There’s a great sense of pride in every community with local sports teams. As a California native I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to choose the colors I represent and the teams that I can call my own. There have been a few football teams that gained my fancy in their heyday, an angelic baseball team that has brought a championship my way, quacking ducks zipping across the ice, and a pair of basketball teams that reside in the same building. Unfortunately, day in and day out I have trouble professing my love for either.
But as I begin thinking about the local sports I follow there is one that lacks my commitment to it that truly deserves it. The LA Galaxy like any other elite sports organization has gone out of its way to attract and sign world renowned players to their roster. It wasn’t until the other day when I realized this as I purchased a Living Social deal, which promoted watching David Beckham and Landon Donovan playing against some of the best players in the world. I bought the deal. 1 ticket, 1 LA Galaxy shirt, beer and a hotdog all for $25 bucks.
As I sit and wait and do my homework on this team that I blindly know nothing about other than one of the superstars of American soccer is on the team (Landon Donovan), and the most recognizable name in futbol is also on the team (David Beckham). The rest is a learning experience that I will be sharing with the readers.
I have been versed in international futbol specializing in Latin American play for a while now. Now that there seems to be a rise in the visibility of the soccer teams within the United States, the way Americans view soccer is much different.
The sport is rising in the States and we are begging to see US games broadcasted on ESPN and other major stations now. The biggest push as of late has been the Premier leagues of Europe, but you can bet there will be some American soccer airing.
As a soccer fan and a fan of competition, American soccer is creating a lasting impression on me. Its growth will continue with me as I become a student of the game and will continue to fulfill my growing thirst for soccer. It begins at the local level, expands unto a community, and grows into a nation of soccer enthusiast.
March is one of the greatest sports months of the entire year with March Madness, the NFL offseason, MLB spring training, the NBA trade deadline, the NHL playoff push, the beginning of the NASCAR season, even the build up the Masters in the PGA. Amidst the swirl of sports in the air, as fans, I feel that we tend to lose ourselves in the fray of everything.
Todays society has taken a giant leap in the direction of social media, allowing the average fan to voice their opinion on a national platform at the moment something good or bad happens. Even I tend to let out my frustration in sports or even my rare celebrations (remember I am a Denver sports fan) on my twitter @vincesapienza - thanks for the follow. Unfortunately, with this gift many fans take it upon themselves to get violent with their words and tend to hurt others while voicing their dismay with 140 characters per tweet.
This is not the majority by any means. Every sports fan has had those feeling toward their favorite teams/players at one point or another, whether they tweet it, yell at the TV, argue with friends at a bar, or just scream into a pillow while they cry themselves to sleep and not talk to anyone for at least a week. What fans, again even myself at times, tend to forget is the fact that these athletes are not immortal. They have feelings, flaws, they get injured, and sometimes worse.
This leads me to the heart of my column. On Saturday Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba collapsed in the middle of his game against Tottenham after having what is believed to be a heart attack. Medics rushed onto the field trying incessantly to resuscitate him using mouth-to-mouth and then relying on a defibrillator to revive him. Muamba's heart was unable to beat for the first two hours, being supported by machines at a nearby hospital.
Muamba remains in the hospital and is currently in critical condition. It is events such as this that as fans we must stop what we are doing, re-evaluate what is truly important to us, and appreciate what these athletes do. Muamba, a 23-year-old
U-21 English footballer, has been a rising star for not just Bolton, but the English national team as well.
How many times have we heard or read about a high school football player collapsing due to dehydration, or the slew of hockey players that have passed in the last couple years? These kind of events make me realize, and should every other sports fan, that these million dollar men and women all have beating hearts, flaws, and imperfections.
"I hate Tom Brady, he is a pretty boy and I hope he gets hurt!"
This is an example and we have all done it. You never, deep down, want to see a player get injured or seriously hurt, and if you do then you should go get checked out by a therapist. This tragic event with Muamba is an example for all sports fans to cheer for your team and your players as opposed to rooting against teams and players.
I believe this is not too much to ask either. In England we have all heard and read about the way "fans" would fight each other at soccer games just to properly "represent" their team and club. The scene when Muamba went down and both clubs fell to their knees in grief and sadness proved a point.
We all are people, regardless of club loyalty.
Tottenham and Bolton fans came together, even if it was for a day, but they came together because they were fans of the GAME and they realized what was more important than the game...life.
The worst thing a person could tell me when the Broncos are losing is this statement, "It is just a game." But nothing is more true, yes as fans we are passionate and we love cheering for our team/players, but that does not supersede the fact that is the truest statement.
It is always just a game.
USA! USA! USA! The chant could be heard throughout every sports bar in America on February 29th, 2012.
It was a peculiar day last Wednesday, not because we had a leap year, but because the United States Men’s National Team did something that had never been done, ever. The Americans defeated the mighty Italians for the first time in 9 tries (0-3-5 record prior to the victory) and that was without the help of Landon Donovan, who many believe is the greatest American soccer player ever to play.
American forward Jozy Altidore took a cross in the middle of the box and laid it off to midfielder Clint Dempsey who fired a strike low and away in the back of the net against one of the most seasoned and talented goalkeepers in the world, Gianluigi Buffon. The Americans held onto a 1-0 lead giving them a historic victory, much to the pleasure of their manager.
US Head Coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, has not had the best start to a coaching career, but after his latest triumph over Italy, his resume is starting to look impressive. Before the Italian friendly, Klinsmann was not in the good graces of the American soccer fans with a poor record of 4 wins, 1 draw, and 4 losses (4-1-4). After Wednesday, Klinsmann has found his way back in the loving arms of the faithful and looked to be heading the USMNT into the right direction.
The real story to talk about is the stellar play of midfielder Clint Dempsey who is not just tearing it up on the international scene, but is making Europe his own backyard in the English Premier League. Dempsey became the first American to score a hat trick in the EPL in January and with a two goal deposit against Wolverhampton he matches the goals in a season record set my an American with 12 (He matched his own record from a year ago).
Dempsey, as fate would have it, was wearing the #10 usually donned by Landon Donovan. Donovan was out sick and unable to make the trip. Dempsey was given the number because of the new rule that Klinsmann had implemented since he took over; that no ones name shall appear on the back of an American jersey, symbolizing a new identity with the American team. Also, all players who start receive numbers 1-11, regardless of whatever number they wore a couple years ago or even a few days ago.
This latest victory for Klinsmann and the Americans is not a headline that should be glanced over. This is a big day and a big step for US Soccer, not just in America, but for the rest of the world. Now the other elite soccer countries can no longer look past the Americans now that they beat the soccer giant Italians. Even though it was a friendly exhibition this kind of win does wonders for the confidence of the American players, proving to themselves that they can play with the best in the world and win.
Time will only tell if this is the first step in a successful coaching stop for Mr. Klinsmann, but we cannot ignore the amount of momentum a victory like this gives the USMNT. I can still hear the chants as we creep up in the FIFA international standings. US sits at 31, but that should be moving up when the updated rankings come out March 7, 2012.
USA! USA! USA!
The 2010 FIFA World Cup was a turning point for soccer in the United States. Pushed vigorously by powerhouse network ESPN (who, not coincidentally, was carrying the tournament on their stations), soccer finally received the advertising backing it had long lacked in America.
ESPN hit ratings gold, and it directly led to the English Premier League becoming a more common presence on American television, regularly showing on channels such as ESPN and even Fox. As soccer has risen in popularity in the United States, American sports fans have increasingly lamented the state of American soccer. Whether it’s the average at best men’s national team or the fledgling professional league, the question of when American soccer will reach the heights of European football seems to be on everyone’s tongues.
And that question is exactly why Americans should start caring about the Major League Soccer league more. Although most soccer fans tend to brush off the MLS as a lesser league, if America is ever going to improve upon its standing in international soccer, it will need to boast a strong domestic competition first. A strong domestic competition will give young American prospects a place to grow through the youth teams. In Europe, professional teams are able to spend on academies and youth squads that groom potential stars in ultra-competitive environments, similar to farm systems in American baseball and hockey.
For the MLS to improve its on-field play, it must first convert fans to increase support at home. As more people attend games, purchase apparel and watch broadcasts, revenues will grow, as well as advertising dollars. This will allow teams to spend more to bring more players such as David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane to America to make the league more competitive, while also giving the MLS more money to spend to develop younger Americans in the youth academies.
The MLS may never be as competitive as the EPL or La Liga, but even if it is a tier below those leagues, it will serve as a boom to the American international team. A great example is the NPB (Japan’s domestic baseball league). NPB is widely accepted as a tier below Major League Baseball as the second best competition in the world. However, it gives young Japanese baseball players a great staging point. As a result, Japan’s international squad is highly competitive, winning both World Baseball Classics to date.
MLS also has a ton of excitement to offer fans right now. With big name stars such as Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Freddy Adu, Robbie Keane, Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez, Juan Pablo Angel, Fredy Montero and more, MLS already offers plenty of recognizable talent. In addition, teams offer an extremely fan friendly experience, with affordable tickets and plenty of opportunities to interact with the players before, during, and after games. Starting in 2012, MLS will be airing on NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus) as well as marquee games on NBC making it easy to follow.
So if you’re one of those who find yourself lamenting every time you pop FIFA 12 into your Xbox that there’s no American teams worth playing with, think about the long term and check out the MLS. With teams in 18 cities in America and Canada, there’s a great chance you have a solid hometown team to root for!