Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Alec Depcrynski
Spirit of the Game
The sea is calm and tranquil. The island, located approximately 500 miles off the coast of Ecuador, is buzzing with wildlife. Lizards scurry in and out of the brush lining the beach. Some birds soar overhead, while others, nearly 3 feet tall, wobble around on the ground. The constant sound of sea lions jumping in and out of the water serves to break the extreme silence. The sand, a deep reddish-black tint, remains eerily cool despite the sun’s omniscient presence.
All the while, a group of 20 or so people, coming from all over the world, have gathered together on the island. They have picked out a segment of land that has obviously been used before for this very purpose. The ground is a mixture of sand, dirt, and small pebbles. On either side of the clearing stand two crude but serviceable goals. The goals may be rusty and dilapidated. The ground may be slippery and even painful. The ball may be no more than a rubber kickball by American standards. And the languages are so intertwined that no one can truly communicate with each other. Yet and still, the sport being played is unmistakable. Here, 500 miles off the coast of true civilization, a soccer game is being played.
I grew up knowing just one sport: soccer. I have been playing it for as long as I can remember. My brother began playing when he was about 7, and as most siblings do, I followed in his footsteps. I started out playing recreation league, which is basically where all youth soccer players start their career. From here, I moved onto the club level, also known as "Travel soccer," so-called because my team would play teams from all over the country. For example, we would play in tournaments against teams from up and down the east coast, or in league games with teams from all over Virginia. We also did our fair share of traveling, going to places like Arizona and Florida for games. About this time, as I was traversing my way through the journey we all know as Middle School, my dad got involved with soccer. He took a job as General Manager of the Richmond Kickers, a professional soccer team based in Richmond, VA. He has since moved on to become President of the Club, and is respected nationwide as one of the pioneers of the new soccer movement based on vertical integration; that is, soccer clubs being taught from the ground up, going from youth clubs to semi-pro teams and onto professional teams, both for men and women. I went on to play for my High School squad, continued with my club team, and eventually was scouted to play for the Randolph-Macon team.
You may be asking yourself why any of my background matters, as far as relating to the game of soccer being played on a small and uninhabited island. Well, from the beginning, I was always blessed with the best equipment. I bought high quality cleats and shingaurds, even when I was only playing soccer recreationally. The teams I played on always had several fields from which to choose from, whether for practice or for match play. Because of my dad’s stature in the Virginia soccer world, I was able to train with a semi-professional team as early as my 16th birthday. I was able to work with the best coaches, play with the best players, and train on the best fields.
Basically, I was spoiled. However, this is not something that I have experienced in solitude. Most all of the players that I have competed with have been given the same advantages. Despite soccer’s low level of recognition on a professional level in the United States, the youth programs do not have this problem. In fact, a lot of money is put into the youth program, if for nothing other than parents wanting to make their children happy. They enjoy much of the best equipment that money can buy, because their parents are willing, and financially able, to pay for it. Because of this, they are also liable to take these advantages for granted. Personally, I never even thought about the money that my parents were putting into my love of soccer. I never thought about the fact that a club team like the one I played for had costs per season of well over $400. Add to that the cost of soccer cleats (upwards of $100), balls ($80 per), shingaurds ($30), and uniform costs (way too much), and you’ve got the recipe for excessive spending. Multiply all of these costs by the amount of seasons I have been playing (14), and you begin to understand how much money goes into a typical soccer player’s life in suburban America. I never thought about how much financial obligation and backing goes into the sport, and, in truth, I took it all for granted.
That is, until the Summer of 2003. My mother was trying to determine some sort of family vacation that we could all take. As it turned out, her sister (my aunt) had a son who was planning a trip with a few classmates to Ecuador. Now, as much as I enjoy traveling, the country of Ecuador did not quite pique my interest. However, after speaking to my cousin, I learned that along with this trip would be a week spent traveling around the Galapagos Islands. At this point, my only thought was 'Where do I Sign?' I had always been interested in wildlife, and this vacation seemed like a dream to me. The Galapagos Islands are one of the most diverse series of islands on the entire globe, where the animals range from Penguins to Flamingos to enormous Turtles. Each island is essentially a world of its own, and for this reason, I felt like this was a chance to explore something that I may never see again.
We left for the trip in August of 2003. After spending a week in Ecuador, which was actually much more fun than I had anticipated, we got to the part of the journey that I had been waiting for. We took a plane and landed on Santa Cruz, the biggest Island of the Galapagos, and the center of human activity. From here, we would be traveling by boat to the various islands that were located among this amazing archipelago. As I got to know our tour guide and the boat’s crew, it became more and more clear to me that they were huge soccer fans. This did not really surprise me, as most of them were Ecuadorian, and I had already seen the immense amount of support that the sport carried there. When I informed them that I also played soccer, they seemed taken aback, almost in awe that someone from the United States actually enjoyed the sport. They also informed me that near the end of our week-long trip, we would have a chance to play a game, and that I was more than welcome to join them.
That day came on the second to last day of our journey. We arrived at a tiny island called Rabida. This island was known for its amazing beach, which was comprised of a deep burgundy color. This color was a result of the immense volcanic activity that had become a staple of this island. As we neared the beach, moving slowly so as not to disturb the sea lion population that was resting nearby, I saw a large clearing of land with two unmistakable objects: Goals. There, less then 100 feet from the shore, was a soccer field. Obviously, it was not up to par as far as American standards, but it was nothing short of amazing in my eyes. Amazing in the sense that here, in a place where no humans could possibly live and would only visit maybe once a week, a soccer field was present. The crew of my tour boat, myself, as well as some other tour boats that had obviously known when this game was going to occur, all gathered near the field and took off our shoes. One ball was present, a crude and slightly flat Kelme ball that would never pass for game-worthy in the United States. Most all of the staff spoke Spanish, but at this point, communication was unnecessary. We were here to play a game; a game that we all could enjoy, and a game that brought us together, not as tourists and staff members, but as people.
What Americans lack, and what these Ecuadorians had, was a passion for the spirit of the game. They did not need expensive equipment, and they did not need a top of the line soccer ball. For that matter, they did not even need a common language. They played the sport because of its simplicity, because of its beauty. They found time, in their constant workload of moving from island to island, week to week, to set up a day when they could all meet and enjoy their sport. They did it because they love the game. This is what we, as Americans, do not understand. We tend to have an immediate rejection of all things foreign, sports included. If we didn’t create it, we want no part of it. These people I played with did not see the sport in this way. They saw it as a chance to bond, as a chance to enjoy themselves and get away from the stresses of modern life. They saw soccer for what it is: a game to be enjoyed by a group of people, with no regard for race, class, gender, or age. They understood that soccer was an equaliser, where material wealth and stature have no meaning. They understood the spirit of the game.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

My Intro...So Far


The sea is calm and tranquil. The island, located approximately 500 miles off the coast of Ecuador, is buzzing with wildlife. Lizards scurry in and out of the brush lining the beach. Some birds soar overhead, while others, nearly 3 feet tall, wobble around on the ground. The constant sound of sea lions jumping in and out of the water serves to break the extreme silence. The sand, a deep reddish-black tint, remains eerily cool despite the sun’s omniscient presence.
All the while, a group of 20 or so people, coming from all over the world, have gathered together on the island. They have picked out a segment of land that has obviously been used before for this very purpose. The ground is a mixture of sand, dirt, and small pebbles. On either side of the clearing stand two crude but serviceable goals. The equipment may be inferior, the ground may be slippery and even painful, but the sport being played is unmistakable. Here, 500 miles off the coast of true civilization, a soccer game is being played.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Prewriting-Freewrite
Time: 20 minutes
I have determined the basic premise of what a narrative essay is. Basically, as I understand it, it is nothing more than really telling a story to someone. My controversy is something that I experience every day. Not only that, but my family also experiences it, as we are highly involved with my chosen community. However, I have yet to decide if I want to use my own personal experience, or my fathers. My father works for a Professional Soccer Club based in Richmond, VA. He began working there in 1994, when soccer was just beginning the get off the ground in the US. He has since helped form the club into a multi-tier organization, modeled in the way that many top European clubs build their program. Because of this, I feel like he would be a good person to interview and pluck information from, simply because he has seen what works and what does not work in terms of transferring the sport to American audiences. However, I also feel like I have a wealth of insight that I could use to explore my controversy. I have experienced first-hand the lack of respect that soccer as a sport has in the United States. I have heard all the criticisms of the sport, and I have heard them first hand. Still, I am having trouble deciding on a single story that I will be able to use to convey my point. As a matter of fact, I don’t yet know what my point is going to be. I will speak with my dad and see what he thinks, but as of this point, I am not sure where I will be going with this story. I have a basic idea of what is required; I just don’t know what type of narrative I will use to complete this basic idea.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Style Summary Chapter 5

The fifth chapter in the Style textbook is entitled "Cohesion and Coherence." It begins by going over what exactly cohesion is; that is, the overall feeling and arrangement of words and sentences as a whole. Rather than looking at the clarity of individual sentences, one must examine the entire paragraph or segment and finding its sense of flow. The chapter explains two major principles to consider when considering these clarity issues. The first is to begin sentences familiar to your readers, meaning words that you have used in previous sentences or ideas that are general knowledge. The second is to end sentences with ideas that may not be as familiar to the common person. By using these rules in conjunction, the overall clarity of your sentences and segments will improve. It goes into the importance of recognizing and stating your overall topics, so that readers feel like that have a set point of view with which to read your writing. The chapter ends by giving two important and commonly misused patterns: alleged monotony and faked coherence. The first refers to the idea that you should not vary the beginnings of your sentences just for the sake of changing them. Rather, you should keep the topic of your paragraphs in full view, even if it may appear monotonous. The latter rule refers to the overuse of conjunction words as a way to feign true coherence. It stresses the importance of staying away from this as a crutch for expressing flow.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A rant about the DMV:

Alright, so yesterday my dad calls me at around 4:30 PM, and informs me that my License has expired. Now, he didn’t find out through a notice from the DMV, but rather because my insurance company called him and said that if it wasn’t taken care of by Monday, I would lose my coverage. How do these people at the DMV not send out some sort of notice for this kind of thing? There’s got to be something they can do, a simple letter in the mail, a phone call, anything. Well obviously, he had called me too late for me to reach the DMV last night, so I had to wait until this morning to go. I wake up at around 10:00 AM, still groggy from the previous night’s escapades. Hop in my car, head down I-95, and go to the DMV location at Brook Road in Henrico. Extremely crappy weather greets me outside, and seems to be some sort of cold, dark metaphor for exactly how my day is going to go. I have to take care of this today before 12:00 PM, because that is when they close, and they aren’t open on sundays. Walk inside, the line isn’t horrible, and so I grab a number and sit down. I wait maybe 20 minutes, listening to the interesting mix of people in the building discuss their agendas for the day and their problems with everything from pets to spouses. Finally my number is called, and I head up to the desk, where a young man with a T-shirt reading "Do you have tickets to the gun show?" asks how he can help me. I tell him my situation, and he says, "Ok Mr. Depcrynski, I’ll just need to see your license and your birth certificate." What? I don’t have that, and was never told I would need it. I could have been informed this by the lady giving out the numbers and forms, but of course, she had no desire to inform me of any such thing. Why help me? Why help anyone? She works at the DMV, and I believe it’s a prequesite to be a cold and heartless ***** to acquire such a fine job. So now I have to drive all the way down to my parent’s house in Midlothian in order to get my birth certificate. I’m speeding on an expired license, in the midst of a snowstorm, trying my best to get to my house and back to the DMV before the 12:00 PM deadline. I make it to my house, turn around, and head up Midlothian Turnpike, doing about 60 the entire time on a 40 MPH road...in a snowy-slushy-rainy mix. Could this day get any worse? Well, when your dealing with a fine institute like the DMV, of course it can. I arrive at the Midlothian DMV at exactly 11:48 PM, thinking to myself, "Finally." Open the door to the building, and boom. The line to get a NUMBER is stretching around the entire building, filled with people complaining and jostling for position. The scene resembles one out of "Night of the Living Dead," lifeless zombies moving slow and thinking even slower. I spend my time looking around at all the Personalized license plates I could conceivably get, as the line moves at a pace similar to a sloth tranquilized and tied down, attempting to move to the pinnacle that is, as I have dubbed her, the Number Lady. This Number Lady, when I do reach her, informs me that I do indeed need my birth certificate. Fantastic. So I get my number, C249. Look around for an open spot to sit, but of course, there is no such seat. I stand near the side wall, waiting very impatiently for my number to be called. They go by one-by-one, each number one step closer to the peak of my day, the final moment when I will get my new license. As each number flashes on the screen above all of the desks, I am treated to the same mechanical voice saying such interesting remarks as "Now serving F468 at Desk Number 4." Technology these days. As im playing tetris on my phone, wondering how much longer this could possible take, I hear the magic combination of numbers and letters that holds the key to my new license; "C249." "YES!" I exclaim, to which everyone around me simply replies by shaking their head in dissaproval...whoops. In any case, I step up to the counter, pay my 20 dollars, and smile for the first time all morning. And then it happens. "Please sit down sir, and wait for your name to be called to take a new picture." Of course! I should have known. Keep me here for 30 more minutes so that I can take a picture that only traffic cops and bartenders will ever see. I take my picture, and the angst boiled up inside of me clearly shows in my new license picture, as I resemble a half dead, furious, and possibly psychotic shadow of myself. I walk out of the door into the cold, look at my watch, and notice the time...2:14 PM. Over four hours driving, standing, sitting, waiting, and talking, just for this lousy piece of plastic? If my trip to the DMV doesn’t assure you that something is wrong with our society, nothing ever will.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Saint Patrick's Day. On this day, every March,. we celebrate...well, I truthfully don't know. I know that is has something do with being Irish. I also know, that if you don't wear green, your supposed to get pinched. I mean, isn't this holiday nothing more than a glorified consumer frenzy? A day when parents go out and buy their grade schoolers green hats and other leprachaun related goodies. A day when college students have an excuse to drink excessive amounts of alcohol, as if we need an excuse. And more importantly, a day that just allows us to celebrate. I bet if I were to poll the students at RMC who had any Irish blood in their heritage, that less than half would really know what Saint Patrick's Day is all about. Beyond that, I doubt that any of the student''s polled would really care what it is about. Its a chance for us to let loose, enjoy ourselves, and enjoy a "Good Green Pint!" The Luck of the Irish is abound, and we all need to just forget why it is, and embrace it. We all secretly wish we were Irish, so this is our day to exercise that right. Even if leprachauns are the scariest little creatures to ever be conjured up in reference to a holiday. Cheers.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

This is an annotated bibliography I did for another class...oh how fun they are...

Barltrop, Robert. Jack London : The Man, the Writer, the Rebel. London: Pluto Press, 1976.
~This book analyzes London’s background and how it shaped his philosophical views on life. It also discusses how these views show up in the stories that he writes. A small problem with this book is that because the author focuses so tightly on the philosophy developed by London, it doesn’t go into much detail on actual background information. However, when writing a report it is important to have a source that examines an author’s views and beliefs and their influence on his writing.
Cassuto, Leonard and Jeanne Campbell Reeseman. Rereading Jack London. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1996.
~This anthology contains fifteen critical essays from various authors, taking into account many of London’s works as well as his historical background. The articles discuss several different topics, ranging from themes found throughout his works to focusing on a single work. Because there are so many different articles and topics, the reader is able to discern between individual biases and factual theories. All of the essays contain their own style of writing, which encourages the reader to study them all closely and determine any generalizations or similarities in them.
Creedon, Jeremiah. "The Call of Jack London." Utne Reader May 1999. 14 Mar. 2005
.
~This article is found in an online only magazine called the "Utne Reader." The author describes how London does not get the attention he rightfully deserves for his work. He goes into detail about London’s upbringing and how it affected his ability to skillfully write and tell stories. Although the information is solid, the author interjects many of his own opinions, some of which could be questioned based on personal biases.
Fetherling, Douglas. "The strange appeal of Jack London." The Ottawa Citizen 17 Sept. 2000: C17.
~This article comes from a daily newspaper called "The Ottawa Citizen." It discusses some background information on London, as well as how his upbringing influenced his style of writing. It also talks about why this style is appealing to readers, even in present times. The author shows little bias when discussing historical information, and presents it in an easy to understand and straightforward manner. His viewpoints on why his upbringing affected his writing are opinionated, but not to an excess.
Kershaw, Alex. Jack London: A Life. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998.
~This book contains basic biographical information on the life of Jack London. The author is able to make the information seem very personal, rather than simply just stating facts. He examines the political and social background of London, and is able to convey this easily to the reader. He also shows little bias in presenting the information, preferring rather to examine what he can find and present it as factually as possible.
London, Joan. Jack London and His Times; An Unconventional Biography . Seattke: University of Washington Press, 1939.
~This book is written by Jack London’s first daughter, Joan. Because of her direct relation, she is able to garner information that would not be readily available to the average author or reader. The problem with this is that she shows some obvious bias in discussing his works, and may leave out pertinent information because of possible embarrassment to her family name. However, the best source is usually the one closest to an author, and therefore Joan offers information that is unique as well as reliable.
McCrostie, James. "Jack London." Labour/Le Travail Issue 43. Spring 1999: 272-274.
~This article comes from a scholarly journal located in Ontario, Canada. It provides general background information on Jack London’s life, from the beginning to the end. The main problem with this article is that much of the information is simplistic, and easy to find in other sources. No new or groundbreaking information can be gathered, as it is simple a statement of well known facts on his life.
Raney, David. "Class, Race, and Jack London's American Plague." Papers on Language & Literature Fall 2003: 390-393.
~Taken from a popular journal among literature scholars, this article discusses much of London’s background. It focuses mainly on his obsession with disease and death and how it showed up in his stories. The main weakness of this article is that, besides the information concerning disease, it doesn’t really provide much information on London’s life. It focuses more on his works and what can be drawn out of them to determine his character.
Sinclair, Andrew. "A biography of Jack London." The Economist 4 Feb. 1978: 117.
~This article is from an online daily newspaper and discusses mainly biographical information. From birth to death, the article chronicles the life of London and the events that led to him becoming a famous author. The author takes a strong stand on proclaiming that London remained "an untamed boy" for his entire life. In this case, the author may seem farfetched in his accusation, but he backs it up with information on how London spent his entire life.
Walcutt, Charles Child. Jack London. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1966.
~This book is basically a simple, biographical account of Jack London’s life. The information presented could also be found in several other sources, and shows no real originality. However, it is a good, easy to use source for basic information on London’s life and what he went through during his years as a writer.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Final Draft for my Inquiry Essay...Finally

Soccer: The World’s Game?
As the ball sails through the sky, soccer star David Beckham follows it with his eyes, trying to pick up the rotation of the ball. He feels the opposing defender breathing down his neck, and hears the defender calling for his teammate to come cut off Beckham’s right side. This will not be easy. As the ball begins to come back to earth, he shifts his right shoulder down and pushes back the would-be defender. He then swivels his torso, deflecting the ball calmly off his chest and out ahead and to the left. Beckham lets the ball bounce once, fires, and watches the ball sail past the outstretched hands of the goalie. It rips into the back of the net, and the silence on the field is broken as the crowd erupts in a unified orchestra of cheers. This is the sport of soccer, a sport that has gained immense worldwide stature, but relatively little of such success in the United States. Why is this? Why, given its popularity and prosperity overseas, are we as Americans so reluctant to embrace this beautiful sport? By exploring the history of the sport, the Imperialistic issues, as well as the cultural, financial, and political reasons for the spread of soccer, the reasons behind this lack of interest begin to unfold.
Soccer began to spread around the globe in the mid to late 1800s, a time when American citizens were beginning to exercise their newfound independence from their British counterparts. Free from the prejudices of the new world, American’s took their culture as a chance to stand alone, to do their own thing. They wanted to move away from many of the cultural aspects that had been forced on them in their former homeland, sports included. For this reason, they began to invent their own sports. Baseball, American Football (what we see in the NFL), and basketball all became the weapon of choice for sports enthusiasts. "Soccer remained a backwater in the United States, the game of the recent immigrants, and as such one that was frowned on by parents who wanted their sons to become good Americans" (Murray 15). However, the strongest instances of rejection came from immigrants from countries outside of England, where soccer, at this point, was virtually unknown. Support for the sport tended to be strongest in the areas where the inhabitants were of almost exclusively British descent. "It was strongest on the Atlantic seaboard, particularly in New England" (Smits 3). So although it was rejected by many, the more British of the colonies still enjoyed the game and hoped to bring its success in the homeland with them. This British influence was seen in other parts of the world as well. For example, in Calcutta, soccer was gaining popularity through its wealth of spectators, who would gather to watch the British soldiers play, and go on to form their own teams. Similar things were happening in Asia and Africa at the time, a result of British imperialistic ways. However, this development ended as quickly as colonialism ended, and the rapport of support that had been exhibited quickly filed out, along with the British, in all parts of the world (Murray 20).
What these countries outside of the United States saw in soccer was a true team sport, one that represented an acceptance of foreign influences, rather than a rejection. The romance of soccer lays in the nature of the sport, "where scoring is difficult and the goalkeeper is technically capable of stopping every shot" (Smits 6). For this reason, every goal in soccer makes all of the difference. Whereas sports like basketball can see scores over the 100’s, soccer games are the exact opposite, resulting in goals being at a premium. "As a result, a resolute and inspired team of underdogs can hold much more favored opponents at bay" (Murray 7). Inherently, sports fans in America are always looking for more; more goals, bigger venues, better players. But soccer in America never had these proclivities to begin with, as their support came from wealthy businessmen who had made their money through other investments; that is, other sports. The first soccer league in the US, the American Football Association (founded in 1884), was a strong step in the right direction, but ultimately fizzled out. "The league was organized by people with no real interest in the game, and it was played by ‘foreigners’" (15). It had strong financial backing, but never was able to garner a healthy fan base. In turn, investors saw it as a money-losing venture, and turned their back on the sport. Meanwhile, investors were putting excessive amounts of money into sports such as baseball and football. The equipment needed to play these games far exceeded the costs of a soccer field and a ball, but the return was also far greater than in soccer.
Even with strong financial support in the United States, soccer failed to garner any real fan backing, and in turn, failed to gather enough money to cover its costs. It can also be said that the lack of fan support came from the American public’s refusal to accept foreign cultures, choosing rather to, in essence, "do its own thing". Now, here in lies my struggle with understanding its rise in Africa and South America. Who is to say that Africans do not have a fear of foreign cultures, considering their long-standing bouts with imperialist forces, and their attempts at slavery? Certainly it would seem that a nation of peoples would attempt to differentiate itself from any country that was attempting to steal its land and enslave its people, particularly after the imperialist forces had left the country. However, the sport garnered a healthy following in these areas, and continued to grow long after the European Imperialists had retreated from Africa. Without any true financial support, soccer was still the number one sport at the time, evidenced by its ease of play. Look at this excerpt, taken from Cameron Duodu, a soccer player and journalist from Ghana.
Most of us boys--including the stars like Michael Essien and Samuel Kuffuor who are now earning huge sums of money playing for the most glamorous teams in Europe--became aware of the enjoyment to be obtained from playing football at a very early age. But many of us could never get footballs to play with. So we "made" our own. We took a cigarette tin into the bush and tapped the sap out of a gum tree called ofuntum. If you scraped off the bark of this tree, white gum came out of it which congealed when you boiled it. You would then find a round stone or orange and pour the rubber around it in order to shape it into a ball. The results were often pathetic. But so long as it was rubbery enough to bounce up and down, you thought you had got a "ball", and you and your friends would go and find somewhere to kick it about. Do the David Beckhams of this world know anything about such things? (Duodu 1)
Now after reading this, it is difficult to see how financial backing has anything to do with the rise of a sport at all. Certainly, money can help build things like stadiums, complexes, and equipment, but that is not what soccer is about. Also, the American public’s refusal to accept the "foreigner’s game" of soccer was not seen in African nations, where this sport was instead embraced.
One of the main reasons that I can see for this embrace among African and South American countries is that they truly do not see it as "foreigner’s game." Instead, they in fact see it as the World’s Game. These countries understand the sport as one that can act, and has in the past acted, as a diplomatic leveler. Beginning with the formation of FIFA (The International Federation of Association Football), countries regularly scheduled friendly matches against each other, whether it was Switzerland v. Germany, or Uruguay v. Argentina. What the sport does is bring various cultures together under the lid of one unified game, where precision and poise are just as important as skill. However, what’s most important about the game is its pick up and play attitude. Whereas the sports that we embrace, baseball notably, require lots of equipment, soccer requires only one real piece; a ball, that as Duodu explained, is "rubbery enough to bounce up and down." For this reason, the lack of finances in some countries may in fact be the reason that soccer has grown into its current state. People without funds for the upper-level sports are forced to play sports that are feasible; i.e. sports that require as little equipment as possible. In addition, even though the sport was first seen by these nations as one played by their Imperialist Rulers, they looked past this to understand the true romance of the sport.
So for what reasons, then, has soccer still lacked the growth in our country that is has found in other parts of the world? Fan support is the most obvious reason, with media coverage at or very near its level. American media has an enormous amount of influence on the lives of the United States citizens. It can dictate fashion trends, stylistic attitudes, and in a broader sense, our culture. This media chooses to focus on Hollywood; on the stars of blockbuster movies, on the stars of music, and on the stars of television. To a lesser extent, the media focuses on sports stars, but the only true sports star to transcend his sport and affect the culture of a country in such a strong way was Michael Jordon. Media is much different in a place like Italy, where soccer is without a doubt the number one sport. "Indeed, soccer is Italy's answer to Hollywood, with a business turn-out of close to $6.6 billion a year, without counting TV rights, merchandising, sponsorship and advertising sales" (Serafini 1). Here, the stars of European soccer teams are the stars of the country; that is, they influence fashion, culture, and most importantly, the media. Soccer kings like David Beckham are able to sell products like Michael Jordon was able to sell them in the United States.
In the nations of Africa and South America, soccer has moved past media and culture, and is now affecting politics. In countries like Ghana or Togo, the sport of soccer is tied closely with nationalism, and in general, with life. Upon hearing of Togo’s advancement into the current World Cup, "President Faure Gnassingbe declared the Monday after the momentous victory a national holiday" (Price 2). One could never imagine a birth into the World Cup being cause for a national holiday in the US, but then again, no sporting event would elicit such a response from our own President. This simply shows the degree to which the sport has achieved in other countries; that is, it is no longer simply a sport, but rather an exercise in the true achievement of mankind and the ability a team has to capture so much more than any individual.
"Soccer is the dominant sport. There is no rival" (Smits 118). Since the World Cup came to our shores in 1994, we have seen a facelift in terms of soccer popularity in the country. What has always been a popular youth sport has moved into a developmental chain, from youth through school and into the professional ranks. Currently, our National Team Pool (our 30 best players) has approximately 15 players competing overseas, in leagues like England’s Premier League and the Italian Serie A. The formation of the MLS (Major League Soccer) and the WUSA (Women’s United Soccer Association) have helped to add some level of media-related justice to a sport that sorely deserves it. Yet and still, we are light years behind other countries in terms of our support and embrace of the sport. The first strides have been taken, but until soccer receives the media coverage that sports like Basketball and Football get, the fan base will never grow. Certainly we see a strong youth movement for the sport, but the people who decide what is seen on television and on the internet are the only ones who have the true power to change perception. I have pondered over several of the reasons as to why the United States has yet to accept soccer as one of its top three or four sports. However, I am still undecided as to what the exact reasons are. Financial problems plague countries like South America, and yet soccer remains number one. Our fear of foreign culture is experienced in other countries as well, notably in the African nations. Our media does not treat soccer as a money-making business, as in the case of many European nations, in part because of lack of fan support and hype. Only through more research and more sources will I be able to truly examine this controversy in greater depth, and, in turn, formulate an educated opinion on the true reasons that soccer remains a forgotten commodity in our homeland.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Summary : Sources

While writing my paper on the sport of soccer, I was able to find several sources, most of which were informative articles. The good thing about these articles, most notably one that was written by a journalist from Ghana, is there close ties to the nations they are examining. In his article entitled “World Cup, here we come!” Cameron Duodu discussed the lack of financial support that soccer has in African nations, but in turn, discusses how this actually helped the evolution of the sport. Two of my biggest sources for historical information were two books. The first, written by J.W. Murray, discusses at length the sport of soccer and how it came to be where it is today. Because it was written in 1996, it offers a rather up to date look on how the sport has changed in the United States and around the world. The second book, authored by Ted Smits, is entitled “The Game of Soccer.” It too offers a strong look into the history of soccer and its development around the world. However, because it was written in 1968, it offers a more partisan look regarding the United States’ acceptance, or lack thereof, of the sport. Another strong source that I used was an article by Stefan Szymanski. This article goes over the extreme popularity of the sport in Europe, and relates soccer stars to the stars of Hollywood that we see in America. All of my sources offer differing sets of information, which is perfect for a paper such as this one that requires looks at all aspects of the community to which I am exploring.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Writing Center Reflection

Student:_Alec Depcrynski_________ Date of Appointment:__March 13, 2006___
Course:__Advanced Expository Writing__
Consultant: Virginia Seatherton

In my appointment, we discussed the following (be specific):
We first discussed my excessive length of certain parts of my paper; most notably, my history paragraph(s). We went over ways that I could shorten these problem areas, and ways to format my paragraphs into shorter, more accessible segments. We then discussed my initial organizational format, which did not really fit into the idea of my thesis. Virginia suggested to me that I change the format so that it would flow and add clarity. Speaking of my thesis, we went over what I was trying to get across in my paper, and from this, we were able to formulate a rough thesis. We went through the paper, eliminating many of the informal language elements that I had used. Finally, we discussed my lack of transition elements, and went through each paragraph, going over where I could place transitional elements to improve the flow of my paper.
After my appointment, I made the following changes to my writing (be specific):
The first thing that I did was remove and shorten my historical paragraphs. I cut out a lot of unnecessary information, and was able to turn my two extremely long history paragraphs into one, more understandable paragraph. I also cut out a lot of my introductory paragraph, and was able to form a thesis statement that correctly conveyed what I was going to go through in my paper. I also reorganized my paragraphs, changing the order to what I currently am happy with. That is, introduction leading to history leading to British imperialism leading to political and cultural elements leading to financial elements, and ending with American elements and the conclusion. I was able to, from this, create better transitional statements between paragraphs, allowing my paper as a whole to be much more clear. Finally, I eliminated my overuse of informal language, specifically "I" and "Let us," etc.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Today for my blog I thought I would discuss something that seems to puzzle every sports fan I come across. Whether they enjoy football, enjoy the NFL, or just enjoy sports in general, I always get the same puzzled response when I inform people of my team. It usually goes something like this; "You’re a Vikings Fan?" That’s right, I’m a Minnesota Vikings fan through and through, until the day that I die. Now, the reason that people question this affiliation, for those that don’t really follow sports, is very simple. Why would a kid from Midlothian, VA, be obsessed with a team located in Minneapolis, MN. Now to answer this, I go back to my childhood. When I began to indulge in true football watching, I was just going through Middle School. I was force-fed Washington Redskins news and games, because of their close proximity to my hometown. I was also forced to see teams like the Denver Broncos and the Dallas Cowboys, simply because of their talent level and high profile stars. I wanted to be different. I did not want to jump on a bandwagon; that is, pick the best team at the time and stick with them. So I choose the Minnesota Vikings, a team who has really accomplished nothing within my life span. They have only been to one championship game, and as recently as this past year, they did not make the playoffs. However, I continue to support them, and during the season, the quality of my week is often determined by the outcome of their game. Maybe its because I like the underdog, or maybe its because I like being different. Whatever the reason, they will be my team until the day I die. Even if they do suck.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Today I thought it would be a good time to talk about some of the relatively insignificant things in life that have a significant impact on the way I view the world. As I begin, I don't want this to seem as if it is merely a man complaining about things in the world but it is a social commentary about the disfunction of society today. The first item on my list of rants is extremely petty and somewhat childish. However, I feel that it is something that should be brought to the attention of the world.One of the most frustrating things in my life has to do with Planters individual serving packs of salted peanuts. A great snack that is high in protein, this treat can be enjoyed at almost anytime. My impeddiment with this salty treat has to do with the labeling of the bag. There is a label near the top of the bag that instructs the consumer to tear here in order to delve into the vast world of peanut goodness. There is supposed to be a notch located at sed label that will aid in the opening of this package. Far too often, I find that the notch is located on the opposite side of the bag. It is clear that the notch is not supposed to be on that side but it remains there anyway. Why in the Hell would someone not notice this blatant lie on a beloved consumer product such as this? It is outrageous. The second item that falls onto my list of social malfeasance is not so much as an item as it is a place. The horrific area of torture that i speak of is located not in the depths of hell or even in an American refugee prison. The place that I speak of is far worse. The crease that is found in between the driver's seat of an automobile and the center console is by far the worst place on the face of the planet. Not only does this place steal every coin that happens to be in your right pocket, but it somehow manages to suck down french fries, pens, and the occasional important document such as a paycheck when you are waiting in line at the bank. The check was safely in your lap just moments before when all of a sudden a gust of wind blows the check just far enough into the crevasse that even the scissor-finger techniques of Edward Scissorhands could not grasp it. The teller is asking for you how your day is and all you can do is stretch and pray that something, anything will make you reach this check. Nothing is working and finally you swallow your pride, ask the teller to hold on and look like a jackass in front of the twelve cars that magically appeared as soon os the treachery began. You finally reach the check and realize that somehow it managed to collect dirt, grime, and even a small spot of McDonald's barbecue sauce. Thanks to this deadly black hole in your car, you are the guy that everyone shakes their head at and mutters "come on" or "are you serious?" under their breath. Not only that, but the crevasse makes you look like a disorganized hobo who just found a paycheck in the garbage. This doom-filled destination ruined your day, your evening and even your reputation with the tellers at your local First Market Bank.There is, however, one bright thing in the world that can make any day seem like the best day of your life. This glorious treat that I speak of is exact change. Any man appreciates the wonder of haveing the correct amount of change that you need at a drive through. As the employess mutters through the broken speaker at Taco Bell "your total is $17.37" you wish that you had change to cover so that you could save a few cents and get that extra dollar back. You are slightly distraught imagining that your twenty is pretty much wasted. Then a light shines at the end of the tunnel when you remember that you placed a few coins in he ashtray of your Buick Rendezvous. You scramble to grab the coins and light up as you count out loud for no apparent reason "35....36...37!" Elation fills your body as you discover that you won't have to receive any coins from the forever-perturbed woman at the window. You pull up to the window with a newfound sense accomplishment that is, in a way, somewhat undeserved. You have only saved a few cents but it feels as if you have saved the entire continent of South America from deforestation. You are overwhelmingly happy, and you move to hand the cash over. It would please me very much to say that this was the end of my blog and my day ended on a bright note. Unfortunately this is not the case as the demon pit's gravitatrional pull suddenly attracts every single coin in your hand. The crevasse seems deeper than it has ever been and no amount of two-fingered scissor action can reach the coins. the car behind you begins to honk and you break down and hand the woman the twenty, and she can't understand why it was so important to you that you have exact change. In a way you are upset but you realize that this is life's way of reminding you that no matter how you try you can never win.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Style: Chapter 4

Lesson 4 in the Style textbook is entitled Characters. It begins by outlining the importance of using characters as short, specific subjects of verbs. It then goes over three major points for getting characters into subjects, which basically covers finding or making characters, and then turning them into characters that relate directly to subjects. The chapter then discusses why you should turn abstract nominalizations into characters and subjects. This is done to improve your clarity when you discuss ideas that do not necessarily have a subject. Another important rule the chapter stresses is using the passive tense if the agent of an action is self-evident from the context of the statement. You should also use the passive tense if it will allow you to replace a longer subject with a notably shorter one. One more use for the passive is in the case that it will reveal to your reader an understandable sequence of subjects. It ends by going over how to rewrite long compound noun phrases into short, more clear statements.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Tonight was the first night of Playoffs for Intramural Indoor Soccer. I had posted a blog earlier about the dynamics of intramurals, and their lack of real importance. However, I am willing to retract my statement after playing in this game. Not for me, personally, but I noticed that several people on the court tonight had elevated their game to levels that I had not seen all year long. Now, I suppose this makes sense, as the playoffs obviously mean more to teams than regular season games. You see this in the NFL, NBA, and MLB. Nobody remembers the team that has the best record at the end of the regular season; they remember the champions of the playoffs. However, for a player of my stature (short and small), my entire game is based on hustle and hard work. I play every game as if it is my last, because I know that's the only way I'm going to outshine the bigger, stronger, more athletic people I compete with. I have to run faster, run more, and basically just outwork my opponents, because if I don't, I'll just be overshadowed by everyone else on the field. Basically, I play every game like it is the Championship game of the World Cup. And although I don't like to toot my own horn, I feel like most proffesional atheletes could learn a thing or two from Division III Athletes. We play with passion, every game, for nothing more than the love of the game. And that's what the game is all about.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Earlier today I was watching a show on TV that was profiling the 100 "greatest toys ever." Now, the title is misleading, because these so-called greatest toys ever were obviosly plucked strickly from the 80s and early 90s, but nonetheless, the idea is a great one. As such greats as The Game of Life and the Care Bears were shown and discussed, it made me think back to childhood. A time when all that I needed for enertainment was a super bouncy ball or a pair of roller skates. A time when I could play with those little green army men for hours on end, stepping on those evil tan army men to assure my green victory. But more important than this, it was a time of true innocence. Who honestly doesn't sometimes wish that they were still a child? No need to worry about paying back college loans, no need to worry about having a job, no need to worry about blogging daily (just kidding). Just living life, day by day, experience by experience. I feel like a lot of children are so busy trying to grow up that they never experience childhood. I mean, we are bombarded with the importance of school from day 1. We learn about the SAT's before high school. What are good grades and high SAT scores for? For getting into a good college. Why do we need to go to a good college? To get a good job. We are always looking forward to the next step, but what we really need to do is live life day by day, and enjoy it day by day. We spend way too much time worrying about that important paper due tomorrow, or that exam that we have yet to study for. Certainly, academics have their importance. The important thing is to remember that nothing is more important than enjoying life and being happy. Be a kid while you still have a chance, because at some point that chance will be lost. And you'll be old. And nobody likes that.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Essay Reactions for Kim


I enjoyed your essay on the ways in which file sharing and piracy are affecting the music industry and community. Your main goal, as I determined it, was to examine the threats to the music industry that come with file sharing, and exploring possible variations from the RIAA’s plan for controlling file sharing. If this was indeed your goal, I feel that you have researched the controversy to a strong degree and presented your findings in an unbiased and informative manner. These are the key components as I gathered them from your essay:
First you discussed the recent advents in technology that have built up your community, that is, the music community.
You go into some detail about the two major agents that you will address in your paper; the recording industry (artists, producers, etc.), and the consumers.
You try to explain the community by presenting us with the programs used for file sharing and the RIAA’s take on these programs.
The central idea’s of disagreement center around the loss of money that the recording industry is facing, versus facts and figures that actually characterize file sharing as a helpful tool for song sampling, and in turn, album sales. The argument here is that even though people are not paying for these downloaded songs, they are being exposed to the music, and therefore, turned on to the artist.
You then discuss and question the RIAA’s scare tactics in attempting to dissuade consumers from downloading illeagal files. These tactics have hurt the RIAA’s images (consumers), but are supported by the artists (industry).
You go through several other options that could be looked at; here I think you could go into more depth about what these would do for both the consumers and the music industry in general; pros/cons.

I feel like you have a very solid understand of your community and your chosen controversy. You at times throw in the fact that you have used these programs, etc., but don’t really go into much detail about this. Not to the point that you are offering a biased opinion, as you have done a good job staying away from that. Rather, just as a chance to explore the community through personal experiences and how consumers really feel about being forced to pay 99 cents for a song that could be had for free 2 years earlier. This brings me into your explanation of the music community. This, I feel, is one of the strong points of your essay. You are able to describe the community, but also relate it directly with the controversy in a cohesive manner. You jump from describing the programs like Kazaa into explaining their pros and cons, and who likes and dislikes them. One thing I would consider is that you jump right into the Napster stage, without giving any history as to how file sharing went from simple computer to computer connections into Napster. Your topic sentences are another strong point for your essay. They clearly and effectively state what your next paragraph will be about, but they also help to move the paper in a connected manner. As for your paragraphs, the only one that I had trouble placing with the rest of the paper was the one that leads off “A larger debate focuses on whether or not this method is more productive…” This paragraph, as I read it, is in the paper to help show that this will be an ongoing battle. Are you saying this because research cannot be complete yet, so you can’t fully discover the truths of your controversy? More explanation and connections are needed. You use a great deal of support in elaborating on your controversy, but I feel like your sources aren’t varied enough. You go through spells where you use four figures from the same author, which in turn, is usually just one opinion. Vary your sources in order to show the grey area and differing sides that an inquiry essay demands. Your essay is, for the most part, very unbiased. You refrain from using your own opinion (almost to a fault). However, you have substantial evidence that supports file sharing as a good thing. You make note of the difference between piracy and file sharing, but your goal was to examine file sharing as a whole. After reading the paper, I felt strongly that file sharing is an OK thing, and that the RIAA as well as the entire music industry are, more or less, the bad guys.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Style Chapter 3
The title of Chapter 3 out of the Style textbook is titled Actions, and within this title lies the subject of matter for said chapter. The first section, which covers several principles of clarity, outlining ways in which to make your action words more clear to the reader. The two rules covered include making main characters into subjects, and making important actions into verbs. By following these two simple rules, the clarity of your sentences and statements can improve dramatically. It then goes over a few principles regarding diagnosis and revision. This process consists of underlining the first 7 or 8 important words in the sentence, and then revising all of your actions into verbs. The chapter then goes over 5 common patterns, three of which discuss common patterns of nominalizations and how to fix them, and the last two discuss looking for nominalizations after verbs. It then goes on to reveal some of the good that will come with your dedication to rely on verbs to express your actions. Finally, it goes over some of the times when you actually should use nominalizations, no matter how few and far between.

Friday, March 03, 2006

This is a paper for my journalism class on tabloids and the like...

1. Do you see elements of tabloid or yellow journalism in today’s newspapers? Why are traditional newspapers printing articles that were once found mostly in tabloid newspapers such as the National Enquirer? Cite at least three explanations for this trend.
I definitely see elements of tabloid and yellow journalism in today’s newspapers. Every day I flip through a newspaper (specifically the Times-Dispatch), I find myself seeing headlines like "Sex Scandal with X star" or "X celebrity caught with pot." These are headlines and stories that will have no effect on me, and yet they still catch my eye. This is the first reason that traditional newspapers are publishing tabloid-type articles and headlines. They know that a saucy or exotic headline will lead more people to look at the headline, and in all likelihood, read the entire article. The second reasons is because America already has an unhealthy obsession with sex, drugs, and scandals, as well as a strong appetite for celebrities. So when we see X celebrity doing X act, whether it involves sex, drugs, alcohol, whatever, we automatically become interested. Just as we love watching reality TV, we love watching our celebrities lives acted out through newspapers and TV stations. The third explanation for this trend is simple; money. As tabloid papers and papers that used yellow journalism gained acclaim, they also gained money. They began to take away from the market, as in the case of recent history and tabloids like the National Enquirer. So, in order to get parts of the market back, traditional newspapers saw the need to use tabloid-type headlines and articles in order to attract readers, buyers, and in turn, more money.
2. Is running such stories a good or bad trend for newspapers? Give at least four justifications on why this is a bad or a good trend. For example, will it increase readership, or will it hurt a newspapers credibility?
I feel like running these stories are a bad trend for newspapers. Firstly, I feel like they are going against the whole moral behind journalism; that is, reporting the news, but reporting it truthfully. Secondly, as an offspring of this, I feel like the newspapers will lose many of their dedicated readers, who will recognize their attempts at yellow journalism, and turn to a different source for true news. Third, I feel that supporting tabloid stylistic devices is more or less supporting the paparazzi. Without tabloid newspaper articles and features, the paparazzi would have no business, as no one would buy their photos. But because so much income is made from tabloid articles, the paparazzi get huge amounts of money for each of their photos, which are by many peoples accounts, a breach of privacy. Finally, I feel like the increase of tabloid coverage will lead to the increase of tabloid newspapers, to the point that no real news is being reported. Investors will go to where the income comes from, and if tabloids are making all of the money, they will get all the support. This will eventually put all of the smaller traditional newspapers in jeopardy, and leave the larger ones forced to publish information that may not always be accurate and true.
3. Site at least three specific examples of this trend. You may use the accompanying article from American Journalism Review, Feb./March 2004 as a source and a starting point for your research.
My first example of this trend comes from the USA Today Newspaper (http://asp.usatoday.com/registration/zag2/gather-b.aspx?destination=http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/news/2006-02-28-reitman-holmes_x.htm&orignation=http://www.usatoday.com/life/front.htm). The article’s headline reads, "Where was Holme’s Sex Scene?" What this is referring to, upon reading the article, is that a scene was deleted from one of Kate Holme’s recent movies, where she was in a sex scene that was "as tame as anything you would see on the Disney Channel. However, because of the headline, I was assuming that Kate Holme’s had a raunchy sex scene that might jeopardize her status with her baby’s father, Tom Cruise.
My second example comes from the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/01/AR2006030100282.html?sub=new). The headline reads "Vietnam tries glam rocker Glitter on sex chargees." Once again, we see X celebrity combined with X scandal; or in the last two cases, sex related cases. Even though the rocker has pleaded innocent to the crime, the newspaper is able to stir up something because he is, in fact, being put on trial. And as I said before, the fact that a celebrity (no matter how minor) is involved with something sexual will pique more than enough reader’s interests.
My third, and final, example, comes from the Los Angeles Times. (http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/tv/la-et-doctors22feb22,1,1270751.story?coll=la-entnews-tv). The headline for this article says "Television’s drug problem." Upon reading this headline, you would think that some officials or actors on popular TV shows had problems with say, marijuana, or maybe cocaine. Instead, upon reading the article, you see that it is referring to popular sitcom’s constant reference to pain killers like Vicodin, or other prescription drugs. The article goes on about how prescription drugs are discussed too lightly these days, but who would seriously read that headline and assume this is a story about prescription drugs. They use a tabloid-type headline to gain your attention, which convinces you to read the article and find out what its really about.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Some thoughts on "CelebReality"

Ok, so the VH1 channel has this new series of shows that they call "CelebReality." As you can probably guess from the title, it refers to reality tv based around celebrities and their exploits. Well, needless to say, the shows that they put on are absolute mind numbing crap. Why am I forced to see 18 goldiggers go after the love of one Flavor Flav, a former front-man for the rap group public enemy? Or why do I have to sit through 8 former celebrities, reaching once more for the spotlight, try to lose as much weight as possible in a couple of short weeks, all the while really just showing us how much they have fallen off? Worse yet, why can I not force myself to change the channel? I mean, I was never one to like reality TV. Survivor never really caught my eye, and the Real World/Road Rules series, which is now up to season 46 I believe, is complete garbage. So why do I find myself right there with Flavor Flav, week after week, wondering to myself who he is going to keep on the show? Why do I enjoy watching this drill sargent yell and scream at these poor, overweight former stars who are just looking to make a quick buck? The only answer that comes to mind is that I enjoy watching these former stars and hopefuls try their best to make an impression on America, in turn earning fame and fortune. If you ever find yourself channel surfing and come across VH1, watch this Flavor of Love show and tell me that you don't want Flavor Flav to find true love. This stuff is too good to be true! Ladies with names like New York, Goldie, and Pumkin (not a typo), trying their very best to win the show, thereby winning the love of, as Miss New York put it, "their man." They obviously aren't looking for love, their looking for fame and money. But what strikes me as odd the most is the fact that Flavor Flav might actually have money! This is not his mansion on the show, those limos are rented, and his suits are borrowed. This man has not worked a day in his life since saying "YEAAA BOYYYY" at the begining of the Public Enemy CD. I'm sure he makes money off the show, but it can't be enough to overshadow the lows to which he has gone. Same thing goes for the celebrities trying to lose weight on Celebrity Fit Club. Take, for example, the over 300 pound rapper known as Bizarre. His only claim to fame is knowing Eminem as a teen, and thereby being given the obligotory posse cut on one of Eminem's albums. He is not a celebrity. He's a product of America's fascination with real people doing real things; in this case, attempting to lose weight. No one will ever mistake either of these shows for a Grey's Anatomy or CSI, but I will tell you this: I'll be watching Flavor of Love before I'm forced to watched CSI Portland or CSI Nashville.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

My Inquiry Essay Completed Draft

As the ball sails through the sky, you follow it with your eyes, trying to pick up the rotation of the ball. You feel the opposing defender breathing down your neck, and hear him calling for his teammate to come cut off your right side. This will not be easy. As the ball begins to come back to earth, you shift your right shoulder down and push back the would-be defender. You then swivel your torso, deflecting the ball cooly off your chest and out ahead and to the left of you. You let it bounce once, fire, and watch the ball sail past the outstretched hands of the goalie. This is the sport of soccer, a sport that has gained immense worldwide stature, but relatively little of such success in the United States. Why is this? Why, given its popularity and prosperity overseas, are we as Americans so reluctant to embrace this beautiful sport? Well, I have experienced soccer my entire life. I play soccer in college, my brother played soccer in college as well. My dad holds a position with the Richmond Kickers, a local pro soccer team. It is a part of my life, and might I add, a very large part. It is the sport I love, and yet, I still have questions about the game and how it came to be what it is today. I have read interviews, research projects, and books about soccer. I have examined the financial, social, and cultural reasons that soccer has failed to prosper in the United States. I have studied accounts from all parts of the globe regarding the business aspects of soccer, and what soccer means to countries all over the world. And most importantly, I have lived and breathed soccer. I feel confident in telling you that what follows is a comprehensive look into all aspects and sides of the lack of support for soccer in the United States, as well as the reasons that it has grown into the "World’s Game" in all parts elsewhere.
Let me first take you back to the beginning. Soccer, in its essence, has been around since the start of the human race. People in Ancient China, Japan, and parts of South America all played games that were more or less similar to soccer. That is, they played games where a sphere-like ball was kicked into some sort of goal. It wasn’t discovered in its current rule set, however, until the mid-1800s. At this time, rugby was one of the biggest sports in England, and had its own governing committee. However, at the time rugby was sort of a hybrid between what we currently recognize as soccer and rugby. When the two split, soccer became to be known as "Association football," and the rules largely depended on where you played and the dimensions of the field you played on. For example, "At Winchester the field was narrow, dribbling was encouraged, and there were no goals: to score the players needed only to get the ball across the line (Murray, 3)." In 1877, a governing body for soccer as we know it was finally formed; the Football Association, or FA, of London. This body was responsible for spreading soccer throughout England, and as time went on, the rest of Europe, and outward into the other continents on the globe.
So why, then, from its humble beginnings, did soccer seem to be a hit everywhere else in the world, save the United States? Let us first start by examining the spread of soccer in the mid to late 1800's, and how the United States reacted to the game. Free from the prejudices of the new world, American’s took their culture as a chance to stand alone, to do their own thing. For this reason, they began to invent their own sports. Baseball, American Football (what we see in the NFL), and basketball all became hot commodities. "Soccer remained a backwater in the United States, the game of the recent immigrants, and as such one that was frowned on by parents who wanted their sons to become good Americas (Murray, 15)." However, this rejection came from immigrants from countries outside of England, where soccer, at this point, was virtually unknown. "It was strongest on the Atlantic seaboard, particularly in New England (Smits, 3)." So although it was rejected by many, the more British of the colonies still enjoyed the game and hoped to bring its success with them. At the turn of the century, soccer began to game more acclaim worldwide, mostly in areas where the British were occupied, or were attempting to occupy. For example, in Calcutta, soccer was gaining popularity through its wealth of spectators, who would gather to watch the British soldiers play, and go on to form their own teams. Similar things were happening in Asia and Africa at the time, a result of British colonist ways. However, this development ended as quickly as colonialism ended, and the rapport of support that had been exhibited quickly filed out, along with the British, in all parts of the world (Murray, 20).
Next, let’s examine the game, and what it has to offer to spectators, players, and fans. The romance of soccer lays in the nature of the sport, "where scoring is difficult and the goalkeeper is technically capable of stopping every shot (Smits, 6)." Whereas many sports encourage scoring (even in excess...NBA, I’m talking to you), soccer goes against this and instead tries to make scoring as hard as it can be. "As a result, a resolute and inspired team of underdogs can hold much more favored opponents at bay (Murray, 7)." Inherently, sports fans in America are always looking for more; more goals, bigger venues, better players. But soccer in America never had these proclivities to begin with, as their support came from wealthy businessmen who had made their money through other investments; notably, other sports. The first soccer league in the US, the American Football Association (founded in 1884), was a strong step in the right direction, but ultimately fizzled out. “The league was organized by people with no real interest in the game, and it was played by ‘foreigners’ (15).” One again, we see two major reasons as to why soccer was rejected by the American public; lack of true financial support, and fear of foreign cultures.
However, I am struggling to understand how these problems did not plague areas such as Africa and South America, as they obviously have had their fair share of financial woes, as well as imperialism issues with countries like Britain. Who is to say that Africans don’t have a fear of foreign cultures, considering their long-standing bouts with slavery? Who is to say that the sport prospered due to sufficient financial backing in countries like Brazil, Columbia, or India? The sport garnered a healthy following in these areas, but failed to make any such mark on our country. Look at this excerpt, taken from Cameron Duodu, a soccer player and journalist from Ghana.
Most of us boys--including the stars like Michael Essien and Samuel Kuffuor who are now earning huge sums of money playing for the most glamorous teams in Europe--became aware of the enjoyment to be obtained from playing football at a very early age. But many of us could never get footballs to play with. So we "made" our own. We took a cigarette tin into the bush and tapped the sap out of a gum tree called ofuntum. If you scraped off the bark of this tree, white gum came out of it which congealed when you boiled it. You would then find a round stone or orange and pour the rubber around it in order to shape it into a ball. The results were often pathetic. But so long as it was rubbery enough to bounce up and down, you thought you had got a "ball", and you and your friends would go and find somewhere to kick it about. Do the David Beckhams of this world know anything about such things? (Duodu, 1)
Now after reading this, I wonder how financial backing has anything to do with the rise of a sport at all. Certainly, money can help build things like stadiums, complexes, and equipment, but that is not what soccer is about. It is called the World’s Game for a reason; because it can act, and has in the past acted, as a diplomatic leveler. Beginning with the formation of FIFA (The International Federation of Association Football), countries regularly scheduled friendly matches against each other, whether it was Switzerland v. Germany, or Uruguay v. Argentina. It brings various cultures together under the lid of one unified game, where precision and poise are just as important as skill. However, what’s most important about the game is it’s pick up and play attitude. Whereas the sports that we embraced, baseball notably, required lots of equipment, soccer requires only one real piece; a ball, that as Duodu explained, is “rubbery enough to bounce up and down.” For this reason, the lack of finances in some countries may in fact be the reason that soccer has grown into its current state. People without funds for the upper-level sports are forced to play sports that are feasible; i.e. sports that require as little equipment as possible.
So what is keeping soccer alive and prosperous in countries outside of the U.S., as we are just now starting to allow it into our culture? Fan support is the most obvious reason, with media coverage at or very near its level. American media focuses on Hollywood; on the sexual escapades, arrests, and any other feasible thing that could seemingly be news-worthy. Media is much different in a place like, say, Italy, where soccer is without a doubt the number one sport. “Indeed, soccer is Italy's answer to Hollywood, with a business turn-out of close to $6.6 billion a year, without counting TV rights, merchandising, sponsorship and advertising sales (Serafini, 1).” As you can see, much of the national income is generated by and through soccer, and therefore, soccer is held in higher regard than the movie industry is held in America. Then, look at an area like Africa, where it is fairly obvious that no sport or business would be having turn-outs of more than $6 billion dollars. In countries like Ghana or Togo, the sport of soccer is tied closely with politics, and in general, with life. Upon hearing of Togo’s advancement into the current World Cup, “President Faure Gnassingbe declared the Monday after the momentous victory a national holiday (Price, 2).” One could never imagine a birth into the World Cup being cause for a national holiday in the US, but then again, no sporting event would elicit such a response from our own President. This simply shows the degree to which the sport has achieved in other countries; that is, it is no longer simply a sport, but rather an exercise in the true achievement of mankind and the ability a team has to capture so much more than any individual.
“Soccer is the dominant sport. There is no rival (Smits, 118).” Since the World Cup came to our shores in 1994, we have seen a facelift in terms of soccer popularity in the country. What has always been a popular youth sport has moved into a developmental chain, from youth through school and into the professional ranks. Currently, our National Team Pool (our 30 best players) has approximately 15 players competing overseas, in leagues like England’s Premier League and the Italian Serie A. The formation of the MLS (Major League Soccer) and the WUSA (Women’s United Soccer Association) have helped to add some level of media-related justice to a sport that sorely deserves it. Yet and still, we are light years behind other countries in terms of our support and embrace of the sport. I have left you with several thoughts and figures to ponder on the reasons why the United States has yet to accept soccer as one of its top three or four sports. However, I am still undecided as to what the exact reasons are. Financial problems plague countries like South America, and yet soccer remains number one. Our fear of foreign culture is experienced in other countries as well, notably in the African nations. Our media does not treat soccer as a money-making business, as in the case of many European nations, in part because of lack of fan support and hype. Only through more research and more sources will I be able to truly examine this controversy in greater depth, and, in turn, formulate an educated opinion on the true reasons that soccer remains a forgotten commodity in our homeland.