time. Soccer, MLS, & US Soccer are coming, period!

  5. coachreamer - Mar 4, 2013 at 5:31 PM

    Always lol at the score comments football 21-14 translates to 3-2 in soccer that’s how stupid they are and we are going to award 1/2 a score for coming close cause you can now kick it. Never understood that.

    • mvktr2 - Mar 5, 2013 at 10:43 PM


      To boot the dinosaur whom wrote the linked article is a ‘baseball man’ and has absolutely no problem with a 2-0 baseball game which possesses far less activity than soccer.

  6. bigdinla - Mar 4, 2013 at 5:40 PM


    I hope you realize that by posting this silly little rant about an article almost no one read, you sent a lot of traffic to his article. In the future let this garbage sit forgotten on its dying medium.

    • joeyt360 - Mar 5, 2013 at 5:30 PM

      Then again, the irony is doubled: the traffic for the site says “soccer is controversial: we should write about it more, and generate cheap hits.”

  7. Steve Davis - Mar 4, 2013 at 5:57 PM

    Believe me, I get the irony. As I said, sometimes I just cannot resist.

  8. brittkamp - Mar 4, 2013 at 6:21 PM

    I love these articles! I’m in my 40’s, so I remember when the anti-soccer crowd roamed this country in great herds.Now, its like seeing the last tiger in the wild!!
    What I would like to see is someone do a timeline video on one of these guys, say Frank Deford starting in 1988 to now on how soccer will never make it it in the US.

  9. surly1n1nd1anapol1s - Mar 4, 2013 at 6:36 PM

    What does “white” have to do with it?

  10. dfstell - Mar 4, 2013 at 7:47 PM

    Oh….I can see where this guy is coming from because I used to be a soccer-hater myself. To me growing up, soccer was just some game that short and skinny dudes played. I knew they were athletic, but I also knew they lacked the size and strength to play the sports I valued……and so I just dismissed them as 2nd tier. It also didn’t help that defenders of soccer would prattle on about how, “Soccer is the world’s most popular game.” I always thought, “So what? The world’s most popular food is probably rice and I’d rather eat steak than rice.”

    Anyhow….it just took me awhile. I get it now and over the last 5 years I’ve consumed an unhealthy amount of soccer. I have teams I follow in multiple leagues not because I’m a bigamist, but because my appetite for soccer goes beyond what one club and provide. I need to follow Man United, the LA Galaxy AND the USMNT…..and my local lower league teams the Carolina Railhawks and Carolina Dynamo. I even started playing in my local soccer league at the ripe age of 39 (where I learned how hard it is to chase those little dudes around….my god they are quick).

    Now, I can barely stand to watch an American football game or….god forbid… I remember spending many, many late nights watching baseball go into the extra innings and being riveted. Now I think it’s obnoxious that a game demands some vague amount of time between 3 and 5 hours to complete. Screw that.

    So….I can see where this dude is coming from. Don’t worry about him. Little by little, you’re winning people like me over. :)

  11. wfjackson3 - Mar 4, 2013 at 8:11 PM

    You want to know what is boring? Baseball. When I was a kid, I had to play pitcher because if they put me in the outfield I would stop paying attention BECAUSE NOTHING EVER HAPPENED!

  12. wfjackson3 - Mar 4, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    LOL. Steve, you have this guy dead to rights. HE STILL HAS A HOTMAIL ACCOUNT!

  13. charliej11 - Mar 4, 2013 at 11:06 PM

    Yeah, well the Soccer won’t make it in the US crowd is dying off a LOT quicker than the Pro/Rel is going to happen someday crowd.

    ps. Steve please don’t tell me someone has been following this (soccer in the US ) longer than I have ? you can’t be that old….
    Do you remember Kyle Rote Jr. winning superstars ?

    • Steve Davis - Mar 5, 2013 at 2:43 AM

      Barely, but yes. (Got to meet Kyle later in life; nice fellow)

    • randomhookup - Mar 5, 2013 at 2:04 PM

      Face it, you are old.

      Kyle Rote, Jr., was the man. I remember watching “Superstars” as a teen (1st time I’d ever heard of Kyle Rote, Jr.) The timing was perfect, because it started airing on Sundays right after the NFL season.

      For many of us, “Soccer Made in Germany” was our first exposure to the game.

  14. drewvt6 - Mar 5, 2013 at 12:57 AM

    The soccer haters were much better back in the day…they’re just boring now.

  15. east96st - Mar 5, 2013 at 1:01 AM


    There is a real & present danger with guys like Zencey that you’re overlooking. the concussion issues. Let’s be honest and admit we really don’t know what we’re doing. Our knowledge of concussions and how they happen, how to treat them, how to prevent them, etc. still leaves a LOT to be desired. But as a youth soccer coach, I am hearing from parents – especially the girls moms – that their concern is growing. Guys like Zencey are just waiting to nail us over this. They are in the media, so they know how to make their voices heard. US Soccer – especially on the youth side – needs to be out-front in research and prevention. We read PST because we love the sport, but let’s not be arrogant – problems exist. We have to know why the girls are affected more than the boys and what can be done about it. Zencey, and his kind, would love to lead a witch hunt against soccer as being ‘too damn dangerous” to allow our daughters to take that risk! Makes a catchy headline and brings in the readers. Having two daughters myself who play, I can’t say I find the concussions numbers comforting. Yes, Zencey, is a fossil. But we have a safety and a gender issue that needs to researched. Because if we don’t and the problem grows, then it’s not just the Zenceys of our Country that that we will have to worry about. It will be our state and national legislatures. And God help soccer in the US if those assclowns get involved. Mock Zencey as much as you want. He deserves it. But let’s also cover our asses here and make sure some money is going into research and prevention. Let’s find out what’s happening to our girls and why and let’s make sure they are safe. Before the Zenceys in the media get some Congressman looking for his 15 minutes of fame to write a law that fundamentally changes the game.

    • Steve Davis - Mar 5, 2013 at 2:46 AM

      I do hear you on this one. (“Fossil” is a great word choice, by the way. Well played, sir.) But I would say that football’s concussion issue is a boulder about to drop, whereas the soccer one may be a smaller rolling stone by comparison. That said, the safety issues you reference are serious and do, absolutely, require ongoing attention.

  16. NJJohn - Mar 5, 2013 at 8:13 AM

    Much more common these days are the angry comments and posts about American’s calling it “soccer” and not football. Check out FOX soccer’s Facebook posts. Rarely does something go by without this. In addition, I’d say the worm may be turning. A lot of these comments take great delight in making fun of “American Football.” It seems that wearing pads and helmets somehow means you’re a wimp, at least in the eyes of many longtime soccer fans.

    In other words, some enjoy bashing American football as much as Americans like mocking soccer.

    • mvktr2 - Mar 5, 2013 at 10:55 PM

      This reminds me of the discussion between rugby & am football observers about which is rougher and why the americans wear all the equipment. The rugby players who’ve played am football generally routinely tell you the level of violent physicality is substantially higher in am football.

      I’m in the southeast, Alabama Crimson Tide fan, where there are many sayings such as football is religion and every Saturday is holy, in the south 2+2=3rd & 6, and that there are 3 season spring practice, football season, and recruiting season. Having said that I’m actually thinking of abandoning the sport as a ‘serious’ fan for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is I simply love soccer and want to support it to see it grow.

  17. listerineman - Mar 5, 2013 at 9:42 AM

    I have the solution for people like this. Just make a new point system. Each goal counts 10 points.

  18. wandmdave - Mar 5, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    I have some helpful hints to make baseball semi-bearable.
    -Shorten the outfield so more home runs are scored.
    -Put a count down of 10 seconds between pitches. If the batter isn’t ready he is out. If the pitcher hasn’t pitched the batter walks.
    -Shorten to 3 innings. Maybe two.
    -Games can end in a tie instead of going forever
    -Beer can be served the entire time at the park so no one has to come out of their drunken stupor to realize how boring what they are watching is.

    I might watch it with all that, but not likely.

    • wandmdave - Mar 5, 2013 at 10:10 AM

      Oh and eliminate lead offs so the pitcher can’t waste my time playing catch with the first baseman.

    • pauleee - Mar 5, 2013 at 12:10 PM

      This is a troll, right?

      Or do you not see the irony in responding to a post about a guy who doesn’t like a sport by commenting about a sport that YOU don’t like?

      • wandmdave - Mar 5, 2013 at 1:51 PM

        Yes it was a troll to show how absurd it is to make “helpful” suggestions about a sport you don’t care about and never will. You either like soccer for what it is or you don’t. Same goes for baseball. Changing it makes it a new sport.

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