Tuesday, May 10, 2016

(MSS) The (Continued) Growth Of Soccer In America

Soccer has rapidly grown in a popularity in America. In 2014, an ESPN poll showed that professional soccer ranked second to pro football in popularity among 12- to 17-year-olds. Major League Soccer (MLS), the top-level soccer league in the United States, was founded in 1996 off the success of the 1994 World Cup. Currently a twenty-team league, MLS teams' attendance are threatening baseball and hockey teams in their respective cities.

The successful platform of the big European soccer leagues stems from their rich history. The promotion and relegation system is how most of the world's domestic soccer leagues operate, but the American system is different. Teams only move to the MLS when there are more expansion teams added, but these are only to the old team linked by ownership and team name and barely resemble the prior roster and coaching staff. Prominent "pro/rel" activists such as Ted Westervelt have been leading the push for change to the American soccer league setup, but it seems unlikely the MLS owners would budge, due to a potential drop off in income. I believe the current system is hurting the popularity of Major League Soccer, as opposed to the more popular European leagues which capture over a million U.S. TV viewers each week. AFC Bournemouth, for example, was playing in the fourth-tier "League Two" in 2009, and worked their way up to the top level English Premier League starting this season. Now imagine if a team from Lansing, Michigan could do the same...

Lansing United (blue and white) takes to the pitch 
against Columbus Crew Collegiate Program.
Lansing United is now in their third season and they look set to be playing in the NPSL, three levels below MLS, for many years to come. Lansing United plays against other teams from the NPSL Great Lakes West Conference, and in 2014 won the league and played in the NPSL national semifinals. Most of the roster consist of college players, with a few older players mixed in. I think it is important to support a local team  - that is why I root for the Detroit sports teams as well. This is opposed the type of fan that roots for Manchester United, the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, and Notre Dame football. It is easy to root for historically successful teams. As much as love my Arsenal (soccer team based in north London), I feel more of a connection to my local team. Lansing United had 556 fans at their season opener last Saturday, but had over 1,000 fans for their game against Detroit City FC last season. They are still a new team looking for more fans, so I'd suggest taking a look at the schedule, and thinking of going to a game.

Monday, February 29, 2016

(MSS )Voice of The Turtle

This post was originally published on my RWR blog...
For, lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth,
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.
-Song Of Solomon 2:11-12 
It is one of the best times of the year for a baseball fan, as today marked the start of Spring Training games. Longtime time radio announcer Ernie Harwell once uttered a bible excerpt that become synonymous with the start of Tigers baseball. You could say that Harwell was the "Voice of The Turtle" heard on the radio throughout Michigan for nearly 50 years. Ernie announced the last two World Series titles for the Detroit Tigers, and called numerous playoff games nationally for CBS Radio and ESPN Radio. Nowadays commentators mostly receive negative attention, but the great ones make the games even better than they are.

From Harwell's era, only Vin Scully of the Dodgers, at 88, is still calling games. Ernie was known for his homerun call, "That one is long gone," among other catchphrases. Tigers fans were outraged when he was removed from broadcasts in 1993, and due to popular demand, he was brought back in 1995. Harwell retired in 2002, and returned as a guest announcer through 2007. In September 2009, Ernie Harwell was diagnosed with incurable bile duct cancer, and passed away the following May, aged 92. Harwell showed his wherewithal, up until shortly before his death he was still exercising regularly. He may be before my time, but I think it is important to recognize the career of the great Mr. Ernie Harwell.

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