Archive for July, 2011

Every few years or so the United States becomes interested in soccer. It usually happens around the time of the World Cup or the Summer Olympics. This excitement usually last a few weeks or until the US National team gets eliminated. Whichever comes first.

The latest outbreak of Soccer Fever ended a few weeks ago when the US Women’s team lost to Japan in the final of the Women’s World Cup.  They were a really great story, too. Every game seemed to go down to the wire and the US battled back to win and advance to the final game. Even the Final went into extra time and wound up coming down to penalty kicks to decide the champion. (And that is something that I have always had a problem with. I don’t think the biggest game in the world should come down to penalty kicks. It’s like deciding the World Series with a Home Run Derby.)

With the NFL and NBA both experiencing lockouts there hasn’t been a whole lot of sports news to report so I have been watching more soccer than usual. Wednesday night I watched Chivas play Real Madrid. The game was nationally televised from Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. It was a big deal to have two world class teams play on US soil. During the game the announcers noted that Chivas was founded in 1906 and Real Madrid was founded in 1902. Together that is over 200 years of soccer history and tradition. By comparison, Major League Soccer (MLS) didn’t have its first season in the US until 1996.

And that is the main obstacle for soccer in the US; we just don’t have the history with the game. All of our most popular sports (football, baseball and basketball) have long histories in the United States. And they were all invented here. They are our sports. Soccer will always be seen as a foreign game.  Or worse, European.  It’s an image that soccer will have to shake if it is ever to become popular in the States.

It’s going to have to start with the kids. Most kids in the US play multiple sports but soccer is rarely one of them.  If more kids start playing soccer at a young age they will grow up to be fans and watch soccer as they get older. The demand for soccer has to be built naturally. It may take a few generations of kids but there will be a time when announcer will be talking about the traditions and history of the L.A. Galaxy or the Seattle Sounders.

Soccer will become more popular in the United States. It might not happen in my lifetime but it will happen. It’s just going to take time.

The NFL lockout has ended. Finally, the owners and players have come to an agreement and America’s long nightmare is over.

The deal was announced today and teams could start full practices this weekend. Players will begin to recertify their union starting tomorrow.

The proposed timeline is as follows:

Tuesday: teams can sign drafted rookies.
Wednesday: the first 10 teams report to training camp.
Friday: Full free agency starts.

The season could start as soon as August 4th. However, the players have to recertify before that can happen.

What I am really looking forward to is Friday night when free agency starts. Its going to be such a feeding frenzy like no one has ever seen. Mistakes will be made and bargains will be had. The whole off-season will essentially be crammed into one weekend. It going to me a madhouse. And I can’t think of a better way to spend the weekend.

Over the weekend Derek Jeter became just the 28th player in Major League Baseball history to reach 3,000 hits and the only New York Yankee to ever reach that plateau. Think of all the Yankee greats: from Babe Ruth to Mickey Mantle, from Joe DiMaggio to Reggie Jackson, and now Derek Jeter stands alone at the top.

Not only is Jeter the undisputed leader of baseball’s most storied franchise but he just may be the man who saves Major League Baseball. And right now MLB needs Jeter more than ever.

The main baseball stories of the first half of the season have been the Los Angeles Dodgers being thrown into bankruptcy, the Washington Nationals coach, Jim Riggleman, quitting after the club did not give into his demands for a contract extension, the perjury trial for Roger Clemens and the tragic death of Shannon Stone, a fan who fell out of the stands while trying to catch a souvenir ball for his son.

Baseball needed a feel good storey and they couldn’t have found a better leading man. Jeter comes off as a genuinely nice guy. There is no runaway ego like many other pro athletes. There have been no accusations of steroid use.  And by all accounts he has a pretty squeaky clean personal life.

Even Red Sox fans would begrudgingly agree that Jeter is a nice guy.

He is also one of a dying breed. Jeter is one of the few professional athletes who have played their entire career for only one team, which is almost unheard of nowadays. We live in an era where superstar athletes routinely jump from team to team for a bigger paycheck or trying desperately chasing a championship to try to validate their legacy.

One word that always comes up when describing Jeter is “classy.” He has spent his entire career in the pressure cooker that is the New York media and has never had a meltdown, never demanded a trade and never lobbied to get a manager fired. He has quietly picked up five championship rings and a mantel full of awards. And he did it all with class.

Regardless of whether you dislike the Yankees or American League-style baseball, you have to like Derek Jeter. He is living proof that sometimes Nice Guys finish first.