The Grumpy Column

Everyone deserves a grumpy old man column.  And this is mine.

There are a number of conversations and actions that take place around soccer that I just don’t understand.  I’m not talking about Nashville SC in particular (although some of these conversations do take place at this level) but conversations about soccer in general.  I want to be clear here, else my colleague Andy Simmons will accuse me of telling him how to be a fan, that I really am expressing more bafflement than anything else.  I don’t mind coming off crotchety – that sorta comes with the territory as you move past 50 years old – but I do not want to sound prescriptive.  Within certain moral boundaries, I don’t really care what people do. 

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I don’t understand when fans boo either their own players or the manager.  I haven’t seen this happen with NSC (yet!) but I have seen it with other teams I support.  A manager plays a certain style that the fans don’t like, or seems insistent on putting in players they don’t like, and some of the crowd takes to booing.  I seriously don’t get it. 

Some people tell me that it’s supposed to express displeasure in hopes of prompting change, but I’m doubtful of that.  In my mind, it’s setting up a nasty atmosphere to surround a team that is supposed to have home field advantage, and I don’t see how it yields results.  Does the manager think, “Oh, I’m being booed. I must be doing something wrong”?  I don’t see it.  They are professionals with their careers on the line. They are already doing the best they know how. 

I don’t quite get conversations about how a team lost because of a bad referee.  I understand the frustration, and there are games when it feels as if more decisions go against a team than not.  That said, I want my team to put itself in a position to overcome bad decisions.  Indeed, I pray that no one on the team and no one in management is blaming a loss on a bad call.  Take the responsibility to put yourself in a position in which a bad call won’t matter.  And have a mindset that you will win regardless of what is up against you.  A discussion about calls? I’m all in for that.  A discussion blaming a loss on calls?  I don’t quite get it.

I don’t understand any sentence after a game that is structured like this, or something akin to it: “Player X is horrible. He’s worthless.” “Manager Y should not be managing at this level.”  I’m happy to discuss a player’s quality or a manager’s fit with a particular team, but the fact of the matter is none of these guys are “horrible” or “terrible” or whatever overstatement might be employed. 

These are professionals who have good days and days.  At the end of a season, some of them will be gone because they have illustrated that either they don’t fit the team or, in fact, the quality never developed.  Does that mean they are horrible?  No. They are quality players or managers, just not quality enough, or of the right quality.  But the players are playing for the team and the manager is managing because the front office has deemed them of any quality to do so.  They’ve scouted the players; they know what they are capable of and have predicted certain developments. Will all of the players pan out? Nope.  Will every manager be with us forever? Nope.  But none of them are “garbage.” 

I never understand heated conversations about kit design.  Like everyone, I have certain tastes, so when the new jersey designs are released, I’m happy to discuss what I like and what I don’t.  The truth of the matter is that I’m going to buy a jersey every year regardless, because I like them as a document of the team’s history.  That said, do I like them all? No.  Do I see any reason to get heated about a jersey, to act as if it is a moral outrage that the jersey design isn’t as nice as I would like?  Absolutely not.  These conversations leave me more baffled than any other one. 

I do not understand conversations that point out that MLS quality is not as high as the Premier League.  First off, that’s a given.  Secondly, the point being made is generally that it’s either not worth watching or not worth getting worked up over because it’s not at the highest level.  These claims are often made by some of the same people who adore college sports—sports that are further from their professional counterparts than MLS is from the Prem.  If you don’t want to watch MLS or any sport, you don’t have to.  But you also don’t have to act as if it is not a hugely competitive, hugely fun league to watch.

Ok, I better have my nap. I’m feeling grumpy.

Author: John Sloopgrew up in Asheville, NC, and after forays to Georgia and Iowa, found his way to Nashville over 25 years ago. On a trip to Portland, Oregon, 15 years ago, he watched the (then) USL Portland Timbers youth squad play one afternoon and fell completely and totally in love with soccer, to the detriment of his love of all other sports. In addition to thinking, writing, watching, and talking about soccer, Sloop teaches media and rhetoric at Vanderbilt. He is currently serving as the Chair of the Board of the Belcourt Theater and is part of the team that runs Tenx9 Nashville, a monthly story telling event.

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