A SOCCER NATION ON THE FENCE
RECAPS
PREVIEWS
EXTRA TIME
JACK ROZIER - Thursday, July 22, 2010
Enjoy it while it lasts…

Only a few more weeks, possibly even a matter of days, before the feel-good euphoria of the World Cup and the US' performance (positive indeed!) are swept from our collective memory.

There's nothing inherently wrong with this. Soccer people the world over will shift from global soccer's greatest spectacle, to domestic leagues, Champions League, Copa Libertadores, FIFA Club World Cup – whatever.

For Americans, this often means one of two things (with varying degrees of overlap):

1)Focus on your local MLS, WPS, USL, NCAA, or ..hell, who am I kidding, you only care about Beckham, Donovan, Henry, and Ljungberg!

2)Focus on the English Premier League, the Bundesliga, Spain's La Liga, Italy's Serie A, France's Ligue 1, the Scottish
Premier League, or ..heaven forbid, the Mexican Primera, because that's where you find the "best" soccer and hairstyles.

We'll cordon ourselves off in our own little soccer bubbles until Sunil Gulati and US Soccer tell us who will lead the US to Brazil 2014.

Then, two worlds ignoring each other in relative peace, will explode across the soccer forums and publications of America.

"The US needs an experienced [insert nationality (usually Dutch)] coach!"

Stop me if you've heard this before…

"The whole structure of US Soccer is wrong. The best players are priced out at an early age!"

"We should be more like Brazil!"

"We should be more like Germany!"

"We should be more like the Dutch!"

No, really, stop me!

"The US will never be good at soccer because our dependence on organization and athleticism stifle creativity and cunning!"

AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

…there's more…

"Americans will never embrace soccer, because Americans hate whiners and cheaters. At least in MLS they can take a hit!"

"The US beat Spain in the Confederations Cup. Spain won the World Cup. Ipso facto, we are the best team in the world."

"We need to develop technical skills to hang with the big boys."

"If soccer is going to be the number one sport in America, it really needs to target urban minorities, like basketball."

The inevitable conclusion of these sentiments is confusion.

We are a soccer nation of contradiction. We are a soccer nation on the fence. We are a soccer nation with a thousand captains and a thousand directions, but only one ship.

When will we stop screaming for a "respected" foreign coach to lead our soccer nation and become respected coaches that lead our communities?

When will we summon the gumption to get up from our flat screens with surround sound and join a local league or pick-up in the park?

When will we stop grumbling to ourselves or in internet forums about poor media coverage and write letters, make phone calls, and start our own publications!

Initiative, innovation, personal responsibility – these are ideals that Americans have found instructive and self-assuring since "No Taxation Without Representation."

Nike's "Don't Tread On Me" ad campaign is indeed an ad campaign, but it has successfully woven itself into the stadium culture of US Soccer because it harkens to these core principles that continue to inspire Americans (and indeed the globe).

Since post-industrial societies emerged the siren calls of specialization and compartmentalization have led us further and further down a path where personal responsibility and esprit de corps no longer speak their common language.

No, this isn't covert manipulation funded by the "Tea Party" movement (soccer is a communist sport anyway!). It's a sincere call to action, from a sincere American, sincerely concerned about the future of the American game and "American exceptionalism" that has gone astray.

Somewhere between the "Euro-snobs" and the "old school" jingoist, there is a place for soccer in America. Finding this balance is our most relevant struggle.

It absolutely matters whether Gulati brings Bob Bradley back for another four years. It absolutely matters if the next national team coach is Jürgen Klinsmann or Otto Rehhagel or Sven-Göran Eriksson or…Marcelo Bielsa.

Whoever the "man in-charge" is will undoubtedly shape the immediate prospects of American soccer development and success in World Cup 2014, 2018, and 2022. However, the FUTURE of American soccer lies elsewhere…

In our willingness to patiently and enthusiastically explain the rules and technicalities of the game to the casual fan who will add his voice and his wallet to the American cause (whether it be professional or national team)…

In our willingness to leave our TIVO dormant at least one night a week and take a ball to the park, court, or field to juggle and invite the curiosity and imagination of children to come alive in the game…

In our willingness to accept the challenge of coaching and coaching education in order to raise the overall level of play in the American game, despite the fact that there are few overt immediate rewards…

More so than anything, the future of American soccer lies in our willingness to take ownership of this game and this country and develop our own models and mentalities. We have worn the badge of the "melting pot" for nearly a century, but neglected the difficult work of trial and error to arrive at the steady position atop the fence where the grass is greenest on both sides.

Go ahead, write me off as just another voice in the cacophony of rhetoric.

But for me the discussion does not end or begin here.

This medium is just one tool used in the foundry of a proactive mold, in addition to the pick-up soccer that will be played at Underhill and Cedar Rose Park and the U-9 coaching that will take place off Sacramento Street, and the 7v7 league play off Gilman Street, and… and…

And you?
Jon G
Monday August 2, 2010 1:15 pm
Great article. People who are complaining about your political comments are nothing more than overly sensitive.
Renato
Tuesday July 27, 2010 12:25 pm
Great Op-Ed Jack, Keep em Coming. I hope to God we never Hire Svennies, he was a failure in Mexico and a pretty epic failure in IC. Also why is everyone getting so offended? First I think you're reading too much into it. His article clearly lists the differing and contradicting viewpoints that I'm sure we all heard while the World Cup was going on.

Not only did I hear many Tea partiers say that Soccer was socialist sport, but I also heard many ESPN commentators say that Soccer was a sport that did not reward you for being better because you could get by with a draw. Also we are a soccer site first, if you're going to get hurt because someone has a differing political viewpoint, all I can say is: grow up.

That being said; What the hell, Jack? I love Primera!
Donnell Suggs
Monday July 26, 2010 2:43 pm
kudos to Mr. Rozier for an excellent article. I'm a sportswriter (Atlnat voice newspaper, Slamonline.com, Slam magazine) and have to admit a bit of jealousy in part because i wish i wrote this inspiring piece before you did. Excellent work. this August will be my first playing in an Over 30-soccer league in Henry County, Georgia and I cannot wait to get out there. I practice with my small sons all of the time (along with basketball and baseball, come on, I'm an American after all!) and love the game. The best point you made was clear and precise: we, americans, should get off the couch and get out there PLAY the game or COACH it or WATCH IT LIVE etc. Oh and by the way, a message to my fellow Soccer lovers and YA site commentors: Politics and Soccer do mix, those who don't see that probably don't watch much "football" aka soccer. Keep up the great work Mr. Rozier. Spot on!
coyb
Saturday July 24, 2010 2:56 pm
when did this site turn from a soccer site to a political forum. if you want to get offended by every little comment that you disagree with then go to a different site. great article keep em coming

Jeff
already
Saturday July 24, 2010 10:54 am
You're right, Tommy. This isn't the place for politics. As you mature, you'll realize that, and come to understand that real patriots are giving this president a chance.
SuperChivo
Friday July 23, 2010 11:57 pm
I like to wear soccer t-shirts to the park or the gym to show love for the sport and every now and then I'll get a comment or see another guy wearing a soccer shirt and start up a conversation. I think these moments are important to the sport. Also, I've learned a lot about the Mexican league talking to guys here and in turn have spoken with them about Mexican players in the MLS.
paul lorinczi
Friday July 23, 2010 9:01 am
Interesting post.

Here in Indianapolis, a program was put into place to introduce soccer to the elementary schools in IPS. There is an active program running every spring that gives kids access to the game after school at low cost. The intention is to go year around and put a futsal league in place.

As kids move through the system. There should be year around soccer available to middle school kids to help prepare them for high school. As kids get to high school, the quality of play will improve.

It is a work in progress, but the vision is that it is the future of soccer in America. Schools already have the infrastructure in place to support sports. Communities in the US affiliate themselves with their local schools. Here in Indianapolis, the Indy Star covers high school soccer, but not club soccer.

It will be interesting to see what we can accomplish in the next couple of years.
Bryan Dunham
Thursday July 22, 2010 11:54 pm
Jack,

Thanks. Great piece. I think your greatest point is the idea of going out and coaching or explaining the game to casual fans. I will say that I invited anyone and every I could to watch any game during the World Cup. I enjoyed seeing gain some understand. By the end of the tournament they were upset at the player who would dive and shout "hes offside" before the whistle was blown. That gave me alot of joy. When we all were watching the USA v England game and Dempsey scored I went crazy! No one else really even reacted. However they all went nuts along with me when Donovan scored against Algeria. But probably the most indicative moment of my friends growth in their positive view of the sport in the USA was when we lost to Ghana. They were so upset but were already talking about players who would be around in 2014 and who might be our coach. USA!

Bryan
Tommy B
Thursday July 22, 2010 7:22 pm
Good article .... until you had to bring politics and the Tea Party into it. You'll learn, as you mature, that this is not the appropriate place to air your dissatisfaction for the patriots that are trying to save this Republic from the socialists inhabiting our Capital. Stick to football, where your expertise lies. Seriously though, you're a nice addition to YA.
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