Friday, July 16, 2010

Severe case of writer's block - party of one

You've probably noticed if you read this column regularly that entries have become a bit sporadic. I wished I had a better answer that just things getting in the way, but honestly, it's hard to keep track of everything going on in life at points, and because of that writing time gets cut. Granted, my other blog has a pretty easy schedule, because I write when news of the Timbers happens and I can get something out pretty easily. The subjects and timeframe are pretty much taken care of, so it's just simply writing something interesting in 800 words or less.
This blog is a bit more freeform in that I try to write when I have interesting or frustrating things to talk about, and I want to vent or share. But at the same time, I don't want this to become a point of pure bitching and whining, because that simply accomplishes nothing. There are far more interesting places for whining to go than here, like Blazers message boards or Big Soccer if you really want to hear folks drone on about things.
At the same point, the summer is a difficult time to write about subjects. I could write about sports, but right now, all everyone in that world wants to talk about is LeBron or Tiger, and I couldn't care less to waste any more space talking about them than I just did. Most professional athletes have the entirely wrong idea about what it is to be famous, and simply flaunt the god given talents and massive amounts of money they get to play sports in a narcissistic desire to be better than everyone else. I find most NBA players completely out of touch with reality because they can't understand what the rest of us have to do just simply to afford tickets to a game.
There are notable exceptions to the rule, and many of them reside here in the Rose City. But the message of their exploits around here gets buried in a complete drivel of drama surrounding the management and ownership of the team. The current owner can't seem to get out of his own way at points of making personnel decisions, but at the same time, he's the guy writing the checks so he can pretty much do what he wants. He knows that the team absolutely owns the fans in this town and dominates the media outlets, so they can do just about anything and this town will adore them. Think I'm kidding about that, but the team was still remotely successfully during their dark ages of player stupidity and people were still going to games even though the "economic model was broken"  And now that things are better, the fans can spend hours and hours talking about the most inane details of free agency, trade deals until they've beaten the subject senseless.
Sounds like I'm being rather cynical here, and you are absolutely right. I can't stand media types that bash on certain sports incessantly because they can't be bothered to get it, yet can suck up to a certain sport and talk about it for hours and hours ad naseum. My biggest complaint about the Trail Blazers right now is simply that I have other sports that are more interesting to me right now, and I'm not being allowed to get away from them long enough to miss them and regain that spark of interest. Maybe others care so much about the roster and deals, and want to talk about it all the time, but frankly, I would rather deal with other things.
Yet the sport I love, soccer, is derided by the same outlets as boring, European, sissy, and a whole list of detractions all the time. Look, I absolutely despise NASCAR because I can't think of anything as boring as watching cars go around in circles for hours, and if I really wanted to watch it, I'd go play in traffic on the Banfield. But I respect that it's a popular activity that people love and there's a competitive and athletic element to it. But I don't go around and trash it because I know there are fans. Yet there seems to be little to no respect for soccer because it's cool to bash it.
Never mind that millions of people watch the sport regularly, including the most recent World Cup. Never mind that players often play non stop for years between national and club duty, risking injuries and fitness. Try and throw a ball to a point on a field and see if you can hit it with precision, and now take that same ball and kick it with the same results, and you'll see the game has a skill that isn't completely understood. Most soccer offenses follow the same principles of a triangle offense or pick and roll in basketball, but yet one sport is loved here yet another despised.
I get that the scoring is down and there's a bit too much overacting on certain calls. When you have a single official making all the calls on the pitch, sometimes players embellish on things that they shouldn't. Yet, one sport sees flopping as a viable option, while fans chastise in another. A 1 to 0 baseball game is considered a gem, or a no hitter is a masterpiece, but a 1 to 0 soccer game is pure boredom. I know that a lot of the haters have never played the game, so that leads to much misconceptions and ideas about how boring things are, but I think the reason why soccer isn't as well liked is pretty obvious.
We hate the fact that America is in the middle of the table when it comes to soccer, and if we can't dominate it, there's no point in being interested. We rule the world in baseball and basketball, yet soccer we're within the top 30 teams playing in the world. But if we dominated and won most every tournament, I can bet that many fans would pick up the game because we were good at it. Mind you, there is over 200 nations in FIFA playing for 32 berths in the World Cup, so qualifying for the tournament is a big deal simply by the numbers. The United States is extremely competitive in its region, and is taking big steps to keep its profile up. But with nations that live and breathe soccer and produce hundreds of talented athletes, the U.S. is going to have issues at points keeping their most talented soccer athletes playing the game with other choices going on.
We can help our cause by keeping MLS vibrant and strong, and continuing to support youth and developmental soccer in all avenues, but also trying to remain diligent in dealing with the haters. The game is simple, beautiful, and complex all in the same package, and if you give it a chance, you might find that it's not such a bad game at all.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I'm just tired of all the talk

Today, I was walking with some friends as they got some coffee at a local coffee house, and I was asked what I thought about NBA free agency. My exact words were, "I could care less right now because right now, my focus is on other things. I'm tired of sports seasons dragging on so long that it's hard to concentrate on a particular sport."
When I was younger, the sports seasons had an exact offseason. The NFL got done after the Super Bowl in January, allowing spring training to get some attention while the NBA was building up its playoff run. The NBA playoffs got out of the way before the pennant races started heating up in baseball before football started getting going in the late part of the summer. While there was big news about sports at various points, there was enough of a down time where casual fans could move from sport to sport rather easily.
Now, baseball playoffs run into November which bleeds into free agency, while the NBA puts its draft and free agency smack in the middle of summer, drawing basketball fans into long drawn out discussions about salary caps and signings. The NFL draft has become a 4 day affair, drawing out the spectacle of players being picked by teams, while there is actual coverage of workouts and camps that football fans can watch. Mind you, if you are a passionate sports fan of one of the sports, you are in heaven because it's all attention all the time. But for someone like myself that used to be able to keep up with things relatively easily, I find it harder and harder to do.
Soccer has become a passion, more now that I write about it on a regular basis in my other world, but it's the ultimate fan experience. I can watch a match in 2 hours or less, and it's done for the weekend. Just one match, one meeting, it's simple. Granted, there is a lot of offseason movement, but at the same point, FIFA mandates that players can only belong to one club at a time, so player movement is restricted in that respect. You also have various transfer window times that player movement is done in, making it easier to keep track of things.
Maybe it's just informational overload, because right now, I can't spend days worrying about whether the Trail Blazers will sign who they want or where the big NBA free agents will end up. I frankly don't care right now, because it's pure speculation, and the only people that aren't talking about it are the players. If you want to drum up interest, that's a sure way to pull in the rabid basketball fans, but at the same point, it's not nearly as interesting or compelling. Even if Portland was a key player in free agency, I don't think that would make me any more interested, because it's all about money and power.
I need a break from time to time from my teams, and the way the schedules work themselves out makes it easier for me to keep my sanity. When the Timbers are completing their season, the Trail Blazers are in full swing and so I can turn my attention there easily, while filling in for the occassional Broncos game. With other interests competing for time, I just don't have the disposable time to just sit back and watch hours and hours of sports anymore, so I have to choose my time wisely. The fact that my wife also enjoys soccer means that I can watch games with her, and not only fulfill a sports fix but spend time with the one I love.
But maybe, just maybe it's about me growing up a bit and realizing that while sports is an amazing thing, it can't just be everything in a person's life. Passion is great, but even the most crazed fan needs some time off from time to time. I just wished that the talking heads at sports radio followed that line of thinking, instead of the blathering on of "What will the Blazers do now?"  Right now, I've got more important things to think about than that.