I have never been on a soccer field. Nor have I ever watched a live soccer game in person. Those two facts don’t make me any more American than anyone else or more authentic. They just color my view on the sport.
My favorite sports were always wrestling (by far number one), boxing, baseball, football and basketball. Basketball is the only one of those sports I never competed in. Football was the one that overlapped with soccer season and growing up I felt a stark – contrast between those who played the two sports.
Kids that played football tended to either be African-American or come from blue-collar white families like mine. My team practiced at St. Ferdinand Park in Florissant while dad’s would sit in lawn chairs drinking Busch and Stag beers giving armchair advice. A lot of tough kids were on those teams who went on to play with me at McClure North and play at McClure, Normandy, Berkeley, Hazelwood schools, Ritenour, Jennings and even a kid who got a scholarship to Priory ( an elite private school in the western suburbs).
I didn’t take football as serious as wrestling where I aspired to be great. Football was just fun. It was also a sport everyone I knew loved and watched. Whether that be cheering on our NFL team at the time (the St. Louis Cardinals aka The Big Red) or the kids who were somehow Dallas Cowboys fans in North St. Louis County.
Our coaches were a reflection of the community. Coach Tharp was the son of the tough no-nonsense machine Democrat mayor of Jennings. Coach Rockamore was a cool older cat who knew football (who would be murdered in East St. Louis while I was in middle-school). Coach Wheemer came from a tough and well-known NoCo clan and once kicked off a riot during an away game at Kirkwood by punching the scorekeeper. Later Coach Wheemer would die in a drunk-driving accident Others were just good working-men like Coach Collier who drove a Bi-State bus. We called Coach Grice Satan and maybe wisdom comes from the mouth of babes. Jeffrey Grice, our teammate and Coach Grice’s son, would go on to be convicted of the rape and murder of Che Simms and Coach Grice got locked up for witness-intimidation.
Damn, I guess I’m not making a very good case for football. Then again despite all that drama most of the kids turned out pretty good and overall it was a very positive experience; Two kids who were at McClure North at the same time as me ( Barrett Brooks and Dorian Brew) made it to the NFL. A third could have made it. Chad Brown was an unstoppable power-back; but the streets took him under and instead of the NFL he ended – up being J-Bo (Junior Boss) to Big Meech of the BMF.
Countless others got college – scholarships such as childhood friends of mine David Conley (Kansas State), Mike Dunn (Louisville) and Phillip Jackson ( forgot). David and Mike are both now living the good life in Arizona.Neither of them were born with silver – spoons in their mouths.
When I see youth and high-school football players today they remind me of the kids I played football with. Their dads are guys like me.
What are my childhood memories of soccer? People forget before the massive white- flight on the Hoosier Highway out to St. Chuck soccer was huge in North County. Twellman Soccer, Scott Gallagher, Jamestown, Dellwood and the CYC teams particularly in Florissant.
I grew-up with soccer players and talked to them. It was a very white sport and attracted kids of a higher socio-economic class. Although, perhaps because of a class-divide, I never became friends with any soccer players. My sister dated a soccer player for the state – championship winning Aquinas-Mercy team. In my experience kids played soccer over football for three reasons.
1. Soccer was a family – tradition
2. Their mothers were scared to let them play football (or they were scared).
3. Their parents didn’t want them playing against black kids knowing that the JFL (Junior Football League) consisted of a lot of black teams in black neighborhoods. This wasn’t a climate of PC sugar-coating more of a blatant ” oh my dad said there are too many n***** on the football team” or ” my dad said he’s not driving to the f****** jungle for my games”.
These soccer players tended to be the same kinda preppy racist idiots who always hated me and I was always getting into it with. I got suspended from school twice for fighting racist soccer players. People who grew-up in St. Louis know the type. Racist white guys who’ll never utter a word to a black person yet will attack white people they deem as going outside the racial – boundaries. The same guys are now mostly out in St. Charles County and in the Tea Party with a snobbish minority becoming hipsters in the city.
So, that was my experience with soccer and I didn’t like it. With soccer not being a mainstream spectator sport or in the news I never thought I’d think about soccer again.
I probably never would’ve watched a soccer match had it not been for my conversion to Islam in 1992. One of the by-products of my conversion was gaining new friends from around the world. Most of them were soccer fans. When the 1994 World Cup came around I was hustling baby-formula with Malaysian brothers. They took off to watch the World Cup and I watched it with them and discovered man this is a really cool sport.
When the 1998 World Cup came around I was living in DC with a Saudi roommate. We watched every game together. Each World Cup since then I’ve been hyped to watch. The reason I only watch soccer every four years is St. Louis doesn’t have a team to root for and even if we did MLS is a second-tier league.
I’ve learned a lot about soccer since childhood. The snobbery associated with suburban American soccer (and the even worse elitism of hipster fans in cities) is unique to America. Globally soccer is a working-class sport. Therefore I watch soccer I just don’t root for America.
Organized soccer in America is still very white and not doing a great job in expanding ( while some in the sport are working hard to address this issue). The players on the American team mostly look like Justin Beiber’s dancers and hey it’s just hard for me to get behind Team USA. Photos of groups of fans who look like they could be bullied at a Unitarian Church calling themselves American Outlaws doesn’t strengthen the case.
Ann Coulter is nutty. Soccer fans aren’t socialists. Hipsters are basically as a group Rockefeller Republicans in that they’re culturally – liberal and economically to the right with a hostile settler relationship with the poor and working-class.
Soccer fans do have annoying tendencies.Like saying futbol. Yeah man we know they call it futbol around the globe. In America it’s soccer (the word may have been invented in St Louis). Or implying soccer players are so much better athletes than competitors in American sports. Face it soccer in America is getting like the 5th or 6th best athletes.
Some just like soccer. That’s cool. I like soccer too. Just don’t pretend like it’s some kinda morally superior sport when there is a documented history of FIFA corruption, match-fixing, hooliganism, racist soccer fans throwing bananas on the field, and fascist fan clubs.
Don’t pretend watching soccer every four years or even on a regular basis makes you a better citizen of the world. Or all of the sudden view Mother Jones and The Atlantic as sports publications because all of the sudden they wanna talk about sports. If you wanna be a better member of the global community lobby America to get rid of its veto-power at the UN, stop supporting apartheid states or corrupt monarchies and to end the drone program.
Soccer isn’t the only global-sport. Boxing is global, wrestling is global, and basketball is becoming very popular worldwide and the NBA a global brand. It’s also not the only sport a lot of the players look like hipsters. Yet soccer in America seems to be the sport people in America gravitate towards when they want to feel superior. It’s the Whole Foods and Apple of sports.
Soccer is also not a sport to feel superior about because you don’t let your kids play that heathen provincial sport with the pigskin.
There is a beauty to the international appeal of the World Cup. In St. Louis you could have went to Africa Palace on West Florissant and Halls Ferry and watched the West African nations play. Or you could have went to Cherokee Street (or the much larger Mexican hub in Northwest St. Louis County) and watched Mexico play. Bosnian bars in Bevo and South County, a Brazilian restaurant in south city, Italian games on The Hill, the opportunities have been there to have an enjoyable experience.
Enjoy the World Cup. I always do. I enjoy hatin on American soccer fans even more.
Forgive me I’m having laptop issues had to type this on my phone. Typos for sure.