Why inferiority needn't lead to irrelevance
It's another new regular FourFourTwo.com feature, all about the USA Ã¢ÂÂ its teams, its imports and its exports. Meet your host Jason Davis...
I suppose I should start with an introduction, considering that this is my first effort for FourFourTwo.
Hi. My name is Jason, and I like football. The kind without the "American" in front of it, even though that's what I am.
I love the title of this blog. Do you realise how angry it would make more than a few Americans that I sit here implying that what they call "soccer" is, in fact, the real football? It's like jabbing a caged bear with a pointy stick, only more amusing and less dangerous. Unless you're in Texas.
Not that I have any issues with the word "soccer". The game is the same, no matter the name applied; even as I use the two interchangeably (which I'm sure you'll notice me do here), I chuckle at people that get so worked up over the issue. It's just a word. But enough about labels.
The engaged and passionate football-loving community in the United States isn't particularly large, at least not proportionately, but it's extremely vocal. We talk too much, write too much, and bicker too much about things that don't really matter. An analysis of the inferiority complex alone is enough to fill out a slew of doctoral theses. It's downright palpable.
With hours of European and Latin American play on our televisions, we attempt to reconcile our love of the sport with the second-rate version being played in America. There are entirely too many fans turning their back on the local for the international. Oh, you're a Liverpool fan? Have you ever been to Liverpool? I didn't think so.
Anfield: not currently a good place for Americans
Still, I don't begrudge Americans the right to support a club from afar. Just don't stick your nose up in the air at American efforts; these things take time, and a love of the sport should be a love of the sport, no matter the form it takes.
There's nothing to apologise for, of course. In the grand scheme of things, the United States is just another country attempting to distinguish itself in the world's most popular game. We have no history, at least none worth mentioning outside of these borders, and struggle to fill out a roster with quality players at every position for our national side.
It's just that, y'know, America is big, has a lot of money, and lords over the rest of the planet in so many other areas that it's as visible as it is in the world of football.
We rarely play it pretty, a function of our neophyte status. It's going to take some time before we can produce enough players to catch up with everyone else, and we don't need to be told, repeatedly, that our style is lacking. So cut us some slack, will ya? English, American, Italian, everyone. Except the Mexicans. I know there's no getting through to you.
"No, Jason; you and I will never see eye to eye"
Perhaps you've heard of our domestic top flight, Major League Soccer (for the record, I despise the name of the league). We play a funny spring-to-fall schedule, signed up some over-the-hill Englishman, and pay everyone else peanuts.
Still, it's a nice little league, quite unlike any other on the planet, with funny-named teams and triers as far as the eye can see. Oh, and collective bargaining agreements.
The ongoing league-v-union drama is nothing new for American fans, who have experienced the same thing over and over again in our other professional sports. The difference here, as we stare down the barrel of a delayed or lost season, is that we generally don't pay our footballers much. Add to that the quirky way that MLS chooses to operate, and the situation is downright weird, even for us.
What the players want, and what the league would like to maintain, is no longer relevant for me. I've done my bit defending the motives of both sides, and I've come down in favour of this and against that. It's time for the two sides to stop slap-fighting and just get on with it.
I want a season, dammit. I want MLS to play its fifteenth year because, even if it remains globally irrelevant for the next 20, it can't have lapses in play. The American public, even the footy fans, are a fickle bunch. They'll just as soon turn to competitive dog-wrangling or somesuch nonsense as return to a league that can't seem to get itself together.
I won't tell you to be afraid of us, at least not yet. America is slowly, but surely, waking up to the game we and the Aussies call soccer but everyone else calls football, and one day we won't feel the need to be so damn defensive and self-loathing. Then you should be afraid.