A couple dozen soccer fans were angered by my column criticizing the sales of MLS jerseys to advertisers. I think this turns players into walking billboards.
Soon, a deluge of angry e-mail entered my life. I was called various names, which didn’t bother me. Except one. The name that did get under my skin was, “soccer-hater.” Soccer fans, who feel embattled in our country, seem to believe anyone who criticizes the game in any way hates soccer.
I have many faults, but hating soccer is not among them. I played – not very well – center midfielder for my college team. I spend hours a month watching games on Fox Soccer Channel and GOLTV. I have bored many real soccer-haters by talking about Zidane and Bergkamp and Maradona. (For the uninitiated, these are soccer greats.) Just this Sunday, a few of my friends gathered in my living room to watch Brazil throttle Argentina in the Copa America final.
My devotion to soccer fuels my disdain for human ads. I don’t want to watch the beautiful game polluted by commercialism. Yes, I know American sports are stuffed with ads. NFL games feature 75 minutes of commercials and 30 minutes of actual action, but what’s wrong with America doesn’t excuse the invasion of jersey selling from Europe and elsewhere.
Many of my critics – and I was glad to hear from every last one – seem to believe I’m blind to the sins rampant in the sports Americans love most. I’m not.
I just don’t like to see jersey ads invading the action in soccer.