Sunday, March 11, 2007

Smalltown Soccer, USA

To begin my most recent entry into this online sandbox of soccer talk, I must beg your pardon for leading off with a disclosure. Inasmuch as avoiding any ambiguity, I must state the following upfront:

I love the New England Revolution. They are my club, and barring any unforeseen catastrophe, such as Steve Ralston slashing my tires or Marshall Leonard cracking my skull with a pool cue (don't ask...weird dream inspired, that nugget), the Revs will remain my club.

Ok, I feel much better.

Disclaimer aside, I cannot wait for the smaller-scale soccer to grace the unfertilized and bumpy pitches in the coming spring and summer months. For it is within these smaller stadia, parks, recreational facilities and random patches of grass that the spirit of the sport is at its most visible. No impeccably dressed pitches, corporate boxes, bright megawatt lighting or, in some instances...seats. None of that. One makes due with the spectator accommodations comprising of back-less bench seating and a food selection rivaling that of a PTA meeting.

I would complain further, were it not for the efforts of the players and managers on the plots of land sporting alternating patches or dirt, grass, and shards of broken glass. For it is the players that one arrives to see, because paying $8.00 to eat boiled hot dogs and lukewarm pizza isn't exactly the epitome of summertime fun. It is them - the players- that one comes to admire, as these soccer superheroes zig zag around the field like bees around the hive. The unmuffled barks of the players on counterattacks and set pieces reek of the grassroots beginnings the sport took a hold of back in the day – at least from what I’ve read. Managers waving their arms and gesturing instruction, and occasionally, the one boisterous fan loudly heckling an unfortunate player having a bad game.

This is unfiltered football, and the prices often less than the price of parking alone at most sporting events. The sports itself is stripped down to its very essence, without the bells and whistles that can often times cloud what's taking place. Bill Belichick often says “It is what it is.” Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the big-time footballing conglomerates playing in corporate backed coliseums in England, Spain and Italy, among other countries. You can have your Red Devils, Blues and Galacticos…I’ll take my Stingrays, Foxes, and Voltage over them any day.

Without the clutter of corporations, sponsors, and slick websites, the soccer that is played on local fields, in my opinion, is some of the best soccer one can find and truly enjoy- ironically, without doing a great deal of searching. Granted, many semi-professional and amateur sides often fly under the radar of local media and even internet search engines. So it's not as easy as simply Googling "Anytown, USA soccer."

It may require a drive around town, through the local parks and recreational fields during the warm and sunny Spring and Summer weekends, to find this unspoiled product. Stripped down to its very essence…it’s a gamea wonderful game.

Now that I think about - I take back what I had previously stated. I have no complaints. This is soccer.

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