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Soccer: Either for it or against it

Over 30,000 Sounders fans will pack Qwest Field each game. (AP Photo)
By BILL SWARTZ
710 ESPN Seattle/KIRO Radio

Here we go again. Seattle Sounders FC host the Los Angeles Galaxy Tuesday evening at Qwest Field.

Major League Soccer's 2011 season opener will feature the passion of 36,000 fans. North America will see how much Seattle cares about the sport. Fans will hear Arlo White describe every corner kick and header on 97.3 KIRO FM all season long.

And, the match will also resurrect more negative comments about the "world's game." Ah, it's just soccer. Not interested.

How come soccer is so polarizing in America? Not enough scoring is the comment I still get most often from friends and colleagues. Others say they just don't understand the rules. And still others say soccer is just "un-American."

710 ESPN Seattle host Mike Salk has a dozen reasons to dislike soccer.

"Number one," says Salk, "in America we like one champion per league. We don't need five different cups, and teams playing in four different leagues all at once. Today, we're in the MLS Cup, but we're also in the U.S. Open Cup, and tomorrow we're playing for the CONCACAF Cup."

Salk also doesn't like all the fake injuries in soccer.

"The flopping, Please! That is so thoroughly un-American. In this country, we reward toughness. We want guys who play through injuries, not guys who flop around like a bunch of fish," Salk says.

I found an old David Letterman show Top 10 list "Why Americans Don't Like Soccer".

Number 10: Too many foreigners. Number 9: Loud horns make it hard to nap through boring parts. Fast forward Dave! Number 3: Doesn't have the heart pounding five hour action of a baseball game. Number 2: No television timeouts means no time to stuff our fat faces. And the number one reason Americans don't like soccer: Too much kicking, not enough rasta.

Soccer wasn't in my sports picture until I moved to Tacoma in 1968. I had played Little League baseball, pee wee football, Lions Club basketball in Pennsylvania, but we didn't have youth soccer. Kicking and sliding on the mud fields of Pierce County got me hooked on soccer, and I've never let go.

My first soccer coach was a firefighter, and often showed up for practice wearing his fire boots. Kick it long. Run after it; that was our strategy.

Soccer has come a long way in the U.S. over the past 40 years. Yet, we still get the animosity.

I spoke with Terry Fisher, CEO of Washington Youth Soccer Association for a rebuttal. After all, 130,000 youngsters are playing soccer in our state every week. The adult leagues are as full as ever.

"The game is very simple," says Fisher, "it's very difficult to knock a ball between some goalposts. It should be appreciated for what it is."

As for the un-American argument? Fisher says, "the translation of that un-American comment is: 'Since we didn't invent it, we don't own it.' At the same time, we didn't invent golf, yet we appreciate it. It's an international game; the world is shrinking by the hour. I think those comments are just silly at best."

Portland and Vancouver B.C. join Major League Soccer this season to create a natural Northwest rivalry. The hope is it will become as entertaining as a Red Sox - Yankees baseball series, or Husky versus Cougar football game.

OK, I admit there's plenty of flopping in soccer. For now, I'm ready to raise my Sounders scarf up!

About the Author


Sports anchor, news reporter, emcee, and a man of many voices, Bill Swartz has been a jack-of-all trades during his career, especially at KIRO Radio and 710 ESPN Seattle since 2002.

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