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In Response to Keith Olbermann’s ‘How to Make Soccer Work in America’ Rant [VIDEO]

keith olbermann 600x328 In Response to Keith Olbermanns How to Make Soccer Work in America Rant [VIDEO]

ESPN mouthpiece Keith Olbermann went on a rant last night discussing his seven ideas of how to make soccer work in America. Here’s my response to his tirade.

Soccer already works in America. We don’t need someone from mainstream media to fix anything. The sport is fine as it is, and continues to grow at an accelerated pace. There’s a reason why the sport is growing in popularity. It works. It’s not broken, and doesn’t need to be changed by people who don’t care about the sport. Soccer has already succeeded in this country, and will continue to succeed long after Olbermann retires.

However, I’d like to respond directly to his points:

1. Stop imitating the English

Surprisingly, I’m actually in agreement with most of Olbermann’s points here. I prefer to say “soccer,” “field,” “game” and other American expressions for the Beautiful Game instead of Britishisms.

But with one difference.

I realize that the correct American grammar is to refer to a country as a singular rather than a plural, so it would be (in American English) “Belgium has…” as Olbermann argues. However, it sounds ridiculous when the nation’s name ends with an “s.” In the example of the teams competing in this World Cup, it sounds and reads much better to say:

“Netherlands have 11 players” instead of “Netherlands has 11 players”

“Bosnia and Herzegovina have 11 players” instead of “Bosnia and Herzegovina has 11 players”

2. Grow a great American play-by-play man

Mainstream America wouldn’t realize it, but we already have great American soccer commentators. However, both FOX Sports and ESPN choose not to use them. The leading contenders for the crown of great American soccer commentators are John Strong, Phil Schoen, Glenn Davis and Steve Cangialosi. All four of them are qualified and would fit in well. However, FOX continues to shove Gus Johnson down our throats (watch out America during World Cup 2015, 2018, 2019 and 2022), while ESPN has gone with their proven formula.

Personally, I don’t think Ian Darke should be commentating USA games. I know that’s sacrilegious to some US soccer fans, but I haven’t been impressed by Darke’s calls of the USA games during World Cup 2014. I’ve found him to be more irritating than helpful. His calls on the Clint Dempsey and John Brooks goals in the game against Ghana were superb, but since then he hasn’t been on top of his game. He made several mistakes regarding the goal difference scenario in the USA-Germany game (including saying that Ghana scoring against Portugal was a good thing for the USA). And I found his commentary during the USA-Belgium game to be irritating and biased.

3. Lay off the elitism

Soccer in the United States is already the fourth biggest sport in the country. We don’t care or don’t need people like you to love soccer.

4. Calm down

Agreed.

5. Do something about the MLS team names

The same arguments that Olbermann uses about MLS team names can be made about American sports team names. The Boston Red Sox? Miami Heat? New York Knicks? Washington Redskins? Chicago White Sox? Come on! Give me a break.

6. Stay away from FIFA

Agreed.

7. Won’t somebody think of the children?

The second most popular sport among those under the age of 24 is soccer. Video games are part of the reason for that, and soccer will become more popular than baseball soon. Guaranteed.

Olbermann’s advice to make soccer “more American” is ill-advised. The sport doesn’t need to be made more American to become more popular than it is. It’s working fine without the advice of Mr Olbermann.

Mobile app users, watch the video here.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013. View all posts by Christopher Harris →
This entry was posted in Leagues: Major League Soccer, World Cup, World Cup 2014. Bookmark the permalink.

60 Responses to In Response to Keith Olbermann’s ‘How to Make Soccer Work in America’ Rant [VIDEO]

  1. El Payaso says:

    There was an error in your headline. FIXED: How To Make Football Work In America.

  2. Carlos says:

    Gus Johnson’s reaction to being namechecked here: “Arrrrrrrghhhhhhhhh!!”

  3. christian says:

    Don’t feed the troll and don’t tell me how to enjoy what I enjoy.

  4. Harry Cee says:

    Naming of teams… yeah and we are seeing the folly of the naming of the Redskins is finally taking fruit.

  5. Cantona says:

    I agree and disagree with some points here

    Imitating the English? I just wish USA commentators would quit making up terminology.. Aka Gus Johnson.. Be authentic .. Nothing wrong in using proper terminology

    Grow an American pxp man? Yes for the domestic MLS I think the USA should but he should cut his teeth on regular season games.. But right now to grow the game have the best in the business call the game.. Unfortunately they are not American. Phil Schoen and john strong, steve cangliosi are not the answer, they are not at the standards as say any TWI commentators.

    Plain and simple football needs to so what is has been doing, be shown at the highest level with respect and seriousness to the sport. NBC ha done it right, same as ESPN, Fox of course has digressed and Bein Sport is a mix match of quality. Hopefully the rating and complaint will continue to drive broadcasters to better quality

    There will always be a segment of the USA population that will hate soccer…you will never change them.. Que Fox News Anne Coulter, Sean Hannity… But Hopefully time will win them over

    Cantona—

    • Taylor says:

      Agree with the last one: there will always be a segment of population that hate soccer (boring, low scoring, no strategy, flopping, etc). Let them be and let us continue enjoy it. No need to preach why they need to like soccer.

      We have fun even without them.

    • christa reisinger says:

      Agree and disagree on various points…but how about applying some of what he said to the commentators on Golf. Do we really have to have the Brits commentating on tournaments held in the US?
      Sometimes the accent is a little overdone and annoying

      • Smokey Bacon says:

        Faldo won 6 majors including the Masters 3 times. I think CBS uses him because he is qualified to analyze professional golfers, not because of his accent.

    • Ben Myers says:

      Honestly, the commentary of the MLS broadcasters is putrid. So were/are Taylor Twellman and Lexi Lalas during the World Cup. It’s like they really don’t know what to say.

      • Wongo1 says:

        That is because Lallas’ only claim to football is that he played at a time when the USA sucked so he became famous. If he tried to get into the team today he would not be close. When it come to analysis he I crap.

  6. Bob says:

    The problem is that promising athletes in the middle school/high school years choose”traditional”sports with high payout potential (basketball, American football). I propose a draft lottery whereby top athletes are blindly assigned to a sport in high school, where would we be if LeBron had drawn the soccer ticket. //end sarcasm

  7. Cantona says:

    Regarding Naming of MLS teams.. The is should find a connection to the cities they are in… Quit trying to mimic European or Mexican teams… Real salt lake hilariously come to mind.

    The cosmos is a great example connecting your team to the city.

    Cantona—

  8. Tony Butterworth says:

    I agree that Darke has been poor this World Cup.

    There are World Cups in 2015 and 2019 ???? LOL

    Olberman is just trolling as said. Even if all these things changed, most are so minor it makes no difference.

    We had 250 people at my work watching the game yesterday, I’ve never seen anything like that for other sports or events.

  9. R.O says:

    Chris:

    As I didn’t see K Olbermann’s piece, I can only comment on your response.

    I’m not sure about the “Stop imitating the English” part and having great play by play man.

    I like Phil Schoen but he’s not Derek Rae. Does the US media have good Football (Soccer) announcers, a few but not enough and while I certainly haven’t heard all the MLS TV announcers, those that I have were poor.

    Part of the issue is that the announcers try to imitate or emulate other US sports when announcing soccer games. It doesn’t work.

    Team names, aaah, been there done that. Sucked (i.e. Clash).

    IMO what is needed for “How to make Soccer work in America (USA, as “America is a continent not a country) is to make positive improvement in MLS.

    I was a strong supporter of MLS from it’s start till about 2006 and still want to see it be successful, just don’t go to games anymore and rarely watch it on TV.

    The game play has to improve. IMO MLS games, tactics and play have taken a step backwards. It’s not an open style moving forward game. Too much negativity via fouling and sloppy play. I understand not ever single MLS game will be wow or great game but too many are poor with lack of quality.

    Work on that part of the league and I believe the game (Soccer, football, futebol, fussball, etc) will more fully embraced in the USA.

  10. Lawrence Dockery says:

    Glenn Davis is not a good commentator by any stretch of the imagination. His Dynamo broadcasts are awful and he did a USA World Cup Qualifier in 2012 and he kept changing everybody’s names.

  11. CTBlues says:

    The only thing I want changed in soccer in the removal of stoppage time and the implementation of a ref to stop the clock. There was a single minute of stoppage time added at the end of extra time and Courtious held it for 30 seconds. I always hear people complaining about time wasting during the regular season guess what if you stop the clock you can’t waist time.

  12. Cody (#2) says:

    The thing about Keith Oldman, Ann Coulter, pretty much anyone on Fox News, & to an extent Alexi Lalas…. Is that they are paid to fabricate & express extremist controversial viewpoints. I hate to use this term, but they are “heel” journalists & commentators. They are villain talking heads.

    The best thing about these type of personalities, is that when they stop getting attention, they are no longer useful to a network, and they go away.

  13. R.O says:

    A little “off topic” but sort of related. On ESPNFC a piece is posted that FIFA “hints at” future WC being played in the US.

    What I found interesting was FIFA noting that: “The level of support in America has been remarkable, breaking all records, ….” and

    “What we see in the United States is staggering, FIFA president Sepp Blatter has been equally impressed by the American reaction.”

    Did IQ’s drop dramatically since 1994? The 94 WC held in the US set all kinds of attendance records and was the 1st WC up until then to make a profit.

    People in the US were watching, attending games, etc, etc.

    Now FIFA says that the level of support is remarkable? WT? For an event such as a WC the support has always been excellent as was in 1994.

    Do the FIFA bosses have memory loss or what?

  14. Taylor says:

    One thing I want to add: Do not be greedy.

    I hope the broadcast rightholders are not greedy by charging exorbitant prices to watch EPL, Bundesliga, etc.

    Don’t let soccer have the same fate as boxing that you have to pay a lot of money (PPV) to watch big fights.

  15. IanCransonsKnees says:

    Rodney Marsh was on Talksport being interviewed about the state of soccer generally in the US, as someone who’s lived there and been around American soccer for 30 years.

    One comment that struck me is the claim that in America Soccer is seen a

    • IanCransonsKnees says:

      apologies for this and I wish there was an edit button – back to my comment

      One comment that struck me is the claim that in America Soccer is seen as an elitist white sport such as golf or tennis, whilst in other countries it’s the poorer communities that have taken it to greater heights.

      Do you think this is a fair claim?

      • R.O says:

        Yes and no. IMO it’s seen as a “White sport”, not necessarily “elitist” because of the thought of “Soccer moms” which are suburban White middle class women and their childminder.

        Because Soccer camps and travel teams are (were?) predominately made up of “White middle class suburban” people.

        That’s what the media latched on to write and say why (or why not) soccer is big among kids and teens.

        Yet in cities with a Latin population or other “non white”, football (soccer)local leagues and teams have been around a long time and played, it’s just the media didn’t write about them or care.

        The other thing, most of the soccer talent coming into the MLS is via College Draft and that is currently perceived as “white middle class”

        But soccer has been played for years in cities and communities via local leagues that had nothing to do with “white” or elitist.

        Its just the media and in general non soccer fans didn’t care about them. To them that was something that “Mexicans” or “central Americans” played.

        It wasn’t viewed as the same in some places where there were Italian local leagues or other European ancestry leagues.

      • CTBlues says:

        I think it depends on what part of the country or even what part of a state you are from. If you have a high population of immigrants from Central and South America soccer is not seen that way but in the wealthier and urban centers where the “poor” people’s game is usually basketball and soccer is pay to play yes it is seen as a sport for the people with money but I don’t think to the extent of say hockey and lacrosse is.

      • Brian says:

        Yes, it is a fair claim that soccer is popular in suburban white communities and was first played mostly in private schools. That is changing slowly especially with immigrants playing the sport in the inner cities.

        The biggest problem is still that an aspiring athlete will be swayed more towards basketball, baseball or football because of the money he can earn in those sports as compared to soccer.

      • Wongo1 says:

        Yes it is seen as an elitist sport in the USA because of the access to pitches. In the USA it is difficult to have a simple pick up game. In Barbados where I grew up we played almost anywhere, in the street, in the neighbors yard, in our yard, on the beach you name a place we played. That is just not really possible here.

  16. JonBremen says:

    Asking the US to “stay away from FIFA” makes no sense. It would be like asking American olympians to stay away from the IOC. The US can’t function as a rogue soccer entity outside FIFA jurisdiction. That’s silly and unworkable.

    The proper response is to work to reform FIFA. The US media can expose what goes on at FIFA and force reforms. Over time, the US has to aim to have some Americans in high places within FIFA in order to institute better governance.

    Also, ESPN uses English Play by Play announcers because they are simply some of the best around. Olbermann has no idea what he is talking about. It’s not as if ESPN decided to only use Brits. They’ve used Americans previously (JP Dellacamera, Glenn Davis, etc), but they were not good enough. When good American announcers develop, there’ll be no reason for ESPN not to use them.

    • Flyvanescence says:

      US Soccer is just as corrupt as FIFA (maybe even more, shocking as that sounds). They let MLS and the other leagues pretty much do whatever they want with basically no governance from USSF. Imagine if that was the case in England.

      American and CONCACAF officials have been caught in corruption scandals in FIFA also.

      Serious case of needing to take the plank out of one’s own eye before removing the splinter from another’s.

  17. Spencer Johnson says:

    My thoughts:
    I wish ESPN had chosen Martin Tyler, I personally think he’s the best commentator out there. ESPN just chose Darke because of his call of the Algeria game in which many new(er) soccer fans connected with him.
    In terms of growing the game, the only way to get our young kids to choose soccer is for them to think there’s a chance to get rich by playing soccer IN America. Of course if they’re good enough they can get paid in Europe now, but what if you’re just a mediocre player trying to make a team? MLS players that aren’t superstars get paid less than a football player making the league minimum. Up the pay and more people will see soccer as a viable option as a pro career. Tell a kid he can stay close to home and culture and still get paid like he would if he played football or basketball and we’ll see a difference.

    • rkujay says:

      Regarding getting paid. England not Great Britain just England supports four pro divisions of 20 teams mol each. Throwball, and baseball have what, two to four hundred players? A kid could play anywhere in Europe, Asia, North or South America and get paid. Not superstar money by world class standards like Bale, Ronaldo, etc, but get paid to play and earn a living. Want a huge paycheck? Be a superstar.

      • Chris O says:

        Just to clarify, England has another couple of layers of pro divisions below League Two, as well as (I think) three semi-pro divisions. A team I followed basically had to start back at the bottom after it was officially disbanded.

        Let’s keep in mind that NFL players, when the league was in its first years (founded 1920), likewise were not paid well. The 1958 NFL Championship is what everyone points to as the growth point. MLS will get there, it’s only our 19th year.

        I have to agree with the elitism charge, but it’s not a majority of fans that engage in this. The fans that do act elitist are the athletic equivalent of theatre geeks, acting like they’re in on a joke others couldn’t possibly understand. Get over yourselves.

        Flopping does quite a bit of harm to the general perception of soccer. Players and pundits alike praise the MLS approach to it and want to see fines levied in other leagues. Meanwhile, the NY Times prints an article saying we need to learn how to do it better. Out of touch with soccer fans and the public, I’d say.

        • Wongo1 says:

          Chris while we do not like divers show me a sport that does not have it’s version of “cheating”. NBA flipper, NFL guys who hit late to poke eyes, Rugby guys who bite in the scrum etc. etc.

          People who claim they dislike football because of diving are simply looking for an excuse or simply following the ideas of one of the idiot talking heads.

  18. Iancransonsknees says:

    By the sounds of it ESPN should move heaven and earth to get James Richardson to front their coverage.

    It’s a scandal he’s not more mainstream.

    That man had one of the best jobs in the world fronting Football Italia on Ch4 over here.

  19. Total Relegation @totalrelegation says:

    I agree on most of these points. USA soccer fans are the biggest posers.

    1. Stop wearing scarves
    2. Stop signing songs
    3. Stop attaching FC

  20. Smokey Bacon says:

    This knucklehead can barely hold down a job at any network for more than five minutes. Who cares what he thinks? Soccer is already working in America. Could it be better? Sure. Does it need Americanizing? No.

    Now shut up and go away.

  21. Frank says:

    How arrogant to suppose that the world’s most popular game should change just to suit Americans! (Hey, I know, why not just come up with a few soccer reality tv episodes? That would do it.) Maybe it’s mainstream Americans that need the changing. And as far as making things popular goes: why does anybody think Olbermann is any sort of expert on this?

    If people can’t appreciate “The Beautiful Game” the way it is, it’s their loss.

  22. When it comes down to it Olbermann is a primadona and insecure. Read what his ex-collegues think of him at various networks. And on MSNBC he would do nothing but exaggerate things and completely skew the words of those he covered. I should point out I am a liberal who once worked as a staffer for the Democratic Party and yet I could not stand him.

    He is largely ignorant about any number of subjects, foreign policy being one which builds into his complete and fundamental misunderstanding of this sport. He claims to be an open-minded liberal but does nothing but trash this sport and people who like sometimes in a psuedo-racist ways at the same time as he advocates open-mindedness. The funny thing is that Olbermann is completely aloof from the base of people who watched his MSNBC program and totally insulated from changes in the country. That’s what being arrogant, insecure and sitting in an ivory tower does for you.

    I have zero use for the man. Thinks he is the second coming of Edward R. Murrow yet gives nothing but ignorant tirades on air.

    • jtm371 says:

      Kartik
      Finally something we can agree on who gives a rats ass what olberturd thinks of the WC. Talk about someone out of touch with the common man. Like I said before it is their lose and we will continue enjoying the game we love. :) CHEERS!

  23. Guy says:

    The idea that soccer has to be “fixed” to work in the U.S. is the mindset of folks who don’t “get” the game in the first place and never will. I have no delusions about the sport becoming like the NFL or NBA, but it doesn’t have to. It has enjoyed steady growth and will continue to do so. That’s good enough for me and I enjoy the agony of those going down in the quicksand railing against it. Olberman and Coulter should have to be married to each other. What a dream match! :-)

    • jtm371 says:

      We know coulter would wear the pants in that happy union. I think that is what you call a pox on both your houses.

  24. Steve Cangelosi has grown into a fantastic Soccer Announcer for Red Bulls games and when he gets his chances for NBCSN on MLS or Fox Sports 2/Fox Soccer plus for CCL games, he also has done a wonderful job.

    He should be the next one to call MLS & US Soccer games in the future.

  25. distin says:

    Wow Keith Olbermann. Be less English? Only in the US could someone so untalented have a voice. Go to England Keith and be more American see how far you get. Do you think when Christopher Colombus arrived people told him to be less Spanish.
    If you “don’t care” then shut up and talk about something you know about, like Keith Olbermann.

  26. Mikael says:

    As a European I’m curious – do people in the US think this guy (Olbermann) is funny? To me he’s just kind of being a douche.

  27. Pakapala says:

    I do agree with Olbermann and Christopher on the first 2 points:

    1) It is OK to be and use American expressions when it come to talking about the game. Every country around the world not only embrace the game brought by the Brits but make it their own by fusing in their own vernacular the spanish way of calling the game vary depending of if you’re in Spain, Mexico, Argentina, etc…
    So to the calling of the game varies depending on which English country you find yourself in, whether it’s England, Ireland, Australia, Nigeria, Jamaica, United States. Why some soccer fans get made about that is beyond me?

    2) Commentators: to me that goes without saying. In fact we go so crazy with the obsession with brittish announcers/commentators that some fans would rave about some of the worst announcers from across the pond (ask some English fans about those announcers and they’ll tell you how awful they are).

  28. David Frazier says:

    I am 60 years of age. Images of guys like Kareem, Willis Reed, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and other homo sapien-giganticus  gladiators helped define my education during my formative years. The “inside” battles that they waged left a lasting impression on me that anything in life that is worth achieving often requires a great deal of physical and/or mental strength, concentration, and endurance. To be sure, the main three American sports validate and reinforce this impression.

    But there is a more basic reason why soccer will never succeed as a major spectator sport in the U.S. The very nature of the game is passing and trotting, passing and running among the players, with as little physical contact between the players as possible–at least
    in theory. In football physical contact is the name of the game, and in NBA basketball rough physical contact is as common as dunking the ball. Thus, where soccer promotes a European collectivist or socialist form of action, the big three sports in the U.S. promote ruggedness, aggressiveness, and one-on-one achievement–very similar to what is necessary to succeed in a capitalist society.

    A final reason is due to the fact soccer actually punishes hustle/initiative, and encourages lackadaisical competition, thereby making the game completely un-American. Of all of the questionable rules in sports, the off-sides rule in soccer has to be the worst. Any soccer purist will tell you that the rule is actually designed and intended to limit scoring! WTF! Only a European socialist-egalitarian culture that has no connection to reality could create such a stupid rule! Imagine basketball without the fast break, or football without the receiver sprinting and maneuvering trying to get behind the cornerback in order to receive the forward pass for the long touchdown throw. Yet, these efforts in individual hustle and achievement would be called back for an “off-sides” penalty in soccer. Amazing!

    Soccer is a great game for young children to participate in playing. It does promote running, kicking, and learning to participate with others. However, from an American sports fan’s perspective, the
    excitement of watching a soccer game can only be matched with the intensity of watching paint dry.

    • supertrev says:

      “the big three sports in the U.S. promote ruggedness, aggressiveness, and one-on-one achievement”
      Are you including Baseball in this assessement? Standing in the outfield chewing tobacco while waiting for the odd fly ball does not promote anything except cancer!

  29. john marzan says:

    how to americanize soccer: NO OFFSIDE RULES!

  30. john marzan says:

    how to reform soccer:

    1) increase substitutions from 3 to 5
    2) have cooling break timeouts

  31. john marzan says:

    Guess Where Mexico’s World Cup Fans Came From?

    http://www.allanwall.info/mexican-soccer-fans-flew-to-brazil-world-cup-from-mexico-and/

    The Mainstream Media has trumpeted the fact that so many Americans bought tickets to the World Cup and thus is becoming a “soccer nation:’

    But which team were these “Americans” rooting for?

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