By "favorite" we don't necessarily mean that they aren't sometimes clinically insane. We love reading Martin Rogers, but that guy is living in a fantasy world in which every 30 year old badass from Europe ends up in the MLS. We love that sort of crazy-ass optimism. "Mainstream" doesn't necessarily mean writing for The Wall Street Journal or some such outfit. Grant Wahl may be brilliant, but he's pretty much relegated to SI.com, not SI The Rapidly Declining Print Medium. I imagine that suits Grant just fine, but you don't get his 2000 word trenchant insights in the magazine. You gotta go find him.
So we thought we would briefly praise the closest thing to mainstream American-based, non-TV commentators in soccer today. Add suggestions, please.
The Grand-Papa--George Vescey. The man has probably written more words in Real Ink Newspapers about soccer than anyone else in America. He was an early champion. He is proof that a traditional American sports guy (Vecsey writes about EVERYTHING) doesn't have to fall into the traditional role old school American sports columnists fall into, like when they decide that only illegal immigrants watch soccer in the US (to be fair, only Tom Powers did that, and Tom Powers is a Fat, Stupid Fuck.) And just to show up the kids, he's now (very) occasionally blogging as well.
Honorary Mention: USA Today. Sure, the somewhat evil Gannett Network isn't famous for their hard-hitting news, but on the soccer front, they were (and are) years ahead of everyone else. As early as 1996, USA Today was where you had to go to get any real soccer news beyond your own local squad. Particularly if you were looking for something beyond the AP one paragraph story, or ESPN's 30 seconds of gently mocking coverage. And as of today, I bet they are still the only print newspaper in the Nation that has a fan friendly soccer webpage.
The Cool Older Brother: Grant Wahl is one of many soccer writers for SI.com, but he is one of the few who reads consistenly as someone who gets the weird merger of cultures that is happening as soccer takes flight in America. He writes intelligently of the Euro Cup, of the USA National team, and even the MLS. When I wrote my explanation of the Beckham Rule that brought Dave to the MLS, and the first commentor was a guy named "Grant", I hoped against hope that it was Grant Wahl. It wasn't, but the point is still worthy--I really hoped it was. You want your cool older brother to dig your shit. Especially since I was using a lot of Grant's research into the contract to build my case. (oh, and he knows his College Hoops, too)
The Weird Uncle: You know the one. Maybe he pushed his hippy free-living years into his 50's. Maybe he swears he can build an engine that runs on water, but the man keeps him down. Maybe he claims to have bonked Bridget Bardot just before she got famous. You roll your eyes, but do you know for sure that he isn't telling the truth? In American soccer reporting, that is Martin Rogers. The official scribe of Yahoo Soccer, he always has a new plan that will bring a new old badass into the MLS. Zidane! Fowler! Henry! Outside of his MLS blindspot, Rogers is an insightful columnist, writing for one of the most visited sports sites in the world. His take on Spain and France and the other fallout from Euro 2008 are spot on. But he's got that blind spot--he really wants the MLS to grab great foreign talent, even if it means arguing that Henry would go to Seattle.
Stupid, Successful Cousin That You Admire and Hate--Perhaps the son of the crazy uncle. Some damn kid, a few years younger than you, who, via bullshit like "Hard Work" and "Insight" is more successful than you. You hate him, but he's the guy you'll get drunk with at the next reunion, and you'll trade stories, and you'll have a great time. And then you read your favorite blog, and there's that stupid fucking successful cousin, writing about your favorite sport. He's researching, he's insightful, he's as good as any of these other guys. He's suddenly broken into the mainstream, because he wrote every day, and had smart things to say. You know, with a certainty, that he will be writing for a major publication way before you are. That's our man, Cardillo, over at That's On Point. Very insightfully pointing out the Spanish youth, and complaining about the US' unwillingness to use their youth? We were totally going to blog about that! But we didn't.
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