ESPN The Magazine just came out and in that cover we see none other than LA Laker star Kobe Bryant wearing the blaugrana colors. Every time an athlete, actor, actress, or person in the media express either an interest or fanaticism towards a team, its fans’ chests expand with pride. It is the nature of the beast. In the United States, when a basketball player appears on the cover of a magazine with the kit of one of the biggest clubs in the world…well there’s reason to be taken aback.
How could that be, many could say? Well it has happened, but it wasn’t something so mainstream as it is now. In the process ESPN has righted the ship 180 degrees since the “Dave O’Brien Experiment” that the “petulant little clique” had to endure. This cover as well as their incredible job of making American fans give a damn about an England-less Euro2008 has been nothing short of awesome. Kobe has never been shy to express to people his worldly views and that growing up in another country was vital while growing up.
The only thing is that Kobe is not your average American sports athlete. He has a wider perspective of the world. Remember he spent part of his life living in Italy while his father played basketball there. He speaks Italian fluently, he’s cultured, he absorbs other cultures like no other American athlete since… Jordan.If you don’t believe me…
This cover is probably the statement that soccer needed in this country and there is probably no better person to make it than one of Ronaldinho’s closest friends. That picture of him with a soccer ball could have more of an effect on the game than an unmotivated David Beckham could have done here in the US. Kobe has told kids and others that teetered on the notion of playing soccer that it’s ok to do so. Soccer is cool. Mad cool points for that move.
Major props to ESPN for doing this spread as well as the No longer can Jim Rome say that America hates soccer. The marketing of the sport has finally taken off its training wheels and had the ability to reach an audience that has been fed the fear of something foreign since the Baby Boomer era.
Just recently Mike Tyson was seen walking around with an Argentina jersey signed by none other than El Diego himself. I was wondering if Kurt Angle had the balls to tell Mike Tyson that soccer is a girl’s game in the US.
Even the White House is “Blowing Bubbles” as President Barack Obama also pledged allegiance to West Ham United.
Obama mentioned in an interview with The Sun that he was a sports fan and followed footy when his “schedule allowed”. Some might have thought that he was doing this in an effort to win over Europe for when he eventually won the presidency. I think he is a true and true soccer fan. I mean it would have been easy to just go and say “Yeah, I’m root for The Manchester Uniteds or Glasgow United.” Or maybe he just happened to watch Green Street Hooligans. Hmmm, Harvard guy rooting for West Ham?
One of the best articles I read regarding this issue was at Soccer Culture, soccer is here to stay. They were oh so right when they talk about the game attracting everyone from the most passerby of fans to the most passionate being attracted by the game. Yes, we may question the reasons why some have a sudden interest or an a Viggo Mortensen-rabidness for a team like San Lorenzo in Argentina.
Yes, whether you like it or not, soccer is officially part of the American culture, ladies and gentleman. This wouldn’t have happened over a decade ago. Is it at the level of “hand-ball” (you know the one with the helmets and pointy ball). Hell, no. It’s not at the level of basketball or baseball, but it is sure giving hockey a run for its money. One thing is for sure, between this cover and the growth of the sport itself, there is no stopping it in the US.
Oh, God would I love to see Jim Rome’s sorry ass cringing noe next to Kurt Angle! Why because as much as they can spew their venom, they will never be able to get rid of the game now.