Like many Americans my age (born in 1960 just before Pittsburgh Pirate Bill Mazeroski won the World Series with a Game 7 walk-off home run over the New York Yankees), I am a baseball fan. Or, at least, a baseball appreciator.
When soccer started creeping into my life in 1990s, I was raising my kids and viewed soccer like most of my peers: an insidious, massive communist conspiracy so immense that pretty soon we’d all be singing “Joe Hill” and returning the means of production to the proletariat in matching green uniforms. In short, I was not a soccer fan.
Soccer was the sport that I had to get up at 6:30 on a Saturday morning to watch in the rain. Soccer was the sport with no points. Soccer was the sport that featured people running aimlessly around an incomprehensible field. Soccer was the sport that threatened our American way of life.
My daughter played soccer, then switched to lacrosse, another soccer-like sport that involves a soccer-like field. My eldest son, however, became a rabid soccer fan in Portland, the home of the MLS Timbers club. The Sacramento Republic is the minor-league team associated with the Timbers. He is in the so-called Timbers Army, the well-organized cheering section full of green-scarf-clad maniacs who chant dreadful, off-color things.
My son had spent years trying to get me to appreciate soccer, as well as attend soccer games. He developed a pathological hatred of the Seattle Sounders, the MLS club rival of the Timbers. I refused to go to games, or to sufficiently hate Seattle, or watch them on television. I was busy watching “Baseball Tonight” on ESPN, and keeping a vague eye out on the hapless Minnesota Twins.
As a baseball person, I simply refused to get sucked into this soccer cult.
Until last year.
There is always a moment in a revolution: 1776 or 1917; mine was 2013. The Timbers were playing on TV while my son was visiting, so I reluctantly watched a game. The first thing I noticed was that, unlike televised baseball, football and basketball games, that I was strangely relaxed. The reason was that there were no commercials. Soccer is broadcast continuously, with no break, and it reminded me of reading a book. I couldn’t jump to Wikipedia or TMZ while surfing online, and it was calming, serene.
There was a beautiful green field and low-key announcers. Some of the games I watched had British, Scottish or Spanish commentators, also lulling. The advertising had little effect (FLY EMIRATES) on (BIMBO) me (ALASKA AIRLINES).
I eventually got used to the fact that there are very few goals in soccer, so I wasn’t stressed out by a bunch of numbers on the screen.
“Ortiz bats 17 for 45 against left-handed Lutherans and has a slugging percentage of .566 in these situations when the chance of rain is 30 percent or less, Joe.”
Early this year, I attended a Sacramento Republic game. I found this pleasant, and the fans were all in a good mood, even if I couldn’t get around the fact that the field was covered with both football and soccer markings, like a photographic double-exposure.
At the next game, I found myself purchasing a Sacramento Republic hat and a Sacramento Republic scarf. And two other hats and two other jerseys for friends and relatives. No one wears scarves in Sacramento, so I was happy to return to my Oregon and Minnesota fashion lifestyle.
Now that the Sacramento Kings seem interested in buying the Republic and creating an MLS franchise here, I find myself mulling season tickets.
I got sucked in slowly. Gradually. I began thinking about the egalitarian nature of soccer and how I was completely on board with it.
This is how the communists work.