I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, and had some interest over the last year, but this is the first time it’s actually happened. I present to you my first guest blogger, Chris King. Chris is a friend down here in Virginia Beach, a father to a super cute 8 month old toe head (Jacob), a database developer, an uber-sports fan (including the Yankees), and probably the biggest professional soccer (futbol) fan I know not named Spaniard. Apparently, he has a conspiracy theorist streak in him, too. Don’t we all. Without further ado, here’s Chris on Cinderella stories.
Everyone loves the underdog; it’s ingrained into our DNA as American sports fans. We love success stories like George Mason’s unforgettable run to the Final Four, Appalachian State’s (sorry Joel) shocking defeat of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and more recently Fresno State’s College World Series win. We love these stories, rooting for guys that “weren’t even recruited” or “too small for Division I.” These stories give slobs like us a little pride that the chiseled superstars were humiliated by “normal people.”
But that isn’t really the case. These athletes on these so-called Cinderella teams are still superstars when you compare them to us. George Mason is a very good basketball school that has always performed well with players who are good enough to play “big time” college basketball. Appalachian State has DOMINATD Division II football, and they caught a Michigan program that is on the decline offguard by capitalizing on their speed, which has always caused Michigan fits. I’m not trying to belittle what these teams have accomplished; I’m just saying that though these teams were underdogs in the eyes of Vegas, they weren’t so overmatched to make an “upset” so shocking.
This brings me to the Ocean City Barons, my nominee for this year’s best Cinderella story. The Barons are an amateur PDL team (the United States Soccer Federation’s lowest tier of organized play) hailing from Ocean City, New Jersey. On Tuesday night they advanced to the third round of the U.S. Open Cup with a win over Real Maryland (a professional club). The U.S. Open Cup dates back to 1914 and is a soccer competition that pits the different league’s best teams against each other in a single-elimination tournament. Many amateur PDL teams are invited to play against top-tier professional teams in an attempt to give them national visibility in meaningful soccer matches.
The Ocean City Barons is made up of recently graduated high school and college players who merely want to keep playing soccer. For most, the team represents a distraction from their 9-5 jobs – a way to continue doing something they love on a more competitive level than local pickup games. This is why their recent success is so extraordinary and why I want to know why nobody is covering it.
Before you rip me for not understanding the culture of sports in America, let me say that I know America doesn’t care about soccer. I am not disillusioned enough to think that most of the U.S. even cares about things like the US Open Cup. In Europe, cup competitions like the FA Cup and the Copa Del Rey are followed closely with great intensity while the U.S. Open Cup moves along unnoticed (save for the super-obsessive, overly-passionate MLS uber fans).
None of this makes my question any less valid: Why is there not more coverage of this great story. ESPN’s SportsCenter hasn’t even mentioned this team playing against the two-time Cup winner DC United on June 30. This is the same SportsCenter that includes half-court shots by high school basketball teams captured on someone’s cell phone in the “Top 10 plays” segment. I’m not known as a conspiracy theorist, but I wonder if Disney (ESPN’s parent company) had outbid FOX for the broadcast rights to the U.S. Open Cup, would it be getting more media coverage?
ESPN is throwing a lot of advertising dollars at soccer coverage right now. The fact that they are presently showing the Confederations Cup (an international tournament) and getting ready to show full coverage of the 2010 World Cup shows where their interests lie. I would think that mention of a Cinderella story like this one on shows like Pardon the Interruption for even 20 seconds, followed by a commercial for one of their MLS Game of the Week broadcasts would make people want to pay attention to the soccer they are already covering.
Just my opinion..Besides, Disney is the home of the original Cinderella…