Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Not a defense, just an opinion

I don't mind the MLS All-Star game. I know that may not sound like a ringing endorsement of the event and it's not. I write this not to defend the league, because to me, liking the game is a matter of preference, like peanut butter. If one travels around the world at all, one realizes that outside of the U.S., most people really don't care for peanut butter.

I realize the All-Star game is similarly unique to American sports, but not really. Almost every league puts together a list at the end of the season that compiles the best players in a First XI. Fans can only imagine how such a squad would actually perform, though. Even FIFA has a World Cup team when that tournament ends that puts together the best participants on paper. The All-Star Game goes one step beyond that recognition and actually puts their team on the field for one game.
I think that's kind of exciting, even if the result is ultimately meaningless.
(Though anything that gets Chelsea fans tripping over themselves to tell everyone exactly how meaningless their 2005 loss to the MLS All-Stars was, can't be all bad).
West Ham isn't a great opponent, though. Honestly, I blame the turf. No one has said that Liverpool backed out of the All-Star game because of the field, but it remains a plausible theory. It is that much of a negative factor.
But it wasn't as if the game was going to be canceled just because the opponent wasn't really of superior caliber. That's what will make everyone appreciate the future matches versus AC Milan, Boca Juniors, Lyon, Bayern Munich and Everton.
Bringing in an outside opponent is also a great tip of the hat to the international aspect of the beautiful game.
I actually find the MLS All-Star Game format superior to that of the other U.S. sports. The East/West division in the NBA means some ultimate combinations never happen - Kobe isn't passing to Kevin Garnett, for example.
David Beckham with a cross to Juan Pablo Angel, though? Oh, yeah. Cuauhtemoc Blanco working a give and go with Landon Donovan? Money, honey. It's the best of the best in MLS and I think it's worth watching, even with griping about venue, schedule, and the travesty of Guillermo Barros Schelotto's exclusion.
Then again, my Brazilian friends think I'm crazy to like peanut butter.


Jon E said...

I'm with you, Andrea. I'm not gaga over the game, but I sorta like it. It seems to me as thought the people who are powerfully opposed to it are actually mad at something else about MLS (or their own lives). I'm sure a lot of people have a lot of different reasons, but it seems to me that many of them boil down to so many American soccer fans' defensiveness, to their fear that anything MLS does that the Prem doesn't do is somehow automatically embarrassing.

Even when the game itself is lame, seeing a lot of the league's best players together is interesting to a lot of people. So what if it's "meaningless" or "contrived"? All professional sports are contrived in the sense that they don't happen without massive amounts of planning and following totally invented rules. And all pro sports are meaningless when you compare them to, say, the Iraq occupation, the suffering of Zimbabweans, or the tens of millions of Americans without health insurance. Professional sports' only claim to meaning--other than providing jobs to athletes and the Chinese garment workers who make their replica kit--is entertaining people. And the all-star game entertains me.

Jim said...

jon could have not said it better. At the end of the day do we really need any professional sports in our lives in order to survive?

Why should people get bent out of shape over an All-Star game? As if it was insulting to something that should be held reverent (EPL). Give me a break.

It is entertainment pure and simple and there should be no "caste system" in place to say it is any worse than a game played during the regular season. It is just plain ole fun.

I listen to the so-called experts of the game on pod-casts and they criticize almost everything MLS. It is like they are analysts on Wall Street or something. As if their commentary really matters to how we live our lives. For one thing, they are not there if not for sport. They might be digging ditches otherwise.

Haz Sandwich said...

The All-star game is unique to American sports and has been losing it's novelty for quite some time. So much so that baseball even had to "make it count". The best players aren't always chosen, and the games themselves turn into a scrimmage match where nobody's trying (see; pro bowl).

As for jim, your first paragraph encompasses why the sport has not taken its rightful place in the U.S.; lack of passion.

A.C. said...

Another thing I do like about the game is how fans help to decide the players - that's a nice bit in interaction that allows those who follow the league to reward players. I'm still waiting, by the way, for the All-Star shocker - a developmental player getting the nod one day, earning more with his All-Star bonus than his regular salary.

Diane said...

I think its great because its fun, and because we simply don't get consistent enough football coverage here to get into the heads of people who aren't actively searching for it. I've only followed European and other leagues until recently and there are SO many more situations in which players are showcased in different groupings. Just a charity match, which includes players from different teams, gets as much coverage as this All-Star game.

Those "pure" leagues add on more events/cups/one-offs, etc, each season -- seemingly anything they can get a television contract for. You get to see a good deal of everyone. Everywhere.

Even the European TV ads featuring various mixes of players (sorted by sponsor of course) showing their stuff are great fun to watch. Then there's footy news all day that's filled with clips -- and during the off season you get blanket coverage of anyone who is worth spreading a rumor about.

In the U.S. you can barely see your local team on TV, let alone get a consistent look at the players here, or a feeling that football is a fun part of our culture.

Let it just be on, and be fun!

Anonymous said...

Great post with some fantastic comments. Part of the issue is the sophistication and worldliness that most American soccer fans like to attribute to themselves. In the end, it's just a game.

I am truly excited for the All-Star game, even with Schelotto getting snubbed.