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New York Times Trend Piece Reveals American Soccer Fans Need a Sense of Humor

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New York Times trend pieces have a certain reputation. Some employ a broad definition of “trend,” just enough instances to fill out an article. Some are well out of date. Some reveal just how far up the ivory tower the reporter and, perhaps the target audience, reside. For a myriad of examples, consult @NYTOnIt.

A Style Section soccer piece published yesterday fit that vein. American soccer fandom is hardly a trend. New Yorkers saw these subway cars last year.  Money invested by TV networks reflects how established the sport has already become. The Times itself moved a sports writer to Europe, ostensibly to cover soccer.  I wrote a piece about EPL fans in the U.S. congregating over the Internet for a grad school course way back in 2007, when I still had baby fat and a flip phone.

Particular passages from the piece elicit groans.

For on-trend types with an internationalist bent, supporting (never rooting for) a Premier League club (never team) is not just a pleasant diversion, but a public display of global cultural literacy.

That said, stereotypes, while inherently crude and inexact, can carry a bit of truth. Those who perceive themselves authentic individuals are, to a great extent, products of their environment.

I am white. I am 30. I live in Brooklyn. I have a beard. I wear thick-rimmed glasses and slim-fitting jeans. I drink craft beer, eat well-prepared food and have documented both on Instagram. I went to a bookish college. I have an advanced degree. I voted for Obama. I watch Sherlock and Cosmos. I harbor latent literary ambitions.

I have my idiosyncrasies. But I fit the broad stereotypes of “American soccer fan,” a bit more esoterically “American Arsenal fan” and also “professional sports blogger.” I can live with that and laugh at it.

That’s just me, of course. You can assert your individuality. Your scores of identical-minded Twitter friends will attest to it. And, sure, you totally started following Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton or Fulham for totally non-trivial reasons before it was cool.

Soccer does not only appeal to “creative types.” But there are “creative types” who are drawn to soccer. Unlike baseball, basketball and football, the sport has not been quantified to oblivion for fans. It ebbs and flows like jazz. There’s still room for subtext, emotion divorced from probability, art and philosophy. Not to mention the world’s short and weedy.

The New York Times Style Section covered American soccer fandom with little nuance. It is also a non-sports section writing about sports, for people who have little interest in or working knowledge of sports. That trend piece was silly and a bit off base. But that’s okay. Or, at least it should be.

Soccer fandom in America is no longer a trend. Soccer fans could exemplify that by not getting militant about every single remotely perceptible slight. The war is over. The football-phobic lost. I haven’t had to write about media outlets referring to “ejections” and “overtime” in like five years. Stop being defensive.

[USA Today Sports]

 

 

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