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Talkin' Soccer

A mature, reasonably intelligent conversation about soccer on one of ESPN's mainstream headache-inducing blab-fests talk shows? Go figure.

From "Around the Horn" after the USA's upset of Spain.....

Bill Plaschke: "It's significant only if they sustain it. You remember they made the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 2002, that was the greatest win in soccer history, they've disappeared since then. This is nice, but it's not World Cup and they were outshot 29-9. Let's see if they can sustain it."

Tim Cowlishaw: "I don't want to dump on this team for this victory, but a Miracle on Grass? [a New York Times reference] That will happen when Team USA wins the World Cup. That [1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team] was amateurs in Lake Placid beating the Soviet machine that won gold after gold after gold in the Olympics."

Jay Mariotti: "Don't qualify it! This was a major victory in U.S. soccer history! Spain hadn't lost in 35 matches! I have nothing bad to say about this! The only thing is, Bill is right about sustaining! How will this translate to next year's World Cup?!"

Host: "I am so glad Mariotti has nothing bad to say, which means he is a flip-flopper!"

Kevin Blackistone: "What this is is their seventh-greatest victory ever because they've won six times in World Cup play, the biggest being in 1950 when they upset England, 1-nilllll! But you know what? This is a nice win, it's good to see some of the young guys break through, but the Confederations Cup? Nobody knows what this is. Call me when the World Cup is played in 2010!"

Host: "So how important is Sunday's final then? This would be the way they can make that jump, right?"

Blackistone: "You are absolutely right. If they fall on their face like they had been in the rest of this competition, then it really makes this null and void."

You may not completely agree with the comments, but surely you appreciate the fact that USA soccer is an actual topic of discussion a year before the World Cup, right?

By Steve Goff  |  June 26, 2009; 1:08 PM ET
Categories:  Confederations Cup , TV , U.S. men's national team  
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Next: Late-Day Kickaround

Comments

Is the host Tony Reali(sp?). He understands and has respect for soccer. He's always correcting the PTI guys when they say something factually wrong about the sport.

Posted by: CACuzcatlan | June 26, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Its better than the usual dismissive crapola. But, maybe that's because Woody Paige wasnt on the show.

Posted by: hacksaw | June 26, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Better than what we usually get, and mostly correct.

I'll take it for now.

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | June 26, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Neither was JA Andande.

Posted by: no_recess | June 26, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Also, to show Reali's soccer fan-ness, after he got a bad haircut, they gave him crap about it, and he said "Oh calm down, it's the Ronaldo".

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | June 26, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Americans don't care about soccer until we are #1. We only get their attention when we beat #1. This is like a parent not coming to his son's games until he gets drafter....

#1.

Posted by: UnitedDemon | June 26, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

drafted, sorry.

Posted by: UnitedDemon | June 26, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

I've played indoor against Reali at Rockville Sportsplex.

Posted by: KeeperPat | June 26, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Hey, I'll take it! Next thing you know, we'll get a segment on Jim Rome is Burning!!


Actually, I wouldn't want that segment. I love how they put him on right after the Confed Cup matches. I was rooting for the Brazi-SAF game to go to extra time just so I could see him getting all pissed off at being overrun by a soccer game.

Posted by: kdiff813 | June 26, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Good to see reasonable discussion. I think that's all most people expect. During the Beckham frenzy, the topic came up and Mariotti was horrible, but the rest of the panel (Ryan, Cowlishaw and I forget who) were awesome.

Posted by: beach3 | June 26, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

I am glad that they have been talking about this. Actually, the have talked about soccer a few times over the past three weeks and they have been reasonably intelligent conversations.

Also, I would agree with most of there comments. We do have to sustain it. Lets all remember that Scotland beat both Italy (right after their World Cup Glory) and France in the Euros 2008 qualifying rounds. Where are they now? They didn't even make the tournament and are not even in strong position the make the World Cup. Also, in that same qualifying round N. Ireland beat Spain, in Spain!

The win against Spain was huge, and I have never been happier, but we still have a ways to go. Lets hope Sunday is a continuation of the positive vibes...

Posted by: grubbsbl | June 26, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

C'mon, Woody Paige used to roll with Kroenke in Denver, hacksaw. He's also the first to admit most of the stuff they do is basically an act. Regardless, it's sad that I could hear all of their voices while reading that. It's even more sad that I actually watched that segment yesterday.

Posted by: sitruc | June 26, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Needs more yelling.

Posted by: Section117 | June 26, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

man I must be on lala land because i have no idea what this show is all about, the only reason i watch espn is with the us plays or during an mls game.

Posted by: Norteno4life | June 26, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

I guess the one thing that bothers me is that coverage from the sports generalists is always, always, always about "Is soccer going to make it? Will ______ push it into the mainstream?" It's never about what went on off the field. The question every single time concerns the pressure of breaking into the top tier of US sports interest. It's like the job of becoming a bigger deal defines the sport here.

The silly idea that soccer will just instantly break through some glass ceiling is like a perpetual motion machine. If people are constantly asking what will help soccer "make it" (whatever that means), then we can never say soccer has made it. If we can't say it's made it, then we have to ask when will soccer make it. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I realize that none of those guys, save possibly Reali, could talk about what was actually going on with anything resembling insight. And that's part of the problem. In fact, it's good that they didn't even approach such questions as "What does the play of Davies and Altidore mean for Brian Ching?", because frankly, I see no way for it to have been anything but embarrassing for all involved.

Part of me bristles at mainstream press coverage, because it's always about whether the game is big time and it never really shows any understanding beyond the very surface (Plaschke, for example, goes straight for shots; we all know what stats tell you about soccer). On the other hand, I'm of the opinion that virtually every sports talking head/radio talk show features a shockingly low standard of understanding about even the main US sports, so what makes us any different? In being discussed by overly excited types who don't actually know anything, we're the same as football, baseball, and basketball. What SG transcribed here is probably among the mainstream media's most coherent discussions of soccer ever (at least, without bringing in a soccer person to hold their hands), and I have to believe it purposefully avoided digging below the surface.

I guess I should just be happy no one said it was a kid's game or un-American.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | June 26, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

OT -- nice piece on Pontius on mls.net

http://web.mlsnet.com/news/mls_news.jsp?ymd=20090625&content_id=5533694&vkey=news_mls&fext=.jsp

"I'm just looking to get time and stay on the field," Pontius said last week. "So I really don't care what position I'm playing here - as long as I'm on the field I'm happy."

Pay attention young players . . . and their parents . . . .

Posted by: OWNTF | June 26, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Does this make up for ESPN putting up a "Do You Care?" poll under the headline for us beating Spain? I say no.

Posted by: daandre3 | June 26, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

"What went on off the field" should read "what went on on the field", which in turn should be worded differently to avoid being an awkward construction.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | June 26, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

I don't know about you all, but I LOVED Blackistone's Superdraft breakdown this past year.

Posted by: Hoost | June 26, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Frankly, I'd prefer that they didn't talk at all. I'd rather hear the comments of knowledgable journalist than hacks who have no interest in the sport. I do not need them to legitimize the sport. I could care less what they think. I have enough outlets to see, discuss and read about the WORLD's game. That's enough for me.

Posted by: mason16 | June 26, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

How many mainstream mentions of "Federations" Cup have you heard? I'm on about 4 thus far :-)

Posted by: Kev29 | June 26, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Chest Rockwell, I think we have to be pleased with just this basic type of coverage. While I agree with your assessment on overall sports commentators knowledge of the game, we have to take baby steps. Your right the game will never just break through, but that is just a misconception the media likes to play up.

I think we have to take the path set by NASCAR. Some 7-8 yrs ago the only stories ESPN routinely ran about NASCAR was how it is the fastest growing sport in America, and they would do a 15 second clip highlight of the race on sportscenter. Yet, over those yrs, as the sport grew, ESPN took notice and began expanding coverage. Now look at ESPN, they show the Nationwide series, the have a NASCAR nightly show, they do pre-race coverage for the Sprint Cup, which is not even shown on their channel.

Yes, right now soccer is finally starting to garnish attention (look to there bottom line of soccer scores). Allow the sport to grow organically -that's the only way to guarantee success. Once that time comes I will approach ESPN with an idea to have a 30 minute show in which my brother and I will explore those types of questions like, "what does Davies play mean for Brain Ching?" and we will routinely make fun of Alexi Lalas for claiming LA was a "Super Club."

Posted by: grubbsbl | June 26, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Frankly, I'd prefer that they didn't talk at all. I'd rather hear the comments of knowledgable journalist than hacks who have no interest in the sport. I do not need them to legitimize the sport. I could care less what they think. I have enough outlets to see, discuss and read about the WORLD's game. That's enough for me.

Posted by: mason16 | June 26, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

========================

Don't you see the connection between this attitude and MLS salaries?

Posted by: OWNTF | June 26, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

The only way I ever find out about things like this is because they get posted on blogs or a friend tells me. I don't ever watch Sports Center or any other ESPN news/opinion sports programming because they have done so much to alienate me as a soccer fan. I just watch the actual games on ESPN and leave to read Soccer Insider, SBI or tune into FSC for highlights. Maybe ESPN is noticing that this is a trend?

Posted by: mbyrd28 | June 26, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

I agree with everything Chest_Rockwell said.

Again.

Posted by: B_A_ | June 26, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

"...but surely you appreciate the fact that USA soccer is an actual topic of discussion a year before the World Cup, right?"
--------

World Cup or no World Cup, I'm just glad USA soccer is a topic of discussion, PERIOD.

Posted by: Juan-John | June 26, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

The only way I ever find out about things like this is because they get posted on blogs or a friend tells me. I don't ever watch Sports Center or any other ESPN news/opinion sports programming because they have done so much to alienate me as a soccer fan.

Posted by: mbyrd28 | June 26, 2009 2:26 PM

+1

Posted by: Pedalada | June 26, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I'm with Chest as well.


I have no need for validation from the current entrenched sports media, and ESPN in particular. I'd like a new entrenched sports media who can have a discussion about the happenings of a game, not a 1970's discussion about "soccer's role in America's sports pantheon."


OWNTF makes an astute point about MLS salaries, and it's well taken.

But, I have a fun club to follow, dozens of links to streaming games from all over the planet, a huge interweb of good footy articles, The Soccer Insider, and a handful of games in Hi Def.

I got all the footy in my life that I need without these clowns.

Posted by: JkR- | June 26, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I think we have to take the path set by NASCAR.

===================

OK then here's a thought for the Barra Brava

http://www.fugly.com/media/IMAGES/Random/hairy_nascar_fan.jpg

Posted by: OWNTF | June 26, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

All valid points. The NY Times and others have both underplayed and overplayed the win. Underplayed the actual player performance and tactics, and overplayed the upset.

At current in the US there is no separating the competition from the question of legitimacy, where soccer falls in the hierarchy of US sports. On top of that there are only two tourneys that the whole world holds up as critical. Since we can't play in the Euros it puts all the value on the WC unless CONCACAF eventually becomes a powerhouse region (unlikely given population sizes).

But if we beat Brazil....

Posted by: DCU-ATL | June 26, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

I agree with everyone who agrees with Chest. Actually, it was good that they didn't drill down into the details, because it would have sounded like this:

How does Ching play for the US is he's from China?
He's naturalized, just like the whole teasm was in 1998.
Well if you can naturalize players, we should just naturalize Beckham.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | June 26, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

@OWNTF OK then here's a thought for the Barra Brava

Thank you for waiting until after lunch to post that link.

Posted by: BlackandRedRedDevil | June 26, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

While I can understand the spirit of what Chest is saying, it would help is some of soccer's most vociferous supporters would stop focusing on how much other people care about the sport and just support the damn sport.

In other words, some of the cause of the media saying "is this the breakthrough" is fans saying "this is the breakthrough and you are going to have to deal with me now!"

Sadly, soccer fans are the sports worst enemy at times. The good news is that militant fringe is being diluted more and more with each passing day as more reasonable, rational fans come into the fold and the people who merely create a personality of "soccer fan" have less influence than those of us who really love the sport.

Posted by: beach3 | June 26, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

The real problem is that the soccer heads in this country (from both the USSF and the MLS) have no idea how to properly market their product. There's almost a bi-annual attempt to make a "breakthrough" with the mainstream public, and it's almost always blown overboard. They purposefully blow up David Beckham's arrival as if he's a human highlight reel in the likeness of Michael Jordan or Lebron James, when any elementarily knowledgeable soccer mind knows that Beckham is one of the least exciting 'superstars' you can possibly imagine (to the untrained eye).

And every time you set the American public up for this "breakthrough", you're just adding another wall between them and the sport when it eventually fails. So when something genuinely exciting arrives (like the US knocking off a record-setting world power in a competitive FIFA tournament) the public is skeptical about a potential "breakthrough" instead of appreciating the moment for what was actually accomplished.

I hated what they did with Beckham, I hated what they did with Freddy, but I'm loving what they're doing with Jozy. They finally seemed to have learned. Let the man prove himself fully before declaring him the savior of American soccer. Let it come naturally, rather than forcing it on people. If the product becomes genuinely exciting to those outside of regular fans, then the mainstream will watch. If not, then this sport isn't ready to be embraced by the mainstream regardless. Hype isn't going to do anything to change that.

Posted by: psps23 | June 26, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I've played indoor against Reali at Rockville Sportsplex.

Posted by: KeeperPat | June 26, 2009 1:27 PM
=============================

Of course, 2 years after I move away from Rockville do I find out that there's indoor soccer there.

D'oh!

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | June 26, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

SPOILER ALERT (Although I'm probably the only one who cares)

England through to the final of the Euro U21 Championship after beating Sweden in a penalty shoot-out 5-4.

Posted by: BlackandRedRedDevil | June 26, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Bill Plaschke is an idiot, and wrong on everything, all the time.

Posted by: mason08 | June 26, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

The scary thing to me is that I agree 100% with the screaming lunatic pundits. They must have had interns prepare their talking points. There is no way that mainstream dinosaur testo-bot pundits had that conversation all on their own without prompting.

Tim

Posted by: irregardless | June 26, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Jim Rome is a Burning Hemorrhoid.

Benny Olsen sighting today -- in Logan's Circle. He was kind enough to stop and chat (OK, I had to chase him down for two blocks, but still...)

He said the atmosphere in Seattle was incredible.

And why was a Haymarket guy with straw in his receding hair in Logan's Circle?

Lunch.

Posted by: joedoc1 | June 26, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Stalker.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | June 26, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

It's only stalking once they say no!

Posted by: mason08 | June 26, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

He sprayed me with mace, but I was persistent.

Posted by: joedoc1 | June 26, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

I do appreciate that USA Soccer made the cut for discussion on "Around the Horn" and "PTI" - that speaks to an awareness of the tournament on the part of those shows producers and participants, as well as the significance of the US victory and the team's inconsistent (at best) group play last week. But, Plaschke says it best about mainstream sports-talk coverage of soccer (likely he did not realize his own double-entendre): "Its significant only if they sustain it"!!!

Posted by: BaltoFan | June 26, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

grubbsbl:

I'm not unhappy with the coverage (like I said, it may have been the most cogent piece on a talking head/sports radio show with no "soccer guy" present to help out). I just wish that our mainstream coverage could aim higher than simply avoiding embarrassment. They didn't even mention a single player from either team, or a single play from the game.

As far as avoiding the mythological soccer breakthrough, I just wonder how, if at all, we can help push the conversation elsewhere. It's the same thing every time. Is this the only comfortable topic for our general sporting press when it comes to soccer? When you think about it, the topic is more about the sports hierarchy in this country than it is about soccer itself.

beach3:

I'd be able to agree with you if I knew any soccer fan who said that this was a breakthrough moment and not just a great achievement for this team. The only times I've read or heard any talk of this win being what puts soccer over the top has been in the press from your pan-sports guys. However, since this is my main internet discussion outlet, it could be that people on some other forum are going nuts and I just don't know.

psps23:

I can agree with that. On this side of the wall, there have been way too many attempts to solve the problem of attention with one grand gesture. There isn't a single player, or single game, or single incident, that will turn soccer into a major sport in the US. If MLS signed Beckham, C. Ronaldo, Messi, Xavi, Kaka, and whoever the 10 best/most popular players beyond them are tomorrow, we'd still be closer to where we are than where we want to be. The idea of there being a silver bullet is just a waste of energy.

It's like raising a kid: you show your kid you love them every day by making meals, taking them to their activities, goofing off with them, helping with their homework, and all the other things that seem unremarkable. The little things add up. If all you're doing is bumbling around then going for the rare big gesture to make up for it, you're doing a bad job and the results won't be pretty.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | June 26, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

cool...in addition to his usual superb soccer analysis, chest with excellent parenting advice! thanks! :)

Posted by: birdynumnum | June 26, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Chest - I didn't mean this specifically, it was a generalization of the extra-annoying fan. The media is just used to that guy cause he sends them nasty e-mails all the time.

irregardless - I have traded e-mails with Cowlishaw a couple of times. He knows a decent amount about the sports and has a good respect for it, but just isn't a fan. He knows the audience is growing.

Posted by: beach3 | June 26, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

I am amazed about how much attention the Confederations Cup is getting, (even before the US win over Spain). I feel I am a soccer fanatic but I never gave this tournament any attention. I viewed it as an arena for minnows to beat/play major teams...basically an income generator rather than a competitive tournament.
I couldn't tell you whose won previous Confederations Cup without looking it up. When I did look it up, I saw Japan and Australia have made the finals before! And Mexico won it once! I don't mean to minimize the US victory over Spain...but this is still a rather meaningless tournament to me. Regardless, I hope the US puts in a good showing on Sunday.

Posted by: nico78 | June 26, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

It will be intelligent discussion when they can name one of the players on either team in their discussions. At best, they were discussing a graphic they saw after the game on the post-game or reading the box score in USA Today. They are still talking about the sport itself, in the context of it mattering. Not the game played on the field.

Until then, they are babbling.

Posted by: IamAM | June 26, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Don't you see the connection between this attitude and MLS salaries?
===================================
@ OWNTF
Fair point but I don't think the talking heads drive demand for a sport. MLS will be able to pay more when they control more of the gate (sfs) and the broadcast rights are in demand. Demand for the product will continue to grow organically and drag media with it. Sideshow talking heads are a laging indicator, not a leading one.

Posted by: mason16 | June 26, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Kevin Blackistone is from PG county. He actually knows and understands how the game is played and the culture surrounding it.

And Realli is a Terp from long island so its not surprising he knows about and seems to like actually be a fan of soccer.

Posted by: peteywheatstraw | June 26, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

On a slightly unrelated note, the best thing for soccers acceptance by the mainstream in America is to have more and more big 4 sports atheletes, like KG and Ocho Cinco, talking about how much they love watching and playing soccer.

Posted by: peteywheatstraw | June 26, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: nico78 | June 26, 2009 5:22 PM
=================
Dude, do you buy cars?

Posted by: joedoc1 | June 26, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

At least Jim Rome wasn't in on the conversation. That jackass is the biggest hater of soccer I've ever seen. He refuses to acknowledge it as a sport. I think he got beaten up by soccer players throughout his childhood . . . complete ignorant moron.

Posted by: papple | June 26, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

I love it when the national team does something so terrific the talking heads at Around the Horn and PTI are forced to acknowledge them and discuss soccer. It does seem like Reali knows and appreciates the sport. It's just a matter of time before the idiots like Rome and the dinosaurs like Kornheiser, Plashke, etc. leave. Maybe soccer will never reach the status of basketball, football or baseball, but it will be respected and discussed intelligently, even on ESPN!

Posted by: popoki08 | June 26, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

The only way I ever find out about things like this is because they get posted on blogs or a friend tells me. I don't ever watch Sports Center or any other ESPN news/opinion sports programming because they have done so much to alienate me as a soccer fan.

Posted by: mbyrd28 | June 26, 2009 2:26 PM

+1

Posted by: Pedalada | June 26, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse
+2.
Soccer is already here. US media doesn't really want to acknowledge it because they can't earn big bucks from airing endless commercials in soccer. The sport actually plays the game and people can actually watch it rather than watching commercials. Another thing is soccer requires attention for full game and that keeps folks from yaping and eating at the stadiums.
Oh and I agree with everything Chest said above.

Posted by: DCUnitedFootball | June 27, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Great thread. Slow and steady wins the race.

Posted by: MR1Caretaker | June 27, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Haven't read the comments yet, but even without MR1Caretaker's seal of approval I'll be coming back.

All I can say is that I left early friday morning to go camping with my wife and two year old, knowing full well there was no way in hell I was going to make it back in time for the final on Sunday, and I did everything I could( Ok, it's probably hard to see my US jersey when we were in the car for 5+ hours and there was no one in the Hardy's we ate in on 81) to duck any spoilage, but as soon as we turned onto 66 @ Front Royal traffic came to a flipping stand still just after the Last Chance Exit to get on 55 for a minute and turned on WTOP and instead of a traffic report I got a Landon Donovan sound bite and the revelation the US lost 2-3...

The last place on earth I really expected to find the spoiler was there.

Posted by: DadRyan | June 28, 2009 9:59 PM | Report abuse

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