Soccer….Family Style

Your USMNT Boyfriend
February 17, 2013, 10:43 am
Filed under: Family Fun, US Soccer | Tags: , , , , , ,

USMNTboyfriendI’m a little disappointed no one pointed this out to me before Valentines Day, since it’s perfect for my geeky USMNT loving little world. Mighty Mighty US  made this flow chart for finding your USMNT boyfriend (here’s there original post) which I find kinda awesome, with one exception. While I have to agree that the world is split into German speakers and non-German speakers, I must protest that there’s no option for Klinsmann for us German speakers. I think it’s the only way the flow chart will work for me. Maybe with a Boys/Men split before Bad Boys? I don’t know…but I just think he’s meant to be on here.

Thanks for the (belated) Valentines Day fun, Mighty Mighty US!

Isn’t That Cute? @USSoccer Tweets a tease! #USAvCRC #USMNT
January 15, 2013, 10:43 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

Oh US Soccer, trying to be all coy and charming with their tweet “We’ll be announcing the location for the first #USMNT home World Cup Qualifier today. #USAvCRC on March 22. Where do you want it played?” Are you effing kidding me?

I know US Soccer likes to drag these announcements out until airfare is insane and fans are tied up in knots, but now they’re really pissing me off. My gateway drug to soccer was as a USSF referee, and I at one point was a State level referee, considering making an attempt at becoming a National referee, so while it’s been a while since I was a “career” referee, I do remember my endless hours of training from the very organization jerking us around today. You know what we’re trained as referees?

1. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. If you say, “We’ll be announcing this week.” to Grant Wahl, then make the announcement when you said you would.

2. Be predictable. Referees had so many sayings like “a good referee is never surprised” and in turn, doesn’t surprise their players and coaches. Nobody likes being led on, on the field or trying to make plans to get to it.

3. Be humble and show your genuine personality. We fans have been waiting to here this announcement for WEEKS, if not months. Posting a cheeky “I know something you don’t know” tweet at this point is just douchie. Apologize for the on again, off again announcement, and just tell us where we are going already.

C’mon US Soccer. I’m only asking you to stand by what you taught me. Is it KC, SLC, or Denver? Or some totally other idea. Just get on with it already.

It’s Go Time in KC
October 16, 2012, 2:42 pm
Filed under: International Soccer, Supporter Culture, US Soccer | Tags: , , ,

We got to Kansas City last night and are headed to the stadium for what should be one of the best US Soccer atmospheres ever. We went to the Open Cup final in KC, and I was blown away by the atmosphere Sporting has developed for their MLS club. Fireworks, tifo, singing….this is not the supporter culture of their Wizards past. Tonight should be fantastic.

We got to the stadium at 10 AM to hang banners, set up the Midwest Mama stadium flag, and help American Outlaws lay out their stadium wide tifo. The usual security briefing is “don’t do this, don’t do that…” But at Livestrong Park, we were instructed that their goal was no arrests, no ejections, and a stadium so loud, the players wouldn’t be able to hear the final whistle. I’ve never working with stadium front office that’s so supporter friendly.

Combine that with supporters coming in from all over the US, and it’s lining up to be a great night. This is a special game for our family, not just because we get to see some old friends we usually only see at World Cups, but it is our family cap #97, 98, 99, and 100. (37 for Tanya, 31 for Doug, 20 for 10 year old Betsy Ross, and an even dozen for 5 year old Captain America…he outgrew the Uncle Sam outfit). So look for us by the Midwest Mama flag, singing our hearts out to victory and on to the Hex!

Here We Go!
September 4, 2012, 7:00 am
Filed under: FIFA, International Soccer, US Soccer | Tags: , ,

The Jamaica Home/Away roadtrip is underway! Yesterday, I watched my husband referee Minnesota Soccer’s win over Western Kentucky, and today, we fly to Montego Bay for the away leg of the qualifier. We’re off to a great start.

Our airport shuttle driver was Mexican, and was as excited as we were to talk CONCACAF soccer, even though I opened the conversation with “Didya see the US vs Mexico game in August?” He liked my rendition of Mexican beer ads in Spanish, and I think was impressed that a couple Americans were so familiar with the history of the biggest rivalry in CONCACAF.

We arrived at the airport in our USMNT jerseys, Doug’s vintage 2002, and mine the current Where’s Waldo? We were through O’Hare security in record speed when a guy in business attire stopped me and said “Nice jersey, are you coming from or going to a game?” I’ve never been stopped by an average American who knew 1. What a US Soccer jersey looked like and 2. Their playing schedule. You’ve come a long way, America, and you’re making me proud. Just think, my kids could grow up in a world where soccer fans aren’t the lowest form of American sports fan….

Next stop: Jamaica, for cliff diving, Blue Mountain coffee, rum, a reprise of our 1995 honeymoon, and hopefully, an excellent soccer game.

Your Stadium Policy Has Holes!
September 1, 2011, 12:19 pm
Filed under: Family Fun, Supporter Culture, Uncategorized, US Soccer | Tags: , , ,

An email went out to the American Outlaws nation yesterday, telling us that US Soccer wants to promote a “classy reputation” by not having profanity in the Supporters Section. The “You Suck A**hole” chant at the US vs Mexico game in Philadelphia was cited as the reason for why we, the supporters, are being punished by losing our privilege of hanging banners for the game tomorrow.

I’m a mother and a supporter. I bring my children to games, including the game in Philadelphia. My views on language in the supporters section are well established and outlined here, but let me add that I was far more concerned that stadium security was not dealing with drunkenness that was escalating to violence within and between supporters sections than I was about explaining to my children that certain words are only appropriate in certain situations.

While cursing in the supporters section doesn’t bother me, I can understand why US Soccer would want to cut it off. There has been an increase in cursing, and while I’m not offended, I do miss the days when our (as supporters in general, American Outlaws, Sam’s Army, whoever you stand with) chants were stunning for their creativity than cursing. It strikes me that this is a parent-child relationship gone bad. US Soccer birthed a new movement of passionate supporters, American Outlaws, and their child is growing up faster than they perhaps expected, and they’re getting difficult to control. American Outlaws doesn’t want to be the kid with a bunch of rules anymore (children rarely respond well to punishment without clear warning), and (at least some of them) don’t take kindly to being told to limit their free speech rights. So here’s my attempt at mediation in this relationship:

To US Soccer,

As a USSF referee, we’re taught to be careful the promises we make in a game, and the punishment must fit the crime. By taking away the supporters right to hang banners, you’re punishing people who aren’t the problem. My children take extreme pride in carrying the American Outlaws Des Moines banner and stadium flag and seeing it in the stadium. That is a huge part of how they support the US. They were devastated when we couldn’t hang banners in Philly, and panicked that we might not be able to carry in the stadium flag. Don’t take away the creativity of your supporters as punishment for those who show no creativity and think supporting is as simple as chanting YSA and flipping off the other team.

By all means, let’s work together to get the cursing out of the section. A directive that anyone chanting YSA will be immediately ejected would be a fitting punishment. That may seem like a giant undertaking, but we all know you don’t have to caution the entire wall to respect 10 yards, just the first brick in it. Let’s get more educated stadium personnel, who feel empowered to remove the people who are causing problems so that the supporters section is still raucous and fun, without becoming dangerous or alienating the rest of your growing fan base.

PS I also reffed Latino league. Let’s not pretend that there’s far more bad language in English than Spanish. I think we’d all feel better if we did better than “those aren’t our fans”. Deal with all of it or none of it, please.

To the Supporters,

I’m with you. When I read that email yesterday, I was furious. But after sleeping on it, US Soccer has a point. Do we really need to curse in every chant? Would “Mental” be any less inspiring to the team if we went “freaking mental”? The American Outlaws mission statement is “To support the United States National Soccer Team through a unified and dedicated group of supporters.” So while US Soccer is not in charge of any of us, are we really supporting them if we’re specifically doing what they ask us to refrain from doing? We can do better. Don’t get angry, get creative. Show them that we are more than cursing. It would make my day if those going to the game tomorrow found some funny, even sarcastic, curse free replacement for YSA. I know there’s someone out there with something very funny and ironic to say. Let’s get that person some paint and bed sheets, ASAP.

Ultimately, we could fight and be pissed off, but what good will that do for us? You can have all the free speech you want, but in a private event, it won’t be you far. Ultimately, US Soccer can make all our lives pretty miserable, but it would be directly against our mission to drive them to it.

To everyone:

We’re all on the same side here. We want to grow US Soccer and having games with great atmosphere will make that happen. This is one of those aggravating “you’ll charm more bees with honey than vinegar. We can both do better in working together to create that atmosphere.

Can Women’s Soccer Survive is the Wrong Question

Twitter: the fastest way to get me from sleeping to blogging at 2 AM. @FromaLeftWing responded to Sport’s Illustrated writer Grant Wahl‘s tweet about @NoahEDavis‘ article “Can Women’s Soccer Survive in America?” (which by the way, was published by @Awl). Davis writes a decent article comparing the 1999 Chastain sports bra flash moment and this year’s Donovan miracle last minute goal and the impact those moments had on US Soccer for the men’s and women’s games. He talks about how the 1999 women’s team was a standout team, and that while the men’s game has improved over the years in between those moments, the women’s game hasn’t, and that’s why the women’s game is faltering in the US.

The tweet spree that went back and forth about Wahl’s and mass media’s reporting of women’s soccer and WPS viability was just getting interesting when I realized I had more to say on the subject than 140 characters at a time. I was in the stadium, tackling the guy next to me, at both moments, and I as the representative old school US Soccer fan, here’s my response, Twitterverse, if you have the attention span for paragraphs.

Davis talks about the popularity of the 1999 USWNT, and calls out Mia Hamm as the Greatest Player of All Time, and quotes Scott French saying “There was a perception in 1999 and 2000 that women’s soccer was more popular than men’s soccer, but it was never true” when actually, it was true, for a moment in time. American sports fans like to win. And anyone who was with us in France in 1998 knows, it wasn’t the USMNT that was making it happen. Americans were fascinated by the USWNT that summer because they were winning, and they made it really exciting to watch. It was captivating, and you could see ordinary Americans really enjoying coming to soccer games. It wasn’t just the ultra fans, it was the soccer moms and their minivans. For that one summer, Women’s Soccer was more popular because the games were fun, we were winning, and it was better marketed.

Yes, marketed. And Davis proves it. Because Hamm may have had better marketing, but wasn’t the best player ever, Kristine Lilly was, is, and will always be (at least until my 8 year old daughter turns pro). Lilly has more goals, more caps, but not as successful marketing. But I’ll tell you this: I am a passionate soccer fan. My cat was named Mia, but my daughter’s middle name in Lilly. Marketing can’t buy that.

Davis is correct, the USMNT has shown dramatic, if not linear, improvement over the past decade, while the international women’s game has caught the US women. We knew this would happen, because you couldn’t help but sit in the stadiums in 1999 and watch USWNT dominate and think, in 10 years, the rest of the world will catch up with us and then we’ll see what women’s soccer is made of in the country. And here we are, competitive to a fault. Now Americans assume that USWNT will qualify for the World Cup, and we’re shocked when they don’t with ease.

I think the lack of this team’s popularity has more to do with a lack of marketing and a misdirection in the management of the WPS league. Hopefully the marketing will pick up with next summer’s Women’s World Cup (Nike? Wheaties? Who wants to be a hero?) but the WPS needs to take a serious look at where they’re putting their teams, because if they were thinking, they’d skip Dallas and LA and stick one right here in Des Moines.

Have you finished laughing yet? Ready to hear my point? Go get a drink of water….I’ll wait.

Here’s why: the East Coast and West Coast are full. They have NFL, NBA, MLS, NHL, and a million other things to do. Where’s the best attendance in the PDL? What’s that? Omigosh! It’s Des Moines?! I had no idea! Iowa also has a proud history of supporting women’s athletics, and (at least until a few years ago) it has the highest percentage of per capita youth soccer participation in the US. But most importantly, you’re not competing for sporting dollars against every other sports team in the country. Build WPS where it has the best chance to grow; and putting it on the coasts is like trying to grow your full sun flower garden under a rain forest canopy. Give these women a little sunlight and breathing room.

Finally, I’d like to respond to Davis’ snarky parting shot, where he ends with the sad little send off, reflecting, if there was another Brandi Chastain moment, “who would be watching?” The American Outlaws Des Moines chapter sent more members to watch the USWNT do or die qualifier in Chicago than we did to the USMNT game a few months prior, and the only female there was my daughter. American soccer ultra fans are ready to support the women’s team, probably not at the level of USMNT yet, but I think we should be prepared for an outpouring of support from those of us young fans who are now raising daughters. But do not mistake us for the mass media favorite “soccer mom.”

Do not DARE call me a soccer mom, because while I do parent a soccer player, I am a mother who is obsessed with soccer. I do not drive a minivan, and my daughter missed her last game of the season because we were in South Africa watching the World Cup. Do not expect to be successful marketing to the soccer moms, who lovingly support their children but could not explain the offside rule. Market to us, the families who love soccer, and want our daughters growing up with the same athletic dreams as their brothers. Market to the women who can tell you where they were when Chastain whipped off her jersey, and Donovan scored. I can tell you what it feels like to have you five month pregnant belly flip a full 360 when hit with the wall of sound created by a stadium full of Koreans chanting in unison, and what it feels like to have morning sickness at the PDL Referee fitness test, and I await the day when people mean me when they say “soccer mom.”  I am not alone. There are women (and men) in this country that are watching US Women’s Soccer, as long as there’s someone savvy enough there to sell it to them.

He’s Baaaack!
October 8, 2010, 7:34 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

Yes, it’s taken me this long to cool down about Bradley getting rehired to coach US Soccer for another World Cup. I’ve liked Bradley as a coach. I think he’s done some great things. But I think the team we took to South Africa could have gone further in the tournament save a few critical coaching decisions.

But more than that, I feel like I’m facing frustration with the American Soccer system. I’m tired of being satisfied with getting out of the group. It left me wanting so much more. I know we can do better. But it’s like parenting: how do you tell US Soccer that you’re happy with their B+ performance, but a little disappointed because you think they were capable of an A?

And what’s with this buzz that America should have an American coach? I don’t get that. We are an immigrant nation. Does the coach have to be American born? American born parents? What about Klinsman, who lives in the US but isn’t a citizen?

I want a coach that understands the US game through and through, but also has the goods to take us to the next level. I want a coach that inspires me. Someone that makes me feel like getting TST7s* isn’t crazy. Bradley, show me that you’re that guy and I’ll continue to follow you around the world. Well, who are we kidding. I’ll follow no matter what. Show me that you’re the guy I’ll follow AND write nice things about.

*TST7 is the FIFA abbreviation for Team Specific Tickets to follow your team to the World Cup Final.

Waking up from Post World Cup Coma
October 8, 2010, 7:11 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

I know. There’s been plenty to talk about. We have a new coach contract, my 3 year old has learn to lead chants at the American Outlaws watch parties, and then there’s the new qualifying for Concacaf to discuss.

But real life of work, parenting, roller derby and the rest can get pretty distracting. Soccer is always on my mind, but not always at my keyboard.

Yet here I am sitting in traffic outside Toyota Park on my way into Fire vs Crew as the warm up for US vs Poland. I don’t watch a lot of club soccer, but this WC cycle (2014) my goal is to get more involved in the club game and where everyday soccer in America is these days.

These two games are the first we’ve been able to take the kids to in a while, which is always exciting. Hopefully we’ll get to see a few of our travel buddies from American Outlaws and Sam’s Army. We’ll see how it goes: Cap 27 for me, #26 for my husband,#14 for the 8 year old, and #4 for the 3 year old up tomorrow night. As for tonight, we’ll see how life in Section 8 is.

“You take your kids to soccer games? Aren’t you worried about the hooligans?” “No, we are the hooligans.”

Back in the USA
July 3, 2010, 9:52 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

We survived the 30 hours of flying it takes to get from South Africa to Des Moines and I’m mostly over travel fatigue and jet lag. My husband came down with a 104 fever, which we discovered is the FASTEST way to get into a walk in clinic: “I have a 104 fever and just returned from the World Cup in South Africa.” Fortunately, his wacky South African disease responded just fine to antibiotics, and I’m finally getting caught up with this blog!

The kids mauled us when we got back and it was about 48 hours of mutual adoration. We’ve settled back into the family summer routine, and the kids have accepted that when the World Cup is on, the parents are only available for emergencies, and there will probably be loud shouting at the television. The one piece of soccer culture they have passionately adopted is the vuvuzela. Our 7-1/2 year old daughter has learned how to blow it perfectly, and her almost 3 year old brother can make plenty of noise in his own, unsanctioned way.

There was an intense withdrawal period returning to the US after spending 3 weeks at the World Cup. You can talk all you want that the USA Round of 16 game had a 50% increase in viewers over previous World Cup, but the reality is that America has a long way to go before it’s pleasant for a soccer fan to be here for a World Cup. I have found that discussions with non-soccer fans range from painful to infuriating, so I try to avoid the “World Cup isn’t actually over” discussion altogether.

I have found Amici Espresso, which while it’s not a bar, does have the games on and a decent crowd of educated fans, and since the “late” game is on at 1:30 PM Iowa time, coffee is probably more appropriate anyway. The backstory is that Amici is tied to Kum and Go (yes, that’s really their name), which is tied to the Des Moines Menace, which is all related back to Kyle Krause (Kum and Go CEO), who may be the one person in Des Moines who is a bigger soccer than Doug and I, although I would argue that he is just better financed. Either way, if you love soccer in Des Moines, you should be filling your car at Kum and Go.

It’s good to be home, even if it feels like a foreign land while the Cup is still on.

The girls, minus Prairie
June 19, 2010, 6:52 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Tanya, Kaela and Christina at the USMNT vs. Solvenia Tailgate

%d bloggers like this: