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A Soccer Education

Tracee Hamilton, The Post's new sports columnist after years as an editor and a witty contributor to our Olympic coverage, is trying to understand soccer. She's really trying. Take a look at her latest column.

By Steve Goff  |  July 23, 2009; 1:31 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. United , Misc.  
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Next: Payne Responds to Sounders

Comments

She was a Washington Post editor, so we have low expectations anyway...

Posted by: alan19 | July 23, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

blah blah blah... she lost me at hello

Posted by: PineyO | July 23, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

funny article, but

"prosthelytizing" --

is that a new word for orthopedic surgery? or an Abby Wambach tackle?

Posted by: OWNTF | July 23, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

She sounds as if she already made the decision to avoid the beautiful game, even before attending the double header.

Posted by: forpat | July 23, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, not very impressed. But this on the other hand is fun:

http://tinyurl.com/kkd277

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | July 23, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

I will not eat, sleep, or clean myself until she accepts soccer.

Posted by: Hoost | July 23, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

I see the problem. It was a Freedom/United doubleheader. I would have doubts after that, too. (Just kidding) Maybe she needs to get up to Baltimore for the A.C. Milan/Chelsea game.

Posted by: Lucius2 | July 23, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Contrary to what she says, I don't feel the need for everyone to love soccer. I just want people to respect it.

Posted by: georgejones5 | July 23, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

So who are Mani, Emilio, Rukaka, and Nunzzzo?

Posted by: DadRyan | July 23, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Our local restaurant has a couple of TV's at the bar. Two of the bartenders are military brats who have lived overseas and have an interest in the game. Sometimes if we ask real nice, they'll turn one of the TV's to a soccer game.

Now I have walked into many bars in my many years and seen people watching football, baseball, basketball, etc. Never once have I walked up to a perfect stranger and said that his/her preferred sport was stupid, sucked, was for sissies, or was dull.

I have, however, had perfect strangers walk up to me watching soccer and tell me in no uncertain terms what a waste of time and television soccer is and how misguided I was for watching it.

Who, exactly, has the need for their game to be loved by one and all?

Posted by: BlackandRedRedDevil | July 23, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Ugh... I am so tired of people who don't like or don't want to like soccer always saying that soccer fans are constantly trying to evangelize about the sport. It's such a tired, cliche, convenient excuse that has little or no meaning behind it.

Every fan of every type of sport enjoys their sport so they like to introduce it to others or even say why they like their sport over others. Football, baseball, basketball, golf, curling, track, volleyball fans all do this. But woe be to any soccer fan who tries to stick up for the sport lest it be perceived as this rabid attempt to convert others.

The dance usually goes like this: 1) Media reports on something good about soccer, 2) Talking heads then come back with, "I'm not a soccer fan and that's all well and good, but..." [MLS is a minor league; this is a one-off event and majority of American sports fans don't want to follow soccer; soccer will never be a major sport; etc], and finally, 3) Talking head continues, "And, furthermore, why do soccer fans always insist on pushing their sport in our faces?"

Look at the last Confed Cup. Mainstream sports media totally ignored it, until USMNT crushed Egypt and really got on the bandwagon when they beat Spain. There was a ton of hype for the Brazil game. Then USMNT lost and it was back to the usual dance given above. Who was hyping that? You and your sports media/talk brethren!

Posted by: dancreel | July 23, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Mani, Emilio, Rukaka, Nunzzzzo -- Post staffers.

Hamilton is one of the smartest, funniest editors they've got. It's good to see her get a column.

Posted by: scavendish442 | July 23, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

More evidence of the evil that goes by the name 'kickball'. It must be eradicated. Spare no lives in its destruction.

Posted by: Kev29 | July 23, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Goffinho,
I find it uncool of you to recommend that read. I understand you want to help out peers (I bet she doesnt get Goff-like numbers on her blog), but not at the expense of putting your loyal readership go through soccer-knocking articles pretending to be unbiased and new to the sport.

Now, lets get back to soccer please.

Posted by: juanma_carr | July 23, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Hamiliton's argument seems plausible on its face: we all have our individual passions, but it's pointless and often counterproductive to foist them on others. The flaw in her reasoning, however, is comparing the passion soccer supporters have for soccer to the passion she has for grave-dowsing. What distinguishes soccer as a passion is that more people in more countries and cultures in the world agree about their shared passion for soccer than they agree about any other topic. That includes religion, policy, even whether sex is supposed to be enjoyable. Grave-dowsing, while undoubtedly thrilling to Ms. Hamilton, is not an adequate analogy.

Indeed, the point is, there *is* no adequate analogy. The disconnect between those Americans who support soccer and those who don't persists with such vehemence because the former are utterly baffled about how the latter can fail to see what pretty much everyone else sees the world over, whereas the latter are just as baffled that any number of people would care so much about a sport they find as compelling as grave-dowsing.

Posted by: asfoolasiam | July 23, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Completely off topic for this thread, but a cool vid from Fox Sports on LA fans reaction to the return of Manny Ramirez vs. David Beckhan:

http://msn.foxsports.com/video?vid=feab68ee-9c51-404c-b64a-dc931c635442

Posted by: Golden_Child | July 23, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Well its a rookie column. Sort of a freshman type attempt. The usual cliches. Funny Brazilian names. Complicated structure with leagues, Cups and international games -- and by the way baseball doesn't have any of that. Er, what about the copy-cat baseball World tourney?? Nevermind, lets throw in the mandatory soccer violence reference or two.
And then the mandatory nothing ever happens but if you look away you miss the only thing that does happen routine. And conclude with the bit about soccer supporters needing approval and validation to survive. All in all a paper that any Journalism professor worth her salt would give a C and suggest developing your own themes rather than re-cycling trite pablum.

And I agree with BlackandRedRed that I have had precisely the same experience numerous times.

Posted by: Liverbird | July 23, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | July 23, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

"And of course there is the random violence associated with the sport that is a turnoff even for a woman who likes to shoot a gun."

Yawwwwwwwwn

Posted by: Kev29 | July 23, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I don't see why anyone should really take umbrage to that column. She seems to be making an honest effort, and she has a sense of humor about it too. My only complaint would be that all the deliberations about the status of soccer in America are pretty stale by now, regardless of whether it comes from advocates or detractors. Soccer is here to stay, the World Cup is a mainstream sporting event now, and while a lot more fans seem to follow foreign leagues, MLS seems like it's here to stay too. We don't need to constantly debate the sport's future anymore.

Posted by: ricky_b | July 23, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Goffinho,
I find it uncool of you to recommend that read. I understand you want to help out peers (I bet she doesnt get Goff-like numbers on her blog), but not at the expense of putting your loyal readership go through soccer-knocking articles pretending to be unbiased and new to the sport.

Now, lets get back to soccer please.

Posted by: juanma_carr | July 23, 2009 2:16 PM

Whoa, lighten up Francis. Your shinguards must be binding your sense of humor.

Posted by: JkR- | July 23, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

How is encouraging your friend to give soccer a try any different from your friend telling you, that you should watch Lost or Survivor?

While not a soccerbashing column per se, it seems like a big waste of bandwidth that neither brings up anything original nor contributes to a better understanding of soccer-enjoying/soccer-hating dichotomy.

Posted by: revltion1 | July 23, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Which staffers? I don't think the brazilian soccer name translator works in reverse.

Posted by: DadRyan | July 23, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

while she clearly shows the ability and craft of writing... the piece was a waste of my time, as I have read the same thing from non-sports writers on a weekly basis.

who was the intended audience?
readers of the winchester star? I think she forgot who her audience is, and in doing so talk down to us(not just soccer fans).

Posted by: bonghits4gomez | July 23, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Hamilton has to start somewhere. She can only improve from here.

Posted by: Golden_Child | July 23, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

sounds like she didn't really try

Posted by: Konoha7 | July 23, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Well, continuing the education, she should be watching the US v. Honduras game tonight. Can one of the Post staff Tracee listed watch with her to field questions?

Tracee - the Gold Cup is a regional tournament that for many reasons does not have countries' "A" teams. The players tonight are definitely good, but only a few of them will be on the U.S. World Cup (the biggest sporting event on the planet) squad. Some players to watch: Stuart Holden (fast, wily midfielder), Chad Marshall (big up and coming central defender) and Santino Quaranta (plays for DC United, good ball skills). On Honduras, watch out for Costly, he's trouble.

There are so many leagues and tournaments, because it seems that people are so addicted to soccer that they'll watch it every chance they get. I know I do. Right, it's makes money, too. Why don't football, baseball, basketball and hockey have so many competitions, leagues and international play? That's a whole 'nother conversation.

Posted by: eadc | July 23, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

It had a few chuckle-worthy moments for me. My only thought though, was, "Tracee, I don't think you're in Kansas any more."

Let her cover DCU-Sounders for the Open Cup, then she might get a feel for What It's All About.

Posted by: SportzNut21 | July 23, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

"Goffinho and Tenorio (his name is already "Braziled")"

Steve - apparently you've been 'Braziled'. Which is good timing, what with it being bikini season at the moment.

Posted by: Kev29 | July 23, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

"I no longer hate it, and I'm starting to like it. That's going to have to be good enough for now. "

Some of you need to read the whole article. It was well-written and witty. Sure, you could take issues with the violence and the proselytizing aspects, but read the whole article and see if it doesn't come down on the plus side for soccer.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | July 23, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

What a bunch of whiners...

Posted by: Reignking | July 23, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I blame her slow coming around on the Italians.

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | July 23, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

So who are Mani, Emilio, Rukaka, and Nunzzzo?
Posted by: DadRyan
==================

Emilio is Emilio Ruiz-Garcia, former sports Editor, now a non-sports editor.

Mani must be the new Sports editor, Matt.

Nunzzzo is Jon DiNunzio

No clue on Rukaka.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | July 23, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

What a bunch of whiners...

Posted by: Reignking | July 23, 2009 2:58 PM


No kidding. A sports writer with no soccer chops weighs in with a light-hearted column, and we immediately pitch the toys out of the pram.

Posted by: JkR- | July 23, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

What's a pram?

Posted by: Reignking | July 23, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

No kidding. A sports writer with no soccer chops weighs in with a light-hearted column, and we immediately pitch the toys out of the pram.

Posted by: JkR- | July 23, 2009 3:07 PM


Are you accusing us of over-egging the pudding?

Posted by: BlackandRedRedDevil | July 23, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

i'll agree w/ some previous posters. i don't think all that many soccer fans really fall into this mythical category of trying to push the game on others.

to illustrate my point - here are a couple real life scenarios that seem to be construed as if soccer fans are pushing the game, when i don't think they are.
a) i'm talking w/ a friend. he asks what i'm doing tonight and i say i'm going to watch a soccer game. he rolls his eyes. i've done no pushing or grandstanding but he thinks i have by just mentioning the word. weird if you ask me. i don't get that response if i had said watching a basketball game.
b) i'm reading a mainstream soccer article online and i check out the comment section. a large percentage of comments are "who cares, it's soccer" and far worse as you know. again, it seems that by just mentioning the word somebody thinks you are pushing it on them.

very strange.

Posted by: hokiesoccerfan | July 23, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Pram? Eurosnob!

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | July 23, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

What's a pram?

Posted by: Reignking | July 23, 2009 3:19 PM

Assuming you are serious, allow me, a recognized Euro-snob to explain. A perambulator is the English term for a baby buggy, shortened to pram.

Assuming you are not serious: It's spam made with shrimp (sorry, that's prawns for the non-Euro-snobs out there).

Posted by: BlackandRedRedDevil | July 23, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I blame her slow coming around on the Italians.
Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish
=====================

DiNunzio and LaCanfora (if he is Italian) to be specific.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | July 23, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

No, no, no. Why would you show someone a second rate game in a second rate tournament if you want to get them excited about soccer?

I'm a huge fan, and I barely want to watch it.

What they should do is take her to a soccer bar to watch the US/Mexico qualifier. That's a good way to learn about soccer passion!

"Well, continuing the education, she should be watching the US v. Honduras game tonight. Can one of the Post staff Tracee listed watch with her to field questions?"

Posted by: icehippo | July 23, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

No! Anorthosis knocked out of the Europa League, along with Johann Cruyff Jr at Valletta.

Posted by: Reignking | July 23, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

good article, hahaha Goffinho

Posted by: ssdesv | July 23, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

@BlackandRedRedDevil: So it was you who Roy Keane was talking about.

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

As in, on this thread we are throwing things out of our pram a lot.

Posted by: BlackandRedRedDevil | July 23, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Yes, I was actually serious for once.

Or perhaps you meant Fram, playing right now in the EL. You know, that great club from Iceland.

http://www.uefa.com/footballeurope/club=50088/competition=14/index.html

Posted by: Reignking | July 23, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Hell, I'm not nearly as ambitious. I just wish a vast majority of the soccer fans in America were Team America fans.

Posted by: UnitedDemon | July 23, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

I'm with you (again), by interstate-exited friend. It was a funny, well-written column that showed she knows more about the game than she lets on ("Goffinho" and "well done!" as examples).

I'm beginning to think many soccer fans enjoy living in the misery of feeling eternally dissed. The entire world's population except for one poor schlop on Madagascar could love the game, and we'd moan about how that one guy doesn't "respect" us. Please.

We all know that when we're at RFK watching DC United, it's a great experience. Let's do our part by buying our best soccer-hating buddy a ticket to a United game, treat him to a beer (or three), and sit him by Barra Brava or Screaming Eagles. There's no way he'll walk away not a fan.

Posted by: joedoc1 | July 23, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Oh, joedoc don't go getting all sensible on us. This thread goes to the Highway Man's theory that Goff puts up these stories knowing we take umbrage to get his numbers up.

For non-Euro snobs, Umbrage is a small town in the north-west of England where they serve prawn sandwiches to executives who pay lots of money to not watch the game.

Posted by: BlackandRedRedDevil | July 23, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

What's a pram?

Posted by: Reignking | July 23, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Try this.

Posted by: SportzNut21 | July 23, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

discussions pro- and anti-soccer are almost as boring and as tired a cliche as 'more children play soccer than any other sport in the US' so why doesn't it do better?

I'm trying, I'm really trying, to understand how Charles Krauthammer still gets published in the Post. Maybe Traceee can take that one on?

Posted by: diego_r | July 23, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Billy Brag comes to mind:

"A New England":

I was twenty one years when I wrote this song
I'm twenty two now, but I wont be for long
People ask when will you grow up to be a man
But all the girls I loved at school
Are already pushing prams

and "Greetings to the New Brunette"

Sometimes when we're as close as this
It's like we're in a dream
How can you lie there and think of England
When you don't even know who's in the team

Billy knows football/soccer isn't everything, but it's close.

Posted by: fischy | July 23, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

The Highway Man? OY!

Posted by: Reignking | July 23, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

No, no, no. Why would you show someone a second rate game in a second rate tournament if you want to get them excited about soccer?

Posted by: icehippo | July 23, 2009 3:25 PM
-------------------------------------------

For better or worse, that's what's on tonight, as opposed to three weeks from now. And I don't think it will be all that bad. How large a crowd are they expecting in Chicago? It will make a pretty good TV spectacle. And being FSC-deprived, I will be in a bar myself, and I would have no problems with Hamilton being in attendance at whatever watering hole I eventually choose to patronize.

Posted by: cow_pasture | July 23, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I think the whole soccer-prosthelytizing thing must have some basis behind it. It must been real at some point -- maybe back in the late '70s, when the game was just getting a wind behind it in the States. After all, that meme must have come from somewhere. It couldn't have been invented out of whole cloth to such an extent.

But I agree with other posters that I just don't see it today. Sure, we'll all happily espouse the game's high points when talking to someone about it, but not in a way that's remarkably different from talking up a TV show we enjoy, to borrow the analogy above.

I'm deeply embedded in U.S. soccer culture, and I honestly don't see this purported evangelism. I mean, if nothing else, soccer lovers avoid doing it BECAUSE they're so aware of this very criticism.

Posted by: ChristopherMc | July 23, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

There's nothing particularly wrong or offensive here. I think joedoc has summed things up pretty well. Perhaps she should have switched out the proselytizing bit (which is unfounded) with the urge to become the victim every time. We'd have no argument there.

I can't say there were very many humorous surprises in the article that I didn't see coming. I did like the part about not telling people she knits. As far as "non-soccer fan confused by soccer" goes, this material has been done. However, it has often been done by less talented people, so at least it's a decent take on old jokes.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | July 23, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

As for why we "proselytize" (doesn't the Post have a spellcheck application?), it's really quite simple.

Not only do we love our sport and wish to share its beauty and our passion for it, we know it is one way we can improve it. If we can "recruit" more fans, it means more tickets and higher ratings. That means more money to recruit better players to play here. That, in turn, will improve the quality of the games we watch, which will help make the sport that much more appealing to Americans.

In terms Tracee could understand, there's a reason why major league baseball games have bigger crowds and higher ratings than minor league games. It's the same sport, but it's hardly the same games. There's a wow factor you get watching the best players. We want the best soccer players here. To do that, we know we need to fill stadiums every week.

Posted by: fischy | July 23, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Well, OK. So fischy thinks we DO proselytize. Maybe I was wrong. I'd love to know what form this proselytizing takes, though, because I just don't see it.

(And I knew something looked off about the spelling of that word when I copied from the comment early in this thread. It's a weird spelling to begin with; wish I'd double-checked!)

Posted by: ChristopherMc | July 23, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Hey fischy. Enough with the proselytizing. You want more of this to happen.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | July 23, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

@ChristopherMc -- yeah, it may be generational. Those of us who started playing before Pele came here -- and saw the huge difference he made, as better athletes started playing the game -- and, perhaps like me, joined huge, enthusiastic crowds at Giants Stadium -- we do have a desire to spread the gospel.

We used to tailgate for Cosmos games, and of course, kick a ball around. 20 years later, I returned for the opener of the Women's World Cup and saw young girls doing the same thing, except some of them could do more with a ball than we ever could. I was amazed and thrilled. So, when I see a kid playing with a ball, I want to share my passion -- to see the game keep growing here.

Posted by: fischy | July 23, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Fischy,

I'm 40 years old, so I've been along for the ride as well. But you still haven't described the form this proselytizing actually takes. As portrayed by the soccer-bashers (or even just by middle-of-the-roaders like the column in question), it involves a kind of hectoring, pestering, don't-you-know-what's-good-for-you approach.

And I just don't see it. I see soccer lovers who say nice things about the game, who occasionally get their hackles up when attacked. That's it. I don't see the pushy/hectoring thing.

Posted by: ChristopherMc | July 23, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

No, no, no. Why would you show someone a second rate game in a second rate tournament if you want to get them excited about soccer?

Posted by: icehippo | July 23, 2009 3:25 PM
-------------------------------------------

One further thought on this: I was first exposed to soccer as a high school student 40 years ago. If the Gold Cup is second-rate, then the exurban league in which my high school competed was eighth-rate, and that is putting it charitably. However, that is what I had access to, especially at a time when cable and satellite TV and the Internet as we know it were still decades in the future, and I drank it in, just as I did with my school's girls' field hockey team or anything else. Of course I knew that the game was played at a far more sophisticated level in other parts of the world, but so what? Should I have waited until I was in a position to fly to Europe or South America before seeing a game? I think not.

I later was exposed to the game at progressively higher levels by attending a university that (at that time) perennially saw Division I postseason action, watching the NASL on TV, eventually moving to an area with an NASL team (the Diplomats), and so forth. That is the way it works with most American sports fans, Eurosnobs notwithstanding.

Posted by: cow_pasture | July 23, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse

The people who prosletyze are the editors who determined that this piece of garbage had to be published on the same day (and in a more prominent position - front page, above the fold) as a report on the national team reaching the final of our regions biggest international competition, and next to a profile of local soccer player who is returning to home turf as a star on one of the world's biggest clubs - a remarkable achievement for US soccer - for a game featuring several of the world's best players.

This kind of "funny" derogatory coverage only ever involves soccer - no other sport is treated with such disrespect. No other nation ignores or disrespects its national team with such conduct. All these type of articles ever show is ignorance and false pride - sneering at soccer may be a soft bigotry, but that is all it is - xenophobic bigotry.

The only thing she got right was the fan's need for an attention span. Soccer demands your full attention - you can't go shopping on the middle of the game. Maybe understanding footie is just too great a mental challenge for the average sportswriter and ESPN chatterbox.

As for the incidence of violence -- soccer fans number several billions. No other sport has comparable numbers. No American sport comes close. In the US soccer may have limited appeal, but then violence at games is also minimal. With so many passionate about the sport worldwide, it follows that there may be a higher number of unfortunate incidents, but it doesn't follow that the rate of violent acts per fan is any higher than any other game. The argument about soccer violence is just an excuse to try to justify an "acceptable" prejudice.

Any other day this article would have been just another in a long line of tedious and offensive nonsense. To publish today, on what should have been a good day for national and local soccer fans, was shameful.

Goff, you have my sympathy for having to work in an environment where you felt obliged to bring our attention to this piece of shallow garbage.

Posted by: oz4dcu | July 24, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Tracee's column was an unfortunate waste of good writing and a deplorable misuse of soccer space in the Post's sports section.

What's next? Robin Givhan commenting on Twellman's too tight shorts? Or maybe a suggestion that FC Dallas would do better if their horizontal stripes didn't make them look fat?

Posted by: djohnson | July 24, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

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