The Soccer Snob is the sports-fan version of that person who corrects others grammar on Twitter.
by KYLE MARTINO–
The influx of American “Soccer Snobs,” while at times detrimental to our sports image and obtusely obnoxious is a positive indicator of the ascent in popularity of our beautiful game at home–represented by MLS.
Identifying the “Snob” type can be tough because they are a sub-group within that hardcore crowd and go relatively unnoticed, walking around right under our noses like ghosts only that weird kid could see.
They are generally characterized as having regal and overly entitled dispositions, as if they come from the same bloodline as Ebenezer Cobb Morley (look it up). You normally hear them before you see them: waxing poetic on the pros and cons of a 4-3-3 vs. a 4-2-3-1.
But don’t be fooled by this alone.
It is only when this behavior is combined with contempt for Major League Soccer and new fans to the game that these Soccer Snobs truly reveal themselves.
Look closely among the blogs or keep one ear open at the bar and you will hear them deriding MLS:
“Its only good attribute is athleticism– other than that it’s a joke,” ridicules an anonymous Soccer Snob in the comments section of an MLS website.
“This phony probably still has the tag on that Arsenal jersey” was a comment that I overheard myself at Ye Ole Kings Head in Santa Monica towards a “green” fan with subpar soccer vernacular and a mint Wilshere jersey.
They even love to insult ex-pros who have moved on to commentating, helpfully inquiring “Why are you saying ‘Err Zil’ when its ‘Oh Zeel’ you moron, how do you have a job!”
That just another gem offered, to me, during Premier League Weekend by an anonymous Soccer Snob on Twitter.
The Soccer Snob is the sports-fan version of that person who corrects others grammar on Twitter. You know the one, unnecessarily patrolling the world to discipline those who they deem broke the rules no one cares about. Its as if they have a pathological urge to insult or belittle what they deem to be inferior, whether it be MLS or another sports fan. Energy and education misplaced.
While those battles are still fought, that mustering on either side of the “legitimate” border is becoming more and more rare. The inevitability of “The World’s Game” infiltrating the American culture’s sports market is arriving right now.
The outward derision is becoming obsolete, but a new one has begun.
The condescension hasn’t regressed; it’s just redirected.
It used to be a defense mechanism, triggered by purely ignorant views on soccer by those who never cared to understand or appreciate the game. Now, however, these defensive insults and patronization are strategic offensives directed at other fans of the game.
It has become a civil war in which these elitist look to discredit other fans’ rights to join in on the fun and have graduated from merely accosting the close-minded.
I was always a little embarrassed by the “You just can’t understand our game” argument against soccer haters. I’ve always felt it wasn’t that they couldn’t understand, just that they chose not to. Those individuals could start liking soccer, they just didn’t want to. So when the soccer community would get offended by others’ lack of interest and make that condescending argument, it felt to me like the famous playground “I know you are but what am I” comeback.
But this new form of Soccer Snobbery really saddens me.
I hate the attitude that being a fan of the game or a team is a badge you must earn.
It reminds me of those Green Day fans taking shots like “I bet that fraud’s first album was Dookie!” at fans who got on the train after the Indie stage. I, along with many of my soccer peers, feel that we have no more right to this game than someone watching for the first time.
There is no hierarchy when it comes to being a fan.
It’s binary, you either are or aren’t.
Such vapid snobbery feels like an attempt to try and validate one’s self worth by belittling others, which doesn’t make you a fan….
….it makes you a bully.
Soccer Snobs aren’t using their high soccer IQ’s or passion to grow the game by embracing fans of all types. Instead they choose to spread vitriol aimed at scaring the casual fan away. They could be the lighthouse helping guide sports-fans through the treacherous American sports waters onto soccer’s sandy shores, but instead these snobs tend to be more like the interrogation lamp making them feel uncomfortable and unwanted.
As frustrating as that behavior is to witness it doesn’t equal the disappointment I feel when these snobs attempt to de-legitimizie an 18-year project to build a world renowned soccer league of our own.
Call me sentimental, but a real American soccer fan should have an inherent desire to aid and support the growth of our domestic league, even when they acknowledge it has some catching up to do.
That being said, the oomph of this article is the proliferation of these Soccer Snobs was a good indicator that this sport is heading in the right direction domestically, and I believe that. Soccer has had an uphill battle in this country from the very start. Attempting to catch incumbents with a century or more head-start on Americans’ hearts and minds was always going to be a big undertaking.
The gap closing can be seen not only in the presence of these snobs, but also in some of their more positive actions. The most important positive coming from these hardcore fans is a focus and desire to spread the word about important tactical aspects of the game. Like Jehovah’s Witnesses these people go door to door (via twitter or blogs) and spread the tactical gospel in its purist form.
The high level of conversation and debate these fans are able to construct spreads, through osmosis, to those who read their comments or eavesdrop on their conversations in the bars. Like a foreign player who learns English from The Simpsons, casual fans pick up lingo and important things to look for that will enhance their overall enjoyment of the game. More importantly, these fans are dads and youth coaches who now attempt to take a sophisticated understanding of the game to the youth fields.
They then can instill that in children at the most crucial phase of their development, whether they will be a player or just another fan paying it forward.
When I was very young it was typical to witness a child’s Dad– who was tolerating his son’s “soccer phase”– take the bag of balls out of his truck and punt the first ball 50 feet in the air, screaming “Play ball!” Then, of course it was the Find-Anyone-With-An-Accent Method, so they could teach the kids about the game because they must know. This approach left us with a drunk Englishman named Simon who, when awake, would tell us about getting “stuck in” and “whipping the ball in the box.” These weren’t exactly the blueprints for the beautiful game. So to think that kids today have Dads who “only watch Bayern because Pep has them playing a high press possession-based style” leads me to believe things have gotten a lot better for the future of soccer in our country.
And let’s face it: Every facet of pop culture has its own elitists. The growth of this group within US soccer suggests that the game is gaining in popularity. Their tendency to mock or discredit MLS is perhaps not as detrimental as their overall message about soccer is helpful.
There is a disconnect in this country between a soccer fan and an MLS fan, but I believe converting the “sports fan” in to a Soccer Fan is the ultimate goal.
The reality is that our domestic league is inferior to the top five leagues in the world, but it will not be long before it surpasses one or two of those leagues.
The soccer fan’s progression to MLS supporter will then be an easier transition with this foundation already laid.
Drilled down to six words: I love this game so much.
I saw an amazing exhibit this morning at the LACMA, “Futbol: The Beautiful Game”.
I walked away reminded that our game is simple, inclusive, and beautiful. Seeing that eclectic mix of art and media from all over the world compelled me.
I give them a hard time, but I appreciate “Soccer Snobs” and think they have a special place in the fabric of the game.
They don’t only exist in the US, they just stick out more because of the stark variance in appreciation and understanding of the sport.
Even though “Soccer Snobs” tend to contradict the simplicity and the inclusivity of the game, they are phenomenal when it comes down to highlighting the most important aspect of soccer: our game is BEAUTIFUL!