mcbride.jpgOr at least nobody cares about soccer according to almost every ESPN talking head over the last week. And if ESPN says it, it must be true.

The actual truth is that pretty much every ESPN property had at least one segment on soccer last week and with good reason as David Beckham arrived in America.

There’s not much more to say about Beckham that hasn’t already been blithered about, but if you need a complete and accurate rundown of what his arrival really means look here.

As for the soccer bashing… almost every bit of it over the last week can be more or less translated as: “Beckham is in American but nobody cares about soccer in America.”

Really, then why is it the lead segment on PTI? Why is Jay Mariotti pretending to be knowledgeable about soccer on Around The Horn? If nobody cares about it in this country then why are people talking about it on the primary sports outlet in this country? When you truly don’t care about something, it’s not the first thing out of your mouths (the WNBA doesn’t come to mind).

Yes, Beckham’s arrival is somehow newsworthy above and beyond the game of soccer, but it’s just stupid to say that nobody cares. If ESPN is going to have some token soccer talk, all that people who enjoy the sport ask is that they discuss it intelligently. I realize this is asking a lot from the network that puts Steve Phillips on the air every night, but with all the resources at its disposal, you’d think ESPN could get the most basic things correct. They can’t.

To wit, this morning Schrutebag went off on soccer and its popularity in the U.S.

He said one monumentally stupid thing, one incredibly dumb thing, and made one factual error so egregiously simple it almost makes him look like he has no business doing a sports talk show. This last one is the most intriguing because he actually has no business doing a sports talk show. (And yes, I was listening… mostly because I didn’t have an icepick handy with which to impale myself).

Anyway, his basic argument was that American soccer fans are delusional and think that the National Team is one of the best in the world and when they lose fans always have excuses ready.

He then began to assail American soccer by ridiculing our recent World Cup performances, noting that we have no world class strikers, and finally laughing at our recent Copa America performance.

The problem is nobody who is knowledgeable about American soccer would argue much with any of those things. How that was supposed to be a criticism of soccer vis a vis its fans kind of defies explanation. Most intelligent observers don’t think we are one of the five or so best sides in the world, but about the 15th. Most intelligent observers joke about how laughably bad our finishing is in international matches. And most followers of the USMNT were horribly embarrassed by performance of the C-team we sent to the Copa America.

I guess the bulk of Cowherd’s listeners aren’t intelligent enough to understand a straw man argument (his show is called “The Herd”). Either he was being intentionally disingenuous or plain stupid. I’ll argue the latter. And here’s why.

As part of his argument Cowherd made a couple of specific points. In talking about the Copa America and the requisite excuses that came with poor perfoormance, he pilloried US fans for whining that we sent an inexperienced squad. Well, that was true. And that inexperienced squad got humiliated. His counter to that was: Well how do you know that Argentina and Brazil didn’t do the same?

Simple: We can read.

Messi, Riquelme, Tevez, Cambiasso, Crespo… Yep, just by reading the roster it’s clear that Argentina had every intention of winning that thing and sent the people to do it.

Brazil? They actually didn’t. They did indeed send a less than best squad. That’s why the outcome of the final—a 3-0 shellacking of Argentina by Brazil—was so surprising.

If you don’t know enough about the sport to know that Lionel Messi is really good—I mean scary like Maradonna good—and if you can’t talk about our performance at last year’s World Cup without erroneously saying (and saying it twice) that we lost to Italy, then don’t even bother.

Wasn’t there another Bengal arrested that you can talk about instead?

I single out Cowherd because he is so monumentally ignorant that I think he should be made to feel physical pain for it. But he isn’t that much different from many US sports radio and TV personalities in his depth of knowledge or lack thereof.

Yes, Beckham’s arrival has precipitated most of the recent soccer talk. Great. At least it has generated talk of the sport. In truth he’s likely to be the Courtney Love of soccer. She sold more magazines than she ever did records. Similarly Beckham as a celebrity will move more merch than Beckham as a fútbol player. That’s fine. If you want to talk about him, just confine your talk of him to the celebrity aspects of his life and don’t use it as an attempt to bash soccer in America generally because you can’t come up with anything more insightful than “It’s the seventh most popular sport in this country, so no one cares.”

The reality is that USMNT has qualified for five straight World Cups, we are the best team in CONCACAF, and more of our best players are starting to get not only looks but regular playing time in the best league in the world (Dempsey, Bocanegra, Onyewu, DeMerit, etc.).

And the USMNT didn’t lose to Italy in the last World Cup, they tied them. And did it playing a man down for much of the second half. Not only that but the US was the only team to pull a point off of the eventual champions in the entire Cup competition.

Not bad for the seventh most popular sport in this country. You know, the one nobody cares about.