Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Those Guys Have All The Fun - Soccer Edition, V
The next to final mention of soccer in the ESPN history book is on page 715, courtesy of writer/personality Bill Simmons.
Now, I can appreciate that Simmons is a new fan to the sport of soccer, but honestly, nothing makes me roll my eyes more than a) Those who act as if Americans, not English, invented the word "soccer" for the game b) Those who act as if the sport needs to change to appeal to Americans.
Anyway, the mention in the book is when Simmons makes a statement about something he said on a podcast done with SNL personality Seth Myers (who is a crush of mine, and not just because he's a trooper for soccer charity matches).
We were talking about soccer and I was talking about how they call exhibition games "friendlies" in soccer, and I had made some sort of joke like, 'Note to soccer: if you want people to think you're a little less gay, don't call exhibition games "friendlies."'
I didn't hear the podcast, but if Myers laughed at a joke this lame from Simmons, I've lost respect for him. (Meanwhile, soccer rolled over, scratched itself, read the memo from Simmons and responded thusly, "Note to Simmons: if you want people to think you're actually funny, stick to Karate Kid jokes instead of stuff about how the oldest game in town has to change to please you or other newbie American soccer fans.")
Turns out this soccer mention in the book isn't really about the beautiful game, but rather, ESPN censorship. Not of the lameness of the Simmons joke, sadly.
The final coverage of soccer in the ESPN tome is where Landon Donovan finally makes a statement. Depressingly, it's on page 719, because yes, that Simmons anecdote actually serves as the lead-in to the tale of ESPN's 2010 World Cup coverage. Before we hear from Donovan, there's some fun stats on the impressive World Cup viewing numbers and a bit from Ian Darke, the English commentator for some of the USA's World Cup games, about how he was asked by ESPN to do the World Cup because he was an EPL announcer. Donovan took the view that ESPN helped promote the USA team, and he was grateful for that.
ESPN has the ability to market and push things just because of their resources, but the passion and the creativity really struck me.
Still, the YouTube video Donovan mentioned as being the memorable result of his goal against Algeria, that was an organic, original moment, and, no disrespect to Darke intended, the emotions of the USA fans in those clips contrasted vividly against his own as a self-described "neutral". We'll never know if the whole thing would have hit another level of emotion if the call had been made by an announcer who personally cared about the USA advancing. Oh, wait, we do - here's Andres Cantor on the call. It's in Spanish, but the feeling transcends language.
So that's it for all the soccer in the book. I'm frankly surprised, given that Donovan gets three paragraphs in the entire 762 pages, that he made the cover.