June 18, 2005

Too urban?: "........ everyone is agreed that US soccer is - to use Greg Dyke's phrase - hideously white". Just thought I'd mention it!

posted by Fat Buddha to soccer at 06:06 AM - 18 comments

I heard about that Boston situation on NPR. One of the biggest problems that the suburban parents had with the urban leagues had nothing to do with race -- the city teams were allowed to play older kids, because they had trouble fielding enough players otherwise. This article is a cheap shot, impugning the motivations of white parents and sports fans without backing any of it up. I've coached kids teams, and the race of the players on my team or any other was completely irrelevant. The same's true of the sports I watch. Anyone who thinks that white sports fans won't embrace black athletes in the U.S. should look at the top 10 list of NFL merchandise sales: Randy Moss, Michael Vick, Tom Brady, Donovan McNabb, Ben Roethlisberger, LaDainian Tomlinson, Byron Leftwich, Carnell Williams, Jeremy Shockey, and Tiki Barber. That's a lot of black athletes for a country where fans are so racist they embrace supposedly "dumb as toast" sports like NASCAR and snowboarding.

posted by rcade at 09:24 AM on June 18

there are 3 whites on that list and I bet that it's mostly white kids who wear the white athletes jerseys. Bad white kids may wear a Moss jersey, but I suspect good kids wear the Tom Brady and Ben's jersy more than a urban black kid.

posted by bluekarma at 12:41 PM on June 18

Carnell Williams is in the top 10? I mean, wow, he hasn't even been to a training camp yet nor was he the top pick in the draft (though somehow I don't see Niners fans buying player-specific merchandise in droves generally any more). Wells is surely exaggerating for effect, as he's wont to from previous columns posted to Spofi, but to some degree I can agree with his thesis. The Earthquakes, for example, have one African-American starter this year--Ricardo Clark--after having none last year or the year before (that I recall). And he might not be starting now that we got Kelly Grey from the Fire and Ching and Mullan back from injury today (possibly) and next week respectively. OTOH, who are the all over the media role models for black kids these days? The only one in soccer is Freddie Adu and other than the hype when he signed last year he really hasn't gotten much in the way of headlines. He's developing nicely, no doubt, but isn't yet at the star level that would generate coverage and commercial opportunities outside the soccer space.

posted by billsaysthis at 01:21 PM on June 18

I don't think there's any question that soccer is a suburban sport and the 'burbs are still predominately white. Until we take the game to kids in the inner-city I don't think the U.S. will ever do better than a quarter-finals finish in the World Cup. Blacks are better athletes than whites...I'm not sure there's much in that statement that would create intelligent debate...and most blacks live in the inner city. When I was 16 I tried out for the Texas Longhorns Soccer Club in Dallas. The Longhorns were known as a good club team in Richardson (N. Dallas lilly-white suburb at the time) and also for selecting players to travel to England for FA training and games against local English clubs. This was 1974 and there were about 700 kids trying out for around 25 roster slots. Of those 700 kids, probably 500 were hispanic and there were maybe a handful of blacks. I was lucky; I made the team and enjoyed one of the greatest experiences of my life. Oh...I'm also white. How many made the team out of all those hispanic kids? One. And he lived in the suburbs and went to Richardson High School. There was not one inner-city kid on the team, even though there were many who were better players than some of those selected, including me. If the soccer-army in this country really wants to see our national team excel, then white guys like me are going to have to take the sport to the inner city. I plan on doing exactly that in Austin, Texas.

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 03:44 PM on June 18

If the soccer-army in this country really wants to see our national team excel, then white guys like me are going to have to take the sport to the inner city. I plan on doing exactly that in Austin, Texas.
Rock on. However, I'm not so sure that the US NT's lack of color is because their is less soccer in the inner city than the 'burbs. Here in Los Angeles their is a large latin american soccer playing contingent, but I sincerely doubt they have any aspirations of representing the US. Why this is, is up for debate but I'll take a stab at it.
  1. Cultural Identity:
  2. I have seen and played with a great variety of "non-white" soccer players who, while being citizens of the US, still identify with their (or their parents) country of origin. I have also come across some whom don't truly feel "American enough" to represent this country.
  3. Popularity:
  4. Soccer is the #1 sport throughout the world. In the US, it doesn't rate among the "Big 3". There are a lot of footballers here in the U S of A who aspire to sign with Real Madrid more than Real Salt Lake. While it doesn't have anything to do with the National Team it does effect the visibility/viability/respectability of the sport. Like it or not, a great deal of sports is business. And if the fans in the US don't spend money on American soccer, their is little else that can be done to raise the profile of the game that hasn't been done before. Which begs the question, if soccer followed the model of the "Big 3" here in the US, and their were investors willing to sink cash into teams and "American style free agency" vs. "European style transfers/loans" would the dollar signs draw enough publicity to draw in more viewers, and by proxy more revenue? Would the league fall into an economic sinkhole of bloated free agent contracts before the rubbernecking effect of cash could take effect and end up like the NHL? Just wondering.
In either case, the game is still being played. In the cold suburbs of Boston, on the turf of Old Trafford, on the beaches of Brazil, and the inner city parks of Los Angeles it is still the beautiful game. And sooner or later, whether anyone likes it or not, all of these places, all of these people will intersect. Here's hoping were a little closer to that happening.

posted by lilnemo at 04:45 PM on June 18

I don't think there's any question that soccer is a suburban sport In the US.

posted by yerfatma at 10:16 PM on June 18

I would rather my kid wear Tom Brady's jersey than Moss for obvious reasons, but then youth always seem to go for the outlaws and rebels. It's why they are called youth. But when grown-up adults wear Moss then they are nothing but children in adults bodies. They have no social development and they wear a bad guys jersey to feel important. I see it with Raider Fan all the time. Bunch of social misfits!

posted by bluekarma at 10:50 AM on June 19

Anyone who thinks that white sports fans won't embrace black athletes--- That's irrelevant, though, to the demographic divide in participation when it comes to soccer in the US. I've coached kids teams, and the race of the players on my team or any other was completely irrelevant. I've no doubt. But their home address was probably relevant, even if unconsciously. Anyway, my gut feeling is that the college system (and the relative lack of one for men's soccer) has a lot to do with the disparity, and that doesn't necessarily follow racial or even economic patterns. Had Steve Nash grown up in the UK, he'd probably be a professional footballer by now.

posted by etagloh at 03:11 PM on June 19

rcade,usually I totally agree with you..This time your way off base. NACAR is a sport irreguardless of all the moronic purists that are trying to deny its place..Now as for the soccer it seems like the same old double standard racial bullshit I see and hear everyday. I'm so tired of everyone trying to put a racial tone to all sports.. Are you mad at NASCAR because the minoritys ar'nt represented???

posted by maclmn at 06:40 PM on June 19

I wasn't calling NASCAR "dumb as toast." I was quoting the article. I am growing to like the sport, by virtue of living 45 minutes from Daytona Speedway, though I did root for Herbie to win in Fully Loaded today.

posted by rcade at 07:46 PM on June 19

Never root against the magical Lohan breasts, rcade, not if you know what's good for you. (She's legal now, right?)

posted by billsaysthis at 10:03 PM on June 19

This is all just ridiculous. Impatient, Gotta have it all now, generation. I played in the Dallas League against the The Longhorns from'84-'89, the had a few black players. The only issue I had with one guy was that he was HUGE and fast. But it was good soccer. Steve Nash and his brother Martin grew up in Canada and Martin is a professional indoor player. Soccer has come a long way in a short time, it may have gotten it's start in the suburbs but everything has to START somewhere. If you want to know where it winds up you may have to actually wait a couple hundred years. That is when our soccer program will have the history of some of Europe's younger countries.

posted by upper90 at 01:11 AM on June 20

Hi! First time post - been trolling for a while though. This kind of made me want to say something. I have played soccer for years. I have played in Buffalo, NY ("inner city") - Mississippi - Korea -Tucson, AZ ("inner city")- Italy and now Germany. From what I have seen, there is no racial problem with the sport - at least where I have played and frankly, I think that card is thrown out way too often. I have played on teams where the vast majority are black or hispanic (Buffalo and Tucson). With Tucson, the main problem is not race, it is language. We spoke English, they spoke Spanish. In Italy and Germany - No black or hispanics at all. Racial problem in Europe? I have played when two or three sports seasons are going at the same time. If that happens, for the majority of the players, they choose another sport. Basketball, Football etc... Lack of players, in my opinion, is not racial, it is cultural. "Inner city" kids are raised on the Basketball court. Thanks for letting me post

posted by Stealth_72 at 07:18 AM on June 20

I heard about that Boston situation on NPR. One of the biggest problems that the suburban parents had with the urban leagues had nothing to do with race -- the city teams were allowed to play older kids, because they had trouble fielding enough players otherwise. Well, first off, I dunno why the author of an article on no-hands-no-helmets football thought that a recent set-to over Pop Warner hands-and-helmets football would make his point...but since you picked up on it, I have my doubts about whether any suburban parent is really expressing why they didn't want to play any more. The 'burbanites had no problem coming into the city during the years when Boston Pop Warner was just getting going. With experience to back them up, the suburban teams won consistently, and apparently weren't at all adverse to running up the score when the opportunity presented itself. Now they're not winning so much, and all of a sudden they don't want to play any more, and we're presented with a plethora of reasons ranging from the rap music to the urban danger -- none of which apparently existed three or four years ago, I guess -- and now this about the players' ages, and it's a wee bit of a stretch. You might want to take a look at this editorial from the Boston Globe, which points to several of the inconsistencies in the suburban story. This article is a cheap shot, impugning the motivations of white parents and sports fans without backing any of it up. I've coached kids teams, and the race of the players on my team or any other was completely irrelevant. Well, he does kind of back it up, with a demographics argument that can't be adequately countered by "I don't have a prejudiced bone in my body" statements. I'm sure that race is irrelevant to you, once the kids show up on your pitch for tryouts. But where is your pitch located? What population is it drawing from? Are there non-white kids around who aren't showing up to play, and if so, could there be a reason other than "just don't feel like it"?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:37 AM on June 20

The 'burbanites had no problem coming into the city during the years when Boston Pop Warner was just getting going. When there were plenty of kids to fill teams at each age level. Per the little I've read and heard on 'EEI, some teams are playing much older kids. It's one thing to have your 12 year-old struck out by Danny Almonte; it's quite another to have him run over by someone deep in the throes of puberty. I appreciate Boston whites have a nasty history of not wanting their kids in Roxbury, but that's no reason some kid should get broken over it, regardless of the color of his skin.

posted by yerfatma at 08:07 AM on June 20

Thanks for letting me post Stealth_72 takes home the prize for "Year's Most Courteous First Post."

posted by Uncle Toby at 03:27 PM on June 20

Hopefully he'll be the first in a new wave of ultra-polite posters. /wanders off humming absent mindedly

posted by squealy at 03:45 PM on June 20

I appreciate Boston whites have a nasty history of not wanting their kids in Roxbury, but that's no reason some kid should get broken over it, regardless of the color of his skin. I agree, but it's sure funny that the age objection was never filed with the league, and also that it didn't come up as a reason for leaving when the story first broke.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 05:21 PM on June 20

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