Soccer and its Uneasy Place in the American Consciousness

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Why is Soccer is the most popular sport in the world?

I’m no social scientist, but I’d suspect that there are socioeconomic reasons for it—it required nothing other than a ball and a field to play, making it possible to play literally anywhere that one can find a few square feet and a suitable amount of gravity. It can be played on the blacktop of the cities of Europe, in the savannahs of Africa, in the foothills of the Himalayans, and even in the Bluegrass of Kentucky. Even the poorest of the poor can play soccer, and some of the poorest nations in the world are among the elite in what the rest of the world calls Football.

Yet, somehow, it has become the Golf of team sports in America, played mainly by the suburban and the well-to-do. Perhaps it’s due to the English and European roots of the game—not many kids from the inner cities have had the privilege of watching a English Premier League match on television, much less in person. Maybe it’s cultural-while the best basketball and football players in the world tend to be black Americans, soccer is dominated by white Europeans and South Americans. There isn’t a lot of green space in American cities, either, and few urban schools field a varsity soccer team.

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The Wheels Are Officially Off

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Well, that escalated quickly. Tiger Woods—you remember him, he used to be the best golfer in the universe—shot a combined sixteen-over par in the first two rounds of the U.S. Open on Thursday and Friday. It was his worst 36-hole score in his professional career. He missed the cut by roughly…a billion shots. And do you know what the curious thing about it was?

Nobody was particularly surprised.

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The Revised History of Michael Jordan

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It’s official: LeBron James is a four-time NBA Finals loser. In all honesty, I couldn’t care less—my opinions about rooting for professional sports teams are pretty well-documented. But James, himself, is compelling in many ways. One of them happens to be the consistent comparison of James to one Michael Jeffrey Jordan.

The comparisons are inevitable, of course. James (I refuse to call him “LeBron,” as though we were besties or something) is widely regarded as the best basketball player in the world. Jordan is widely regarded as the best player in history. James doesn’t typically fare well in these comparisons—after all, James is now 2-4 in NBA Finals, whereas Jordan was 6-0.  I have a different ranking of all-time greats, personally, but that’s another post for another time. However, unlike many people who postulate that Jordan’s greatness is indisputable, I actually lived through and remember Jordan’s early years in the league.

You know who we mostly compared Jordan to back in the day? Bill Russell? Elgin Baylor? Wilt Chamberlain? Jerry West?

Actually, it was Dominique Wilkins.

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What Does Hope Cost?

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For my first post here at Riverside Green, I’m going to talk about something that I’m pretty sure has never been mentioned here (that being sports) and something that absolutely has been. It all has to do with the sublimely talented and (let’s not deny it, because it matters) physically attractive goalkeeper for the United States National Women’s Soccer team, Hope Solo.

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