I'm always happy, as an American, to be told what I (as an American) will and won't do. Just like any group loves being told by others inside their camp or outside what they should or shouldn't believe. I'm a Christian--a pastor of a Baptist church even--and people still tell me what I do and don't believe. I expect it, but it doesn't make it any less of a headscratcher.
Enter Frank DeFord. He let me in on something that had totally escaped me: Americans don't care about Major League Soccer, only European soccer.
What soccer fans really care about is European soccer, and that's quite available on TV. Even our most prominent soccer journalist, Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated, can't think of anything to call ratings for Major League Soccer but "minuscule." English-language ratings remain stagnant. Incredibly, David Beckham, at the height of his deification, could not get Americans to watch American soccer. Even the coach of the American team himself thinks our national players would be better off playing in Europe.
First of all, I am ever so grateful that he told me that, as an American, what I care and don't care about. Yes, yes, I know he was referring to Americans in general. Maybe he felt he could say this as an American, which gives him some room and leverage to say what other Americans believe. He may share that camp with us, but it's not that camp that is pertinent--it's the Glorious Camp of Soccer, The Beautiful Game that we do not share.
And that's fine. If American Frank Deford doesn't watch soccer because we're not the best (or it's not interesting to him), and other Americans Frank Deford knows do not watch soccer (because it's not interesting/American/too Communist/low scoring/blah/blah/blah), and even if the ratings of MLS do not seem robust enough for him--fine! Good for him, for as an American, he has the freedom to state his opinion.
Second of all, the ad hominem fallacy of the article lies is egregious. An ad hominem fallacy (for those keeping score) is attacking the character of the person or the subject rather than dealing with the argument or facts themselves. Deford is a product of his generation's notion of American exceptionalism. The fact that since we are not the best in the world at soccer (while we are at baseball, basketball, and football--all American sports), then Americans won't care because we aren't the best because Americans only entertain the best. (I just reread that sentence, and think I need to supply a map for that thing!) We only want to follow that which is exceptional. Football is ours! Basketball is ours! Baseball is ours! And thus, since it's ours (ours=American), we care.
Soccer? Soccer is theirs! Not ours, theirs! (Theirs=not American!) Sure, our European soccer coach thinks our American guys should play in Europe, but that could mean he's guilty of European exceptionalism, yes?
The National Football League began in 1933, with the game being invented in the 1870s by a fellow named Walter Camp.
Major League Baseball began in 1869, with Abner Doubleday inventing the game in 1839.
The NBA was founded in 1946, with the inventor of that sport (James Naismith, being born in Canada) who invented it in 1891.
That's a pretty good head start for these games that have been a part of the American fabric for generations. Even when Frank Deford was born in 1938, baseball had been around nearly a century, football for almost 70, and basketballs were bouncing for almost a half-century.
MLS? It's been around for 20, being instituted when Deford was 56. MLS will take time to break through, but I wonder how things will look 50, 70, or 100 years from now! We will have two or three generations who will not see soccer as an ours-vs.-theirs deal--but it will be ours as well!
I'm as red, white, and blue as they come. But those colors do not fade because I care about soccer. In fact, 19,000 Americans per game care (multiply that by 20 teams, and that's 380,000 people going to games). And 380,000 times 34 is, um, well, a bunch!
So, I am not offended that Frank Deford says Americans don't care about MLS! I just think the title of the article was misnamed. It should have been, "Frank Deford doesn't care about MLS!" Because the generations are moving along to where what it meant back in the day to be an American and what it means now to be an American are not the same. We have room at the table to adopt!