· ... how David Beckham is going to finally make soccer big-time in the United States? Well, he's not. They can take all the pictures in the world of him and his eating-disorder, plastic-surgery, no-singin'-ass wife, and it won't mean anything. (Doesn't she look like she'd kill you for a piece of cheese?) He does look great in a tailored suit, and he can make the path of the ball bend, but it's still soccer.
As I've mentioned, it's been more than 40 years since a headline in the Los Angeles Times asked, "Is Soccer the Next Big Thing?" and the answer is still no. Trying to shoehorn soccer onto the main stage in the United States is like trying to force democracy on Iraq. A grotesque analogy, perhaps, but an apt one. You can perform that graft surgery, but it's simply not going to take. A handful of Eurocentric snobs aren't going to be able to nudge the American public in a direction it doesn't want to head.
(I'm currently reading a book called The Shakespeare Riots that tells of a time in America in the 1840s when Shakespeare was the rage, and people got heated over the difference in the American style--physical and bawdy--versus the British style--erudite and reserved. When the top two Shakespearean actors of the time--American Edwin Forrest and Britain's Charles Macready--both performed in New York City on the same night, it touched off deadly riots in which gangs of Irish-immigrant youths roamed the streets of The Bowery, shouting passages from Macbeth. Now, that might work on pay per view!)
It's simple, really: In every country where soccer is huge, most of the top young athletes play soccer. Here in the United States, the top young male athletes generally play football and basketball, while the top young female athletes play volleyball and basketball.
Look around the world: In places like Japan and the Dominican Republic, the top young (male) athletes play baseball. In Australia, it's rugby. In Pakistan, it's cricket. But, in Brazil and much of South America, it's soccer (although, in Argentina, it's tilting toward basketball).
That doesn't mean that things can't change. The top male athletes in America used to play baseball. However, with Americans being the badasses that we are, I can't foresee young athletes shifting over to a sport that's less athletically challenging than what they're currently doing.
Still, we welcome Mr. Beckham and his starving-bird wife to our shores. I wonder if he can do Shakespeare.
· ... about the group of young Tucsonans who won a world soccer tournament in Sweden? Actually, this came from my friend Jim McFarland, whose daughter, Paige, was on the team. Jim's the graybeard of my Sunday basketball league. I don't think he's the oldest, but his beard is actually gray. For years, I've been bugging Paige to come play basketball for me when she gets to high school, but for some unknown reason, she keeps playing this thing where they use words like "nil."
The Arizona Youth Soccer Association Olympic Development Program team was made up of kids from Tucson and Phoenix. They spent a week in Manchester, England, working with the famous Man U team (that was featured in the movie Goal! which--gasp!--wasn't horrible). Then it was on to Gothenburg, Sweden, where they played in the international Gothia Cup, which featured age-level teams of boys and girls from 66 different countries.
Paige's team outscored the opposition 27-0, and won the tournament. Now it's time for her to move on to basketball.
· ... about how traffic-enforcement cameras are an infringement on our rights? I am constantly amazed by people who have no problem whatsoever having their every movement filmed when they enter a department store or a Circle K, but somehow feel that when they get behind the wheel, they have some constitutional right to break the law and endanger the lives of others without their criminal actions being recorded by an unimpeachable photographic device. You people suck.
· ... about how I'm a pompous jerk? After I mentioned that I've never been in a bar before, DS e-mailed me and said, "OK, Tom. We get ... we really do." (I think he/she meant to say, "We get it.") "You don't drink. Never have. Really. Considering your apparent compulsion in somehow alluding to it in just about every column, we can hardly have missed it. Your self-righteousness has been duly recognized by the rest of us. Really."
Ouch! I went back and checked. In the past year, I once mentioned that I've never been drunk. That's it, and technically, neither "never been drunk" nor "never been in a bar" means that I've never had a drink, but I get the message.
To be honest, when I was in my late teens, and all my knucklehead buddies were starting to drink, I felt somewhat superior because of my choice. Now I realize that I'm just different. Not better or worse, just different. Thanks, DS.
Oh, one last thing, DS (and I'm sure it was just a typo): In the heading, you misspelled "sobriety." I thought that was funny.