UPDATE: Support the petition to get Bill Simmons to the US qualifier against Costa Rica in RFK and sitting with the American Outlaws.
Simmons: This is the summer that I inexplicably fell for soccer. I can’t explain it. I don’t know why it happened now. I don’t know if it is like a mid-life crisis, but I have thrown myself into the US National Team and the English Premier League.
Lalas: You don’t have to explain it. It’s like…uh…love. You know, it just happens. You got to go with it.
And thus began a meandering, but interesting 58-minute conversation between ESPN’s Bill Simmons (aka The Sports Guy) and Alexi Lalas early this week as part of Simmons’ B.S. Report podcast.
Say what you want about his motivation for covering the sport or knowledge of the game, but the increasing coverage of soccer by Bill Simmons (aka The Sports Guy) can only be a good thing. This isn’t Simmons first foray into the world’s #1 game. A couple of years ago he wrote a two part piece about picking his EPL team—Tottenham Spurs. But, ultimately, Simmons lost interest.
Within the last few months, Simmons has been hinting at the rise of soccer (along with the return of his interest) and then a few weeks ago came his (long) recounting of his experience at Azteca on August 12. Filled with references to popular American sports and written from the perspective of a fledgling soccer fan it is fun read focused on the passion exhibited by the Mexican fans. (Note: Set aside about 20 minutes when you have time…it is that long.)
While in Mexico, Simmons met Alexi Lalas for the first time; Lalas was covering the game for ESPN. Earlier this week Simmons invited Lalas on his podcast (which I believe is the most downloaded podcast on iTunes). What I found most interesting is that Simmons provides a good perspective on what it is like for an American sports fan to be intrigued by the game enough to want to know more, but still early in his understanding of the sport. For his part, Lalas plays a great role as teacher and ambassador.
A few highlights:
- Simmons says that Mexico had the ultimate home field advantage at Azteca due to Lando’s swing flu…although Donovan contracted H1N1 in the States, it originated from Mexico.
- Lalas believes that Saprissa is a tougher place to play than Azteca
- Simmons questions why the US doesn’t have a national stadium in Soccertown USA. (Sound familiar?)
- They debate who is / would be the best American soccer player who is currently playing another professional sport. (This includes the surprising – at least to me – contention by Lalas that size trumps skill in building the prototypical player.)
- Lalas recounts his quest to find a college soccer team. (He ultimately “settled” on Rutgers)
- Germany is Lalas’ pick to win the World Cup with England definitely not winning it.
If you get a chance it’s worth a listen.