The World Cup came to an end for the United States Tuesday when it lost to Belgium in extra time 2-1. It sucked, even if it wasn’t completely unexpected. For many fans who have been watching soccer the last three weeks the end of the USMNT’s run in the World Cup means the end of watching soccer for four years.
And that’s fine. I used to be the exact same way.
Up until 2010 the only time I ever watched soccer was the World Cup, and even that wasn’t full attention. I was basically playing “just the tip” with soccer, you know, just to see how it felt. Things changed a bit after that, though, as once the World Cup ended in 2010 I began writing full time at CBS Sports. This meant that I was at home a lot more during the day than I’d been used to, and that meant I needed to find something to watch on television.
More specifically it means I needed to find sports to watch on television.
And there it was on one of those sports channels that I was paying extra for that I never watch: Fox Soccer. During the day the channel would show replays of Premier League games that had happened the week before, or sometimes even months before, but they were all new matches to me. What happened was the soccer jones that I’d developed during the World Cup grew, and suddenly I was watching club soccer, not just international.
And it was good, too. That’s the funny thing about club soccer, particularly in leagues like the Premier League: it’s better than World Cup soccer at times because the concentration of elite players is higher.
I then followed the Premier League for a season, watching on Saturday mornings before work and college football games began, without a rooting interest. I began to actually understand what I was watching enough to know who was good, who sucked, when they were doing something well, or when somebody screwed up. It was fun. After that first season I decided I needed to adopt a team of my own to maintain interest, and even though I wound up choosing Aston Villa, I still find myself interested!
Naturally my newfound interest in soccer led to me deciding to give the Chicago Fire a shot. Now, MLS is not on the same level as the Premier League, or Germany’s Bundesliga or Italy’s Serie A (where I support Napoli, who is actually good), but it was soccer, and it was enough.
My attention to the Fire, though, hasn’t been anywhere near the level that I pay to Aston Villa, as I generally watch from afar. The Fire have this annoying habit of playing their matches whenever Sox games or something else I want to watch is on.
But you know what? Not this year. Not now.
Let’s be honest here, the White Sox and Cubs have a month left in their 2014 seasons. The only thing of real interest to any of us is the upcoming trade deadline. Who is going to be moved, who is going to come back in return, and that’s it. August and September will be nothing but a meaningless march to the end of the season. Then, once the offseason arrives, the Sox and Cubs will begin doing interesting things again.
Tonight the White Sox will play the Angels, and the Cubs will play the Red Sox. Just another game on the 162-game schedule. But the Fire will play tonight as well, against Toronto.
Tonight I’m going to watch the Fire. And when the Fire play again against Kansas City on Sunday afternoon, I’m going to watch them again.
Maybe you should too.
Maybe you’re just like me after the 2010 World Cup, and you suddenly find yourself interested in the sport. Do what I did: maintain that interest. A lot of the players you were just rooting for on the US team play in MLS. And not just the scrubs, but the stars.
Michael Bradley plays for Toronto (though he won’t be playing tonight, obviously), Clint Dempsey and Deandre Yedlin play for Seattle, Graham Zusi and Matt Besler play for Kansas City, and many others play in the league as well.
If you found yourself interested in soccer the last few weeks, there’s no reason that can’t continue.
Now, I don’t want to turn this into a “PLEASE LIKE MY SPORT IT’S SO WONDERFUL YOU JUST HAVE TO GIVE IT A CHANCE” plea, though I fully admit that this is exactly what this post may feel like right now. But I’m not asking you to do this for me, I’m doing it for you.
You just might discover that you actually like the sport itself, not just rooting for America in an international competition. And what’s wrong with discovering something new that you like?
So give the Fire a shot tonight, or wait until August when the European leagues get their seasons started again, and give those a shot instead. If you watch and find yourself bored or uninterested, so be it. At least you gave it a shot.
Either way, the Sox and Cubs will still be there tomorrow, even if you don’t want them to be.
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