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
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
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.
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