On the first day of the World Cup, I was down in the Power Light District hanging out with a few soccer fans watching the Mexico-South Africa game. (This seems like months ago, doesn't it?) We were talking about the future and things that were good for the future of soccer.
Namely, watch parties in high visibility places like the P (from what I can tell, hosting this might end up being a masterstroke by the Kansas City Wizards and the USA Bid Committee) and high-visibility writers either covering the sport or becoming fans of the sport.
That leads us into ESPN's Bill Simmons and his most recent column. He wrote nearly5,000 words about the World Cup yesterday
. (Full disclosure, he's one of my favorite writers. But he's also a tremendously popular -- maybe the most read -- sports writer in America.)
There's been a lot of discussion in the soccer blogosphere about columnists and sports writers bashing the sport. Or, perhaps worse, writers that don't understand what they're talking about (and don't take the time to understand) trying to put the sport into context. There's been even more discussion amongst the higher echelon of soccer nerds lamenting that not enough sports writers are analyzing the game and more time pontificating on the greater ramifications of what the game means.
And, yeah, Simmons spends at least half of those 5,000 words doing that exact thing, but it's an epic must-read anyway.
The U.S. soccer team could own that "everyone" domain for the simple reason that it's unattainable for anyone else. We always want our national soccer team to succeed; it would be un-American to feel differently. There's continuity through the years when certain players (such as Donovan, Howard and 2010 breakout star Michael Bradley, locks to make the 2014 World Cup) stick around for a prolonged time. There's always a finish line (the Cup every four years), with dozens of exhibitions, smaller tournaments and World Cup qualifying strewn in between. If you want, you can extend your attachment by following American stars on their club squads. Add everything up and it feels like following the Lakers, Red Sox, Niners or whomever.
He's not the only one churning out excellent general sports writing on the topic. Sports Illustrated has sent former Star columnist Joe Posnaski to South Africa. And he's been doing the things that make Pos great: Providing insight into the day-in-day-out existence in another country, helping write the legends and just generally being an awesome writer who has a few problems with the game he's covering but is actually covering it honestly.
Check them both out.
•Joe Posnanski's blog.
• Bill Simmons: Soccer is ready to capture our imagination.