My soccer problems

Soccer doesn't understand me, either.

Soccer doesn’t understand me, either.

After the 2014 World Cup, I had a conversation with a friend’s cousin about my difficulty in getting into Premier League. No one played soccer in my neighborhood. My cousin had a sun weathered soccer ball but I don’t recall ever playing with it. We had live boxing, football, baseball and tape-delayed NBA on television. In 1982 I had an L.A. Lazers (pro indoor soccer) sticker that made it quickly to the trash can. With the influx of El Salvadorians and Nicaraguans  in the 80s I started seeing more people kick that chess ball around in the parks. Hell, I even played one game of rugby in P.E. and watched a few water polo games but there was zero soccer on my radar.

My interest in finding a team was so that I could understand the game better then disseminate the info to my boy who has been fascinated by the game since he was a toddler. Whereas I have caught a few games since that 2014 conversation, I still have not followed dude’s advice to just pick a team and follow them forever. I can’t do that. Now, I know why.

Is this game between the Wankleberry Samsungs and the Nottingham Nuttsacks? I have no idea who these hopping hooligans are.

In major American sports (baseball, basketball, football) you have obvious logo branding. I don’t follow the WNBA at all but as soon as I saw a jersey with the Statue of Liberty, I knew the team was the New York Liberty. Premier has seals. I can’t see those tiny ass emblems. I do see Emirates and a gang of race car style advertising. The only thing personal that is prominent is the name of the player. That’s great if you identify with the player but you have to follow the tradition of the team if there is no recognizable style. Yeah, they have there own color scheme and some have slight design flourishes but I really only immediately recognize Arsenal. And I recognize them more for the Puma logos. The NBA has been looking into going that road. I’ll probably watch less if they do. All that human billboard stuff bugs me. In world cup, Brazil was Brazil. US was US. “Eat at Joe’s” doesn’t inspire my sports loyalty.

Little Arsenal

Little Arsenal dragon Puma. Why do they discontinue the shoes I like?

I’m not an Anglophile. Unlike Americans who knees turn to jelly when they hear some limey accent my first thought is “where did this dude park his pirate ship?” I’ve never been to Utah but I know the Jazz. When I first started watching basketball they were the New Orleans Jazz. They changed states and I could still follow or be aware of the team. Super Sonics to the Robber Barrons… I mean the Thunder. I don’t identify with Manchester, Swansea, Ham-Ville-Shire, whatever. To my knowledge, Arsenal is not a municipality. If they moved to Lichtenstein, they could still be Arsenal. Chelsea would have to move to lower Manhattan to maintain the geography/name balance. Chelsea could be a crappy town. I don’t know. They have their traditions but I need to pick a team like a baby. “I live in Los Angeles so I like the former Minneapolis Lakers“. “I hate that Leprechaun so I want every team to stomp the Celtics.” Soccer doesn’t make it easy for me.

The Flash ready to clash

The Flash ready to clash through the 1031 casbah

Some of the jerseys have collars. Hell no. Helllll no. What’s next, bow ties and beanies? That at least allows me to eliminate teams (though I could be confusing them with a MLS team).

I hate all that damn singing/chanting. I can still watch a game despite all of that drunken pirate shit. Hell, I hate the loud ass disco of NBA games so I realize they won’t cater to me. However, I respect that people all over the world are intensely moved by the game and the atmosphere. Listening to the Men in Blazers podcast about a year before Men’s World Cup prepped me for watching World Cup.

The best thing about soccer for me is the newness. There are still huge craters in my understanding and I have trouble watching anything televised now. Last year before the season, I was thinking I was going to pick up Chelsea but they wound up winning the title and I don’t like being a front-runner aside from my Lakers legacy. I guess they are sucking this season so it would be a good time to jump on board in terms of bucking the front runner trend but bad in all other things. I saw a bumble bee team last week, Watford maybe. Prior to that I was considering giving Leicester City a try. One of the Manchesters is powder blue and that won’t do. If anyone has a club to endorse, let me know. For now, I’ll stick with my son’s fall AYSO team, the Flash. Premier League will be ready for me when I’m ready for them.

How did this get so long? Procrastination.


Thursdays I ordinarily play basketball in Playa Del Rey. Last week at the soccer field next to the courts, there was a shoot going on with a decent size photo and video crew and one key talent. As I glimpsed the scene, I was estimating the shoot cost (though I’ll never know the true number). Shortly after the epic basketball clash was over; the shoot was over. My friend and I were talking Paul Bunyon tall tales with locker room twists and the soccer player walks towards us and asks, “Who won the game?”

Mia Hamm kicked a ball 572 feet away from me while I was killing bank shots on the court.

My son had just started his first season of AYSO the week or so prior and I had soccer questions. I let it go though. I knew it had been a long shoot for her as they were shooting before I had even gotten to the courts. “We both won. We’re still alive and there are no clouds in the sky,” was my answer. We waved each other off and she left the park. Her demeanor left a good impression on me. She was laid back and personable. It was Mia Hamm.

When I see known people, I tend to treat them as Joe-anyone. They are Joe-anyone to me. I don’t know how that comes off to them. I guess it depends on the person. Plus, I’m frequently celebrity ignorant so depending on the type of celebrity I might very well not know who they are. The flip side of that is that I have had a dire drought of high profile shoots this year and recently that gulf has had that Glen Gary Glen Ross Always Be Sellin’ maxim blaring in my head when I don’t pounce on opportunity (referencing the portfolio reviewer that suggested I add a few more celebrities). Ultimately, I’m a proponent of Leave-me-alone-ism and sniffing up on someone’s leg every moment isn’t my speed. By the way Mia Hamm, I won 5 games to 1 because I’m a bad mot… You know the rest.

What was interesting about the shoot, in observation, was how simplified the photo side of it. They got a lot of looks in basically using a butterfly and a big honking scrim. One light attached to the camera. Boom for the audio. Some shoulder-mounted camcorder.

So instead of shooting Mia Hamm, two days later I shot my son’s 2nd organized soccer game. AYSO is interesting as it is a volunteer organization. Seeing the families/friends out there watching their kids bop around and torpedo each other in the field is communally energetic. I feel fortunate that the team my son wound up on has that rah rah-cultured enthusiasm that my T-1000 personality doesn’t allow. The coaches are making certain that everyone is treated equally and that it is all about the kids. Every team doesn’t seem that way 100% but for the most part I’d say the waves of energy and support that the kids get is great to see so I will probably put a little more volunteer time into AYSO next year beyond shooting my son’s games (Arguably, I’m volunteering now as I provide pictures of games to the team website). *Edited to add a title and two parenthetical phrases given my sleep-posting wreckage that this represents.

Run, Green Jaguars!

Run, Green Jaguars!