Some Basic Rules On Writing For Soccer

June 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

I don’t write nearly as eloquently or sympathetically as other people about sporting events. I had a rapturous time watching yesterday’s US-Algeria game (I did so here. It is awesome.), but my writing gets all purple when I get happy. So to offer my two cents to the pot: A Guide To Soccer For U.S. Sportswriters. Just trying to head some stupidity off at the pass…


Hi, and welcome to A Guide To Soccer For U.S. Sportswriters!

If you’re reading this that means that you recently watched a soccer game and want to share your thoughts on the game. That’s great! Soccer fans, much like fans of nearly every other sport, enjoy sharing and hearing opinions, so we wish you a warm welcome to the group.

There are a few common missteps that befall the new fan when he speaks about a sport he’s only recently begun watching. Most of them aren’t huge mistakes, but to maximize your pleasure at finding a new sport to shoot the shit about, try and adhere to these rules.

1. At first, double check every time you talk about a Latin/South American player to make sure you’re referring to the right person. Lookit, we here in the U.S. have primarily dealt with Latino athletes in the arena of baseball and little where else, so I can understand when even ESPN pulls the “say Jose Torres when you are thinking about Herculez Gomez” gambit a couple of times. All those “z’s” and “-ado’s” can blur together to the untrained eye. So the best advice we have is to start slow and tentative. Back in 2001 when I started to get into soccer, I would, at least at first, finish every player’s name on a high note, like it was a question. “Dude, that…Cisse?…has crazy speed. And crazy hair.” or “Gudjohnsen? is a beast!” If you make no claims of expertise, you’ll find us soccer types a forgiving and eager-to-teach bunch. We all started somewhere.

2. We soccer fans are not a crowd of anti-social homeschool kids who are unfamiliar with pop culture. Don’t try and come in and give us a top-down make over. This, this idea of using Journey (since it’s totally popular on Glee it will work here too, right!) or Bruce Springsteen for official song. No. Just, no.

I don’t care what your decency guidelines are at your place of work, how you may have to write the title, but forever and for always “America Fuck Yeah!” We must have sung it 100 times at the bar yesterday, way more than any crap about south Detroit or being Born In The USA.

A song written in the 2000’s? Full of irony and some honest-to-god jingoism and self-deprecation? Yeah, it’s the best. We know.

You’re more than welcome to become a soccer fan, all we ask is that you don’t treat us like children. Yes, we are familiar with pop culture, and yes, we know what songs are out there.

3. We’re not all uptight. Contrary to many of your assumptions, we’re not all fey writers, foodies, and thin-wristed intellectuals. Furthermore, we like raucous bars full of soccer fans and the ability to talk about the games with strangers and people we tangentially know. So, no, we don’t need soccer to stay a small sport. Really. Also, we can take a joke. This Deadspin post is silly, wrongheaded, and shallow. But I bet most of us are okay with that. It’s also kind of funny. Shitty writing, while not desired, is a sign that a sport has arrived.

4. When in doubt, Dave Zirin is a good place to start. Like here.

5. Really, really, really resist the urge to talk about strategy or techniques or styles-of-play until you actually know something about these things. I know: it is tempting to think that soccer has a lot in common with basketball or football or rugby. Resist this urge with all your might. Here are my tips to catching up on the stuff:

  • Rent/buy one of the top-quality soccer video games. FIFA franchise will work here, but so will Pro Evolution Soccer. This will help a lot with understanding passing strategies, crossing, and feasible shooting angles.
  • Buy Inverting The Pyramid, by Jonathan Wilson. It’ll give you both the historical perspective to the sport (I’m guessing you had no idea that Hungary (!) is one of the great godfathers of the game) and the rough overview of the evolution of the sport.
  • Just consume a game or two, not trying to form an opinion. Just watch it. I know that you think a lot of people would like to read the first thoughts of a sports-soaked U.S. writer who is in the process of learning about soccer, but they don’t.

Again, this is just the beginning, both for your fandom and your chance to write about it. We look forward to you joining us, are sure you’ll bring all kinds of new views to the Beautiful Game, and thank you for your new patronage.


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