Don't Kill The Mellinger

Unsolicited advice for soccer fans and non-fans, bound to tick off both

Updated: 2013-08-01T16:45:15Z

By SAM MELLINGER

The Kansas City Star

They filled every seat in Sporting Park, which is by now as predictable as summertime highway construction. The speakers turned up to 12, the gorgeous video board played a very cool tribute to Kansas City and soccer. On a smaller scale, sure, because there are 20,000 people there instead of 70,000 but the noise was as much as anything you’ve heard at Arrowhead Stadium in quite some time.

The best players in MLS were here for the All-Star game last night, and the whole thing served a bit like a reaffirmation of soccer’s reach and passion both here and throughout the world (the game was broadcast in some 130 countries).

The thing didn’t have the reach of the MLB All-Star game played here last year, but then, that was never the point. Soccer has its audience, has its fans, and that’s good enough. If you want to miss out, fine, more power to you. MLS has made a deliberate decision to go after soccer fans more than traditional American sports fans. The idea is to grow the base instead of bastardize the game with shootouts or two-point goals or anything else. That’s a business decision, and more power to MLS for it.

What this means, though, is that the chasm between the soccer fan and non-soccer fan isn’t going away. So over these last few days with the eyes of the MLS on our city, I kept thinking about where the sport goes from here.

And I hope the answer includes an evolving attitude by three specific groups of people:

Soccer fans, please stop acting like your sport is some exotic delicacy that only you appreciate, and that those who don’t are mere simpletons. Your sport is mainstream. Accept it.

Soccer haters, just shut up already. It’s fine that you don’t like soccer. But why the active dislike? Maybe you like cats or oysters or something else, you don’t see the rest of us freaking out.

Soccer observers, stop talking about Sporting’s come-up. It’s done come up already. Look around. They sell out every game, their gear is all over town, Graham Zusi and Matt Besler are legitimate American soccer stars. It’s here. Let’s stop treating Sporting like the little boy who made his bed.

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365, send email to smellinger@kcstar.com or follow twitter.com/mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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