It's been quiet here on Silver Screen and Roll lately. Too quiet. And that, ladies and germs, is my fault. SS&R has many authors, and I'm sure all of them have much better excuses than I for not contributing a whole lot to the site lately. Josh is busy trying to make a decent living so that he can afford to be his usual awesome self during the season. Dexter held down the fort admirably for nearly a month all by himself. Wondah has done wondahs with the credits (yes, I know how bad that pun was). Rye has UCLA to worry about. I don't know about WildYams and Sideout, but I do know about myself. And my excuse is that I don't have an excuse. I've just been lazy.
We've had a couple of decent pieces along the way, but not nearly enough. So I'm kicking it up a notch. You deserve more than we've been giving you, and it seems like the best thing that's happened on the site this summer is a moderated flame war. No more. I'm committing to a piece every other day from here until training camp (I know, I know, that's only a couple weeks away, but better late than never.) Some of it will be Lakers related, some won't. Most of it will be basketball related, but since there ain't a whole lot happening in the world of the roundball, there will be times when I have to go outside the box. Hopefully, we can all get things amped back up in time for training camp, and smoothly transition back into the all Lakers, all the time lifestyle that we've been missing for the past 3 months.
Ironically, the first piece in this series of time-biders isn't about basketball at all, but it is immediately relevant. If you are anything like me, the end of the basketball season creates a void in your soul that is quite simply depressing. I hate baseball. I know many of you love baseball, and a fair number greater probably get into it because there simply isn't anything else, and I can respect both groups of people. But I just can't watch it. So I found something else to fill that void, and I'm going to try to convince you that it's a sport that should be in your life too.
You should be watching soccer.
For a long time, soccer in the US had a real negative stigma attached to it, and for good reason. American soccer has never been very good, and more importantly, its entertainment value has always been extremely low. As such, the market for soccer in this country wasn't considered to be a strong one.
That, my friends, is changing, and changing quickly. The sleeping giant that is the soccer market in this country is slowly starting to wake up. I'm not saying that MLS is improving to the point where it's a good product (more on this later). I'm not saying that the US national team is poised for greatness. What I am saying is that the number of Americans getting into soccer is growing rapidly, and the sports networks have responded by providing a better selection of truly high quality soccer for your enjoyment. There has never been a better time to be a soccer fan in America.
In recent years, the only opportunity the common American had to watch top tier soccer (defined as European leagues, Champions League, or International play outside of CONCACAF) was the World Cup every 4 years, and the Premier League game of the week, shown on Fox Sports on Tuesday. One game, in the middle of the week, middle of the day, when hardly anybody would be available to watch it. A couple years ago, everything changed. ESPN's ratings for the World Cup in 2006 were good enough that they decided to start offering more soccer programming. They televised Euro 2008 (just like the World Cup, except only European teams invited) and then they started showing Champions League games. The Champions League final received great ratings (relatively speaking), enough so that Fox Sports outbid ESPN for the rights to Champions League. For the first time, multiple parties had serious interest, enough to be duking it out for the rights. ESPN responded by purchasing the rights to some Premier League and Spanish League games. The result? For the first time in my memory, the average American with basic cable now has access to 2-4 top flight games every single week. Granted, you have to get up early on the weekends to watch them (ESPN's PL game starts at 7 AM PT), but still, opportunity is opportunity. And if you have Fox Soccer Channel or GolTV, that number jumps to double digits, with replays happening in the evening all the time.
So get into it (Kobe would approve, he and Gasol both love FC Barcelona). I think you'll find that soccer and basketball are very similar sports. They both depend on a high level of teamwork, but can also be heavily influenced by an amazing piece of individual skill and creativity. Like basketball, both tremendous skill and tremendous athleticism are required for greatness. And the atmosphere of a top flight soccer game is probably unmatched in American sports, except perhaps for college football. If you are reading this within an hour of its posting, then there is a great Champions league match on TV right now.
And one more favor to ask. If you find yourself enjoying soccer (or like me, you already do), watch MLS. Find your local team and support them. MLS is an inferior product, there is no doubt about it. But if we don't support it as it sucks, it will never have the financial capability to turn into something that we can all enjoy. So watch the games on TV. Go watch them live. It's not like you have anything better do during the summer.