June 25, 2010

Don't be 'Joe Fan'

The response from Wednesday's USA last minute thriller versus Algeria felt like the crest of a crescendo that had been swelling since 2000 or so, or maybe even 1996 at the outset of MLS.

My favorite US Soccer fan type is 'Joe Fan' who only watches soccer for 1 month out of every four years. He knows general soccer lingo. He even knows the favorites to win the tournament. None of these, though, is his calling card. You'll know Joe Fan by this very one thing -- as the World Cup is discussed among him, he'll whip out his anti-USA soccer spiel that he's been working on all week, or worse -- the one he heard from Michael Wilbon on PTI the previous afternoon.

Most Joe Fan-types have these things in common:
  • They think soccer is boring because there isn't much scoring.
  • Soccer isn't even as big as hockey in the US, so it must not matter much.
  • He thinks that since the USA isn't a top 10 favorite to win the World Cup, they must not be any good.
  • He sees the USA lose a game to a country the size of Nebraska and discounts the entire US soccer program.
My advice to you: Don't be Joe Fan.

Here are things you should understand about world soccer:
  • For most countries, qualifying for the World Cup is a big deal. Teams who didn't qualify for the world cup this year: Ireland, Turkey, Egypt, Croatia, Russia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Costa Rica.
  • Consider which teams are already out of the World Cup this time around: Italy (defending champion) France (defending runner-up), Ivory Coast, and Cameroon, all strong soccer nations, if not world powers. Point -- making it to the knockout round of 16 is a huge success.
  • Once in the round of 16, so many variables affect how far you go. For instance, in 2006, the USA tied Italy 1-1 in group play, while playing a man down almost the entire game, yet Italy went on to win the World Cup. Factors affecting advancement: (a) injuries (b) matchup (c) yellow/red cards (d) momentum
You'll know Joe Fan when you see and hear him/her. Just don't be that fan.