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A Tradition Unlike Any Other (Apparently)

ESPN soccer MLS commentator Julie FoudyIt’s that time of year again again. Leaves, Leafs, candy apples, Candy Samples, light wraps (including but not limited to shawls, tunics, neo-wimples, and jumpers), used Type O Negative CDs, Dane Cook, the farthest time from when employees of the PAAS corporation have to think about going back to work again, and best of all, gratuitous use of the suffix “-tober”.

The newest entry to the list (which previously included Z104.3 The Edge‘s Rock-tober, Martin Yan‘s Wok-tober, Bushwick Bill‘s Glock-tober, The Dukes of Hazzard Appreciation Society‘s Catherine Bach-tober, etc) comes to us from ESPN’s MLS Primetime Thursday. Yup, it’s “Socc-tober” according to Rob Stone (guy who used to play soccer and now just talks about it on the TV).

After proclaiming this newly crowned “–tober”, Rob went on the show us WHY the prefix “Socc-” is so apt. Apparently, this is when the MLS playoffs happen. And before the DC United v. ,b>Chicago Fire 1st leg match, we got the obligatory “Let’s try to rope in the folks who flipped to ESPN instinctively during a World Series commercial break” feature, which consisted of a comparative baseball/soccer montage: “We’ve got strikes, steals, and slides too!” No lie, that was an actually quote. Now the potential viewer is bored because he realizes it’s soccer (because there’s not that much scoring in soccer and excitement and intrigue only come with scoring and LOTS of it, see the NHL) on the other end of the spectrum, the dedicated soccer fan is insulted and embarrassed at the overt pandering to Joe Nascar.

Add this to the litany of poor marketing strategies the MLS/EPSN has rolled out in an attempt to snag new fans. Instead of marketing to the core audience who knows and faithfully follows the game, they continually choose to alienate that demographic with constant attempts to draw parallels to American sports (“They’re in the red zone!”, “We’re coming up on the 2 minute warning.”, “The attacking midfielder is like the quarterback of the team.”), and the continuous explanations of the rules and practices, made famous by Dave O’Brien and his “This is an example of the spirit of the game!”, uttered every time a ball is purposefully played into touch while an opposing player is injured. That’s American soccer coverage: plenty of dumbin’ it down, hypin’ it up, and Sierra Mist.

The ESPN Thursday night MLS team had previously injected some insta-cred by including international soccer mainstay, the leprechaunish Tommy Smyth, whose catch phrase “bulge in the ol’ onion sack” is the comedy gold at the end of a dreary American soccer commentator rainbow. Instead, we get the Alex P. Keaton of the soccer world, the surly, snarky Eric Wynalda who is best known as Landon Donovan‘s less-talented predecessor.

Last night, Eric thought it acceptable to liken the red flames of the road flares fans had set off in the crowd to the wildfires destroying homes and lives in Southern California. Yes. And aside from making light-hearted references to a continuing tragedy, Eric wouldn’t shut up about how “hated” Cuauhtémoc Blanco is despite every other spectator in the crowd wearing his #10 jersey.

This collective hatred that we are supposed to hold can be traced back to Blanco’s Mexican national team consistently dominating Wynalda’s US national team during the 90s. A lack of commentator objectivity due to unresolved issues and past failures (Tony Kornheiser) or blatant homerism (the Redskins radio broadcast team) is usually a recipe for unintentional hilarity, but Wynalda’s agenda is much too pitiful.

Not even the silky, lovable Valium that is Julie Foudy could save this embarrassing production. Instead of letting her do color commentary, which she has done more than competently in the past, they shove her into the Keyshawn Johnson/Shannon Sharpe novelty corner of the coverage desk. “Hey look everybody! It’s a girl! How crazy is THAT?” Julie is too dignified and sleepy to be up that late and not have a major speaking role. ESPN, please for the love of the game soccer and the people who watch it, put Julie Foudy up front where she belongs and give her a new Sierra Mist X with invigorating Ginkgo Biloba and other botanical extracts and sugar. We’re sure she can hit it out of the park, take it to the house, drive the lane for an and-one, and maybe even put the bulge in the ol’ onion sack.

“One Julie Fooooudy!! There’s only ONE Julie Foooooooudy!!!”

5 comments to A Tradition Unlike Any Other (Apparently)

  • Kona_Boy

    Nice write up, Chris!

    Spot on about the dumbing-down of soccer for people who are never going to like it, perfect parallel to hockey which is hopefully just now coming out of that funk.

  • Big Ben's Mototrcycle

    Wait was this a Neal article earlier? I’m confused. I swear I saw Neal’s name at the top and I was like “why the hell is Neal writing about soccer”?

    I’ll never understand futbol.

    In 2005 Lewis spent the off-season learning to speak Portuguese and Amharic to be more effective in his work in Angola and Ethiopia respectively.[32]He then teamed with Paralympic Gold Medalist Cheri Blauwet and with the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) to support and advise the creation of a new Sports for Life program in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. The pair traveled to the war-torn region in March 2006 to deliver wheelchairs, crutches and orthopedic devices to patients. They also consulted with therapists and social workers about possible beneficial uses for sports and recreation. Lewis returned to the United States and has been involved in pressing political (spoke to congress in June), business and philanthropic leaders for a stronger commitment to disability sport both here and in the developing world. Lewis was also honored with a JB award (named in honor of CBS broadcaster James Brown) during the 2006 offseason and received the “Act of Kindness” Award for his tireless work in the community.

  • Chris

    …that and despite his accomplishments on the field, Lewis’ public image was tarnished following a Super Bowl party on January 31, 2000. Following this party, he was brought into the Atlanta Police Department for questioning, then arrested (along with his friends Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting) and charged with the murders of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. Baker and Lollar were stabbed to death outside a nightclub during a fight in the Buckhead district of Atlanta. The charges resulted in Lewis being held in custody, preventing him from playing in the Pro Bowl in Hawaii the following Sunday. Lewis then posted bail and was scheduled for a spring trial.
    The trial of Lewis and his codefendants started during the following spring. After the prosecution had presented its case, with little or no evidence that Lewis had committed any overt acts against the victims, Lewis’s attorney arranged with prosecutors to dismiss the murder charges and let Lewis plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice[20]; he also agreed to testify against Oakley and Sweeting, who were each charged with murder. Lewis accepted this plea bargain, and he was sentenced to one year of unsupervised, unrestricted probation. He was also offered expungment of this record if he successfully completed his probation, and was not suspended by the NFL. He was fined a league record US$250,000.
    Oakley and Sweeting were acquitted of the charges in June 2000, represented by noted Atlanta criminal defense attorneys L. David Wolfe, Bruce Harvey, and Steve Sadow. Though all were acquitted in June 2000, the Atlanta Police Department and District Attorney’s office believe Lewis’s associates to be guilty. No other suspects have ever been arrested for the crime.
    Lewis was named Super Bowl XXXV MVP but due to the controversy, he did not get the endorsements or the Disneyland trip afforded to recent MVP recipients.
    On April 29, 2004, Lewis reached settlement to four-year-old India Lollar, born months after the death of her father Richard, preempting a scheduled civil proceeding. Lewis also reached an undisclosed settlement with Baker’s family

    The trial of Lewis and his codefendants started during the following spring. After the prosecution had presented its case, with little or no evidence that Lewis had committed any overt acts against the victims, Lewis’s attorney arranged with prosecutors to dismiss the murder charges and let Lewis plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice[20]; he also agreed to testify against Oakley and Sweeting, who were each charged with murder. Lewis accepted this plea bargain, and he was sentenced to one year of unsupervised, unrestricted probation. He was also offered expungment of this record if he successfully completed his probation, and was not suspended by the NFL. He was fined a league record US$250,000.

    Oakley and Sweeting were acquitted of the charges in June 2000, represented by noted Atlanta criminal defense attorneys L. David Wolfe, Bruce Harvey, and Steve Sadow. Though all were acquitted in June 2000, the Atlanta Police Department and District Attorney’s office believe Lewis’s associates to be guilty. No other suspects have ever been arrested for the crime.

    Lewis was named Super Bowl XXXV MVP but due to the controversy, he did not get the endorsements or the Disneyland trip afforded to recent MVP recipients.

    On April 29, 2004, Lewis reached settlement to four-year-old India Lollar, born months after the death of her father Richard, preempting a scheduled civil proceeding. [21] Lewis also reached an undisclosed settlement with Baker’s family

  • Big Ben's Mototrcycle

    Wait what’s this??? Where did you get that? I haven’t heard of this!!! Oh my GOD!

    Oh well, still doesn’t make him selfish.

  • Big Ben's Mototrcycle

    Also some of the best NFL players in HISTORY murdered people. Some even did it with their own hands so stop that you!