The Makings of One MLS "Snob"



(UPDATE: I neglected to link to an item posted on The Offside Rules, which contains a fantastic analogy about being a fan of Major League Soccer versus being a fan of the harder-to-reach Euro leagues. I'm leading with that now to make up.)

An Andrea Canales column posted on LA Soccer News inspired this post, an essay in which she questions how much marketers can do to sell American sports fans and Euro-snobs on the league. (And, no, Canales or Bueno contacted me to link exclusively to their stuff today.)

I think the reason this notion interests me is because I remember being one of those Euro-snobs. Back in my earliest days in Boston (Cambridge, actually - though I started out in Jamaica Plain; long story), I made the long-ish trip to a sliver of a Cambridge bar called The Plough & Stars (I think...drunk there most the time) once a week at least where I'd watch as much Premier League action as one man possibly could (no girlfriend/wife made this both possible and, in a weird way, desirable). During that time, I'd catch the odd MLS game, but certainly only when that didn't coincide with the Premiership.

At some point in there, though, my viewing habits shifted. Part of this came with picking up my first copy of Pictures of Chairman Mao, which helped me follow the local team a lot better. The fact that the Boston Globe gave a shit and periodically dished a column or two at least helped a lot as well. Another factor might have been moving in with a new roommate, who happened to have just enough interest in the Revolution that watching a game here and there - or, God forbid, going to the stadium - gave us something to talk about while we drank away a Saturday afternoon. The place we shared was in Somerville, as opposed to Cambridge, which I hardly believe could be significant, but one never knows. Around the same time, I shifted my drinking venue to Charlie's Kitchener, a Harvard Square joint that has this wonderful upstairs bar; nice as the Plough was, it couldn't really compete, not with whiskey served in little boots anyway.

By the time I left Boston, I was going through the motions with the Premiership. I'm to the point today where I barely care - a feeling further aggravated by having Chelsea, Manchester United, or Arsenal vie for the title year after year.

So, based on my experience, one becomes a fan of MLS through several factors: availability of coverage, which helps keep you current with the team - and a really killer fanzine can't hurt there, either; companionship/shared interest; alcohol, preferably in a boot-shaped shot glass.

Once you get hooked, though, it's an oddly self-reinforcing phenomenon. Your team plays, say, the Colorado Rapids, so suddenly you want to know something about them. Then you notice players on teams around the league getting called up to the National Team - and you follow the national team 'cause, well, they're the National Team, right? You just do it. And before you know it, you realize that you know Taylor Twellman grew up in St. Louis, though you don't remember why you know this and know you don't care, you know why Michael Parkhurst hurt his shoulder, etc. and, you suddenly find you don't have time to care about the Premier League any more - not if you want a job, your marriage to work, and to keep your kids out of therapy down the line.

Well, there's my conversion story, brutally edited for length. What's yours?

6 comments:

Soccer Biz Mark said...

Charlie,

As a fan hooked during WC 1994 I’ve followed MLS since day one. Living in Cincinnati at the time I’d catch a Crew match on TV when possible, but it was more of a passing interest. Not having much money at the time prevented me from having access to Premier League games. With the Chicago Fire winning the MLS Cup in 1998 and my subsequent move back to the Windy City, the downward spiral began. Currently I’m a MLS season ticket holder and subscriber to Fox Soccer Channel, GolTV and (yes) Setanta Sports (the true sign of a junkie). While I love watching the Premiership, sports rooting is all about proximity for me.
PLUG: Check my blog at ussoccersnob.blogspot.com
Cheers,
MB

The Manly Ferry said...

Cincinnati? Hey, that's my hometown (literally. Glendale kid.)

That's kind of funny. My family toyed briefly with moving (back in my case) to Ohio recently and I got into all these fantasy scenarios about how I'd catch Crew and Fire games. Geography definitely matters. Congratulations on the downward spiral; though everyone seems to hate Chicago, I've always had a soft spot - even for C. J. Brown.

Checking out your site now...adding to blogroll...thanks for visiting.

Doc M, phd said...

To show you how 2nd rate soccer is in the US, when I read the title of this post on orblogs.com, I thought MLS was the "Multiple Listing Service" the realtors use.

Sorry, but great blog anyway!

The Manly Ferry said...

OMG. I love the tags I get on Orblogs. Classics, everyone of them.

Anonymous said...

Great blog ...

For me, it started with the Nats -- I can remember the game: 1-0 win over Brazil in ... the Gold Cup? Kasey Keller became a god to me immediately. I remember being at a bar in college and for some reason the TV was tuned into Telemundo and my buddie was bilingual. We saw the goal and raced back to his place to watch the end with him translating.

Then I started playing FIFA World Cup '98 on the computer and grew to love the rivalries and watched as I began to recognize the names.

It was a very short leap to go from that to turning to Channel 39 (Dallas) to watch whatever soccer game was on TV. MLS was a given -- but never made it to a game until last season. I'll be there more this time around (even if FCD finishes at the bottom of the conference as I fully expect them to).

The Manly Ferry said...

Ah, FC Dallas. My personal, as opposed to on-field, nemesis. I can't how many times I've picked Dallas teams to do well, only to have them fail, fail, fail...and too often against the Rapids.

Good luck this year. Funny thing: I'm currently playing the Dallas Burn in my FIFA 2004. Gawd, they're awful in that edition.