Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Hopeless American View

Well I am back and mostly recovered from my experiences at the Region I tournament in Lancaster Pennsylvania over the last week or so. There are several stories to share, some funny, some very serious. The first one however was an indication of just how myopic the American view of the sport is.

Here is the scenario:
I was asked to assess a variety of matches over the week. This particular one was a "boys" U-19 match between Eastern PA and Virginia. As some may know these teams are tremendously skilled, and I took note of at least one US National pool player. Also noteworthy was the fact that the referee was a National candidate.

After about 19', play was excellent and moving at a breakneck pace with the referee doing a tremendous job in understanding that the players were there to play, and managed them to perfection in my estimation. In that time the referee had (2) match critical decisions, managed through what could have been a caution, and each team had no fewer than (3) goal scoring opportunities each.

As I was standing there enjoying the match, a parent of one of the teams came by and asked me, "Is there any score?" I replied "Yes, it is currently nil, nil."

He stopped and look perplexed for a second and reflected by stating, "Good, I haven't missed anything" as he strode away.

Wow, I thought to myself. With all that had happened in the match so far, to say they haven't missed anything was stunning. It demonstrated how so many see the game today, any game today, as the only excitement is scoring.

I firmly believe that is why ice hockey has poor acceptance as well, and frankly if it was not for the fights, would be on par with soccer in the US.

Imagine if we counted a goal for 7 points, instead of 1? Can you see the headline? New England Revolution 14, Chicago Fire 7. On some level that does seem more appealing I guess. Maybe not.

I suppose that's why no one likes chess either, or an even better sports analogy is bicycle racing. I mean, most of the world this month is watching the Tour de France (go Team Radio Shack!), and when I bring it up to most, I get a blank look expressing, "What are you talking about?"

Maybe it's me ... I guess I have patience for matches that have no scoring or immediate results. Maybe I just really enjoy the tactics and strategy that go into a match, or something like the TDF. It is truly amazing what goes into such a competition (just look below or here at a Team Radio Shack meeting), and to dismiss it without appreciation is incredibly short sighted, and I hate to say, when it comes to sports, incredibly American.


  1. I couldn't agree more. I confess it took me a long time to get into baseball but I eventually did. Then my father in-law said during the World Cup "this game is boring, it's binary, full of ones and zeros". I was blown away. If a shortstop makes a great stab at a ball, throws to first who then throws to second for the double play, we can all agree it was a great play. And guess what? No score was added to the board so I guess it didn't happen.
    My theory is Americans can't concentrate for a whole 45 minutes without a break to see and appreciate soccer.

  2. Tim,

    Not a bad theory at all. I do wonder if it is as long as 45 minutes however. Most research points to about 20 minutes for sustained concentration ... putting soccer in some jeopardy in that regard.

    Not surprisingly, looking at other sports, there are other "natural breaks" (i.e. scoring, commercials, or lengthy stoppages) that help what would likely be the monotony of a long match.

    I don't think the issue is novel as the US has tinkered with bigger goals, timeouts, and other mechanisms to increase scoring and speed up the game for some time.

    To no avail however, and frankly I am okay with that as I like THE game, just the way it is.