When Brian J. Pedersen pitched me the idea of a story about soccer in Tucson and how the sport became Tucson's semi-official professional sport over the last three years, I was a little jealous. He did a great job, so it worked out, but I'm usually the soccer guy around here. That's been my Weekly turf (sorry for the terrible pun).
I think most people know an insufferable soccer fan, the person who calls it "the beautiful game," owns multiple team scarves, waxes poetically over 0-0 draws, etc. I'm not quite that bad (although there are probably people who would disagree) and all sports have their irritating superfans, but I do own multiple jerseys. I scheduled my birthday festivities this year around Chelsea's triumphant Champions League victory in May (and nearly got into a fight in the process). I get up early on weekend mornings (willingly!) to watch matches live from England. I care a little about sports in general, but as a lifelong fan of sports teams from Cleveland, it wasn't terribly hard for me to leave baseball, the NFL and the NBA behind.
So, I'm an easy mark for the SoccerFest games starting this weekend at Kino Stadium. I actually can name players from the Major League Soccer teams participating, which probably isn't healthy.
However, if you're not a soccer fan, please make an effort to check out a game or two (or more, but I don't want to seem pushy). The expansion of the MLS preseason (plus one international match-up) is a bold move by the organizers. Will people ditch work for day games, like they used to from baseball's spring training? Is there enough enthusiasm to sustain crowds when there are five games played over a week?
No one really knows, but with professional baseball constantly running for a million-dollar bill dangled at the end of a fishing pole somewhere else, there really is an opportunity for Tucson to become a hub for professional soccer this time each year. When I've talked to MLS bigwigs, they've always mentioned bringing more and more here, building on each year's success. This can be our game, and you don't even have to be an obnoxious super fan to appreciate that.