Photo: Earl Gardner
This weekend, the Inquirer published an op-ed in which the author explains why soccer bores him and does his best to otherwise poop on our season-opening parade. Haters, as they say, gon’ hate. That doesn’t mean we have to take it lying down.
Dear Mr. Zencey,
Congratulations are in order. Anti-soccerism is a syndrome we soccer lovers are more than familiar with, but in your capacity as a journalist, you’ve managed to articulate the most callow and infantile complaints against the game with more eloquence, but somehow less originality, than any of the knuckle-dragging sports xenophobes whose arguments rarely go beyond online trolling. If any of them made sense, your op-ed would almost have been worth writing, and very nearly worth the minute or two you’ve stolen from everyone who expects the Inquirer to print meaningful commentary.
That’s not to say that everyone needs to like soccer. If it’s not your cup of tea, join the club. (It’s a huge club.) That said, for you to argue against soccer as somehow objectively inferior based on a string of arguments that are as unsound as they are tired is crossing the line between expressing an opinion and severely overestimating its worth.
And you do argue just that, despite an afterthought about not “begrudging” us, in your infinite grace, our enthusiasm. You claim that “an hour and a half” is too much time to invest if it’s only to see one of Philadelphia’s major professional teams “– hold your breath — score a goal or two.”
What about that rationale seemed cogent enough to warrant its being dusted off and dragged into 2013 from its rightful place in the previous century? Are you under the impression that, in being printed, it becomes more valid a point than when it’s slurred from the mouths of the bitter holdouts whose only real objection to soccer is that it’s new around here?
If any soccer fan could condescend to challenge your poor excuse for a premise, they’d only need to point out the amount of touchdowns scored for every hour and a half that passes during a football game, or the amount of athleticism that even you admit is on display so rarely in a baseball game, or the fact that the Union’s popularity is eclipsing that of the 76ers, despite the fact that a given NBA game has a score line in the low thousands. None of which is to suggest that those games aren’t legitimate and exciting pastimes if you’re into them. Hell, some people like curling; that doesn’t evince a need to point out its alleged shortcomings.
Finally, your entreaty to not let Philly’s rising tide of soccer fandom “unleash the same violent passions and hooliganism that sometimes erupt in Europe and Latin America” is either a joke you’re having at the expense of anyone gullible enough to take it seriously, or a particularly lazy attempt to meet some word quota. Soccer is no more likely to incite violence in Philadelphia than Quidditch (probably less likely, really). As you point out, this town doesn’t need inspiration from abroad to take fandom to a dangerous level, and even abroad soccer is only the backdrop for, and not the cause of, their woes. But you probably already know all that.
Something convinced you that your distaste for soccer was worth writing about at the start of the fourth season of a game that means as much to its fans as anything means to anyone in this area’s sports scene. Maybe it was hubris. Maybe you didn’t have anything to write about. Maybe it was a streak of contrariness brought on by the recent attention given in the Inquirer to the upcoming film about the Sons of Ben, the grassroots group whose passion for the game created the Philadelphia Union out of pure will. Whatever it was, keep it to yourself next time.
A Union Fan