The Full 90

Talking Points | Bobblehead incident is not what soccer is about

Is this soccer in Kansas City?

Wednesday night’s ugly scene at Livestrong Sporting Park, where Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen was hit in the face by a projectile — the head of an Omar Bravo bobblehead — is sure to fan the flames of the ongoing soccer battle.

In one corner are the soccer fans and in the other are the soccer bashers. Both are sure to be in full voice today.I’ll start with the fans, particularly Sporting supporters. They want coverage from the media for their team that matches the level of the Chiefs, Royals or major colleges, despite generating nowhere near the support of those teams over the last decade.

Rather than just enjoying the beautiful game, they bristle at any slight toward the team or the sport, whether it’s intended or not. But they need to step up today and condemn what happened at Livestrong. Acknowledge that it happened during a soccer game.

In fact, it was the second major security problem in just 10 league home games this season at Livestrong. Remember the clown in the cow suit?

It doesn’t take much for a reputation to be built. I'm curious to see how this plays out across the country.

This kind of bobblehead-throwing thing hasn’t happened at Kauffman Stadium or Arrowhead Stadium in the past. Nielsen’s injury was ugly, and it is not what soccer is about.

However, that’s just what the bashers will say. They’ll point to any number of incidents that have happened around the globe. But what the haters need to realize is that there are literally hundreds of games every weekend on the planet. This is the biggest sport in the world, with multiple leagues in nearly every nation.

Just as you can’t label the NBA as having out-of-control players based on Ron Artest or Vernon Maxwell and their “interaction” with fans, don’t do it with soccer.

In fact, leave soccer and its fans alone. I’ve never understood why some people go out of their way to post on soccer message boards that they think the sport is dumb. All they are trying to do is incite the soccer enthusiasts, just like a little brother picking on his older sister. All too often it works, and maybe that's why it keeps happening.

Today, I would hope the bashers and the supporters could find common ground. What happened at Livestrong is unacceptable. Nielsen was lucky to come away relatively unscathed. This is not the time to be bagging on soccer or going to great lengths to defend it.

Let's all just recognize that it was a random act of stupidity.

| Pete Grathoff, pgrathoff@kcstar.com

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