Giving Yellow and Red Cards to People Making Dumb Anti-Soccer Arguments—The Monday Morning Realist


Every Monday morning, Section 215’s Akiem Bailum gives an in-depth and unfiltered look at all of the latest sports news in The Monday Morning Realist. You can follow Akiem on Twitter @AkiemBailum.

Isn’t it amazing, Realists? Whenever we have sports outside of the traditional baseball, basketball, football (American football, that is) cycle that make headlines in the States every few years (when it should be every few months), it brings out the inner troll in some people.

It reminds me of that person who is so into himself even at a young age that feels nearly threatened to try even the slightest of things new because it gets that person out of her or his comfort zone.

The fact that the FIFA World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world (even moreso than the Summer Olympic Games) warrants coverage from the sports media like it is the biggest sporting event in the world. Thus far, I would grade ESPN’s coverage of this year’s World Cup in Brazil as “pretty good” but not “excellent” like it was for 2010 in South Africa.

Soccer (which is called “football” in countries outside of the U.S. of A) being the number one talked about subject on SportsCenter and Fox Sports Live is one thing that certainly gets people out of their comfort zones. But when we hear a few of these so-called “pundits” open their mouths about the sport, one thinks that they are living in the Twilight Zone.

A few years ago, I went in on those that gave South Africans grief for their usage of vuvuzelas at the World Cup events in 2010. They won the Cup rights, so their rules. Notice that these same folks that attacked South Africa for the vuvuzelas said NOTHING about the repetitive use of thundersticks at MLB and NBA games?

More Cowbell anyone at Tampa Bay Rays games? Crickets from the press.

Exactly—the attack on vuvuzelas was really an attack on South African culture, spearheaded by a sporting press full of dinosaurs.

If Brazil had something equally as inducing to the ears as the vuvuzelas were four years ago, I would defend their rights to use those objects as well. Their games, their rules.

But, let’s get to attacks perpetuated by an antiquated sporting press on the actual sport of soccer/football.
We begin this morning with Keith Olbermann of ESPN.

When Team USA ended up with a draw against Portugal after being seemingly ten seconds away from completing what would’ve been one of the greatest victories in the history of the USMNT, Olbermann was one of the Debbie-downers who claimed that we choked.

Yes, we may have choked and ended up with a draw, but he went on to say that Team USA shouldn’t have moved on to the knockout round of the World Cup and that Portugal was more deserving along with Germany.

Taking Olbermann’s possible disappointment that the World Cup this year is dominating the sports headlines at a time usually reserved for baseball (Olby’s favorite sport) out of the equation, there’s also this. He claimed that we weren’t deserving because we tied Portugal and that Portugal virtually “won” its last two games by tying us and then defeating Ghana 2-1.

Firstly, we also beat Ghana. Secondly, Portugal got dominated by Germany 4-0 which put them in a major hold early on in group play. Thirdly, we only gave up one goal to Germany in our loss.

The main argument that Olbermann is trying to make is that we shouldn’t have advanced to the knockout round because we weren’t the better team. Well, even if we weren’t the better team, as Jim Rome would say, “Scoreboard”.

Olbermann needs to take a long look at that scoreboard. Sometimes, the better team doesn’t always win. Yes, I was one of those who when the World Cup draw was announced and the USA seemingly was up against an insurmountable amount of travel and teams that we were as good as gone in the first round.

But, look at what has transpired this World Cup. Spain—the defending World Cup champs from 2010 and defending Euro 2012 champions were bounced in the first round. England—the country that practically invented the sport and whose fans expect that they win the Cup every year were bounced in the first round. Italy, who won the World Cup in 2006—gone in the first round.

World Cups are not won in the media. No sports event is won in the media or the Miami Heat would have won their fourth consecutive NBA championship by now and there’d be no talk of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh potentially departing.

They’re won on the pitch—and Team USA this World Cup has held its own better than any of those aforementioned international footy powers.

Another insane Olbermann argument says that soccer is not growing in the USA. Someone needs to tell Keith of what his former employees at NBC just did. NBC recently signed a major deal to bring English Premier League football (the biggest football organization in the world) to the television sets of the US via NBC and NBCSN. The ratings for EPL on NBC have been HUGE and they’re only growing.

The next time Olbermann does one of his “Worst Person In the Sports World” bits, he should nominate himself—for all three spots on “Worsts”.

It’s one thing for someone like a Keith Olbermann (who has been ripping soccer at least since 1993) to go in on the sport. He gets a yellow card.

Ann Coulter on the other hand—straight red! Hit the showers!

I for one care about as much for Ann Coulter’s politics as I do for Ann Coulter—which is nil. But when I saw what she said regarding how Americans’ embracing of the sport is a threat to our moral decay, I couldn’t help but go, “Huh? Come Again?”

Believe me, deconstructing Coulter’s comments is a newspaper piece in itself that’ll probably take about 2,000 words to write, so I’ll just let loose on a couple of the things she said that I believe are of note.

Coulter’s comments were so biting that I think they have been bad as what Luis Suarez did that earned him a 9-match suspension from the powers that be at FIFA.

She claims that one of the reasons why soccer is “contributing to the country’s moral decay” is because there’s no individual achievement in soccer whereas there’s some sort of individual glory that can be attained through a touchdown pass in American football, a slam dunk in basketball, or a home run in baseball.

Yeah, Coulter. There’s no individual accomplishment in being a goaltender in soccer & preventing several would-be goals from going into the net, as Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa was doing with near mastery before some questionable calls sealed the end for El Tri’s stay in this World Cup against the Netherlands. There’s no individual accomplishment even in the act of scoring goals in soccer and increasing one’s stats to the point where they are as illustrious as Clint Dempsey’s in World Cups.

Does this woman even know a soccer goal from a basketball net?

In addition, she had the audacity to claim that the reason why so many of us in the United States are into soccer is because of how it’s because we have so many people in the USA that are of different backgrounds and cultures (as if that’s a bad thing).

It isn’t because the sport is—compelling to watch. It isn’t because the sport is—dramatic. It isn’t because the sport is—fun. It has to be what Coulter said it was.

Believe me when I say that I know a lot of people both professionally and personally who I consider friends who are likely the only soccer fans possibly in their entire families—of all races, creeds, and colors.

One has to wonder where they get this anti-soccer sentiment from. They’re allowed to have it. Not everyone, even as the sport grows and slowly but surely makes its way into the upper echelon of the American sports lexicon will embrace it. We shouldn’t expect that. But, the arguments that continue to be made to lambast the sport as if it weren’t a sport are outlandish at best and ignorant at worst.

I remember while being immersed in ESPN’s South Africa 2010 coverage that some were saying that Americans don’t embrace soccer because it’s only a sport played in by poor nations (as if poor or oppressed countries like those in Latin America don’t play this thing called baseball, aka the American National Pastime).

Olbermann and Coulter aren’t the only ones on the anti-soccer brigade. CBS Sports Radio’s Jim Rome (also worthy of a yellow) made a name himself (and still does) by constantly referring to soccer as “an excuse to riot” and not a sport.

Admittedly, soccer riots in other countries do get very bad because the culture in those countries centers around the notion of inflating soccer to the point to where it is too big in those countries. But, if soccer is an excuse to riot, so are all American male team sports. Does anyone remember this year after the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl that students at the University of Washington burned furniture in a clear example of a drunken stupor?

Plus, pundits like Olbermann, Coulter, Rome, and others need to understand exactly how big soccer, and the FIFA World Cup, is in other countries. I’d love to see these people make those same comments on the BBC in the United Kingdom as they do on ESPN and CBS.

Or, better yet, in an English pub.

Yes, soccer may be different. Yes, it may not fit the prototypical American standard for sports of high scoring and gawdy, inflated statistics. But, it is called “the Beautiful Game” for a reason. And when one gives oneself the opportunity to expand outside the one-dimensional mindset of “We’re America, so we’re better than you, already! USA! USA!”, then one is able to see that soccer does have its merits and that it is indeed growing. Again, we shouldn’t expect everyone to embrace the sport, but let’s just have some fun at those who unfairly lambast it who are scoring own goal after own goal after own goal.

Oh, and as a side note–let’s also remember that when Olbermann was a political pundit on MSNBC and Current TV, Coulter (whom he commonly referred to as “Coultergeist”) was one of his biggest targets on his shows on both networks. They seem to have found common ground when it comes to this whole “Let’s show how big of Neanderthals we BOTH are by losing an argument on the merits of soccer” bit.

Trust me, Realists. If this is one thing that folks like Olbermann and Coulter can agree upon, then we rational sports fans who don’t doubt soccer’s merits are one step closer to finding the Holy Grail.