Showing newest 9 of 14 posts from October 2011. Show older posts
Showing newest 9 of 14 posts from October 2011. Show older posts

Friday, October 21, 2011

Going Suds Up: The Best Soccer, The Best Beers

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By Kirsten Schlewitz / Senior West Coast Beer and Aston Villa Correspondent



Sometimes soccer just provides an excuse to drink – and drink a lot. Like MLS this weekend. Is there a point to the final matches? New York Red Bulls’ win over Philadelphia Union on Thursday night meant they clinched the final playoff position, leaving no real purpose for watching the games. Except for the love of the sport and your team, of course. And for drinking! That’s why we’re headed into barley wine territory this weekend. Our focus: what to drink when the game is just a background to indulging in some quite fine, quite strong beers.


First, we’ll jump to ESPN’s soccer game of the week. It just might prove that someone was drinking heavily when the schedule was decided.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Swansea: Saturday, 6:30am CT on ESPN2

Really, ESPN? Are you trying to make sure the viewing numbers for soccer are so minimal that you shouldn’t be showing the sport at all? Because really…who wants to wake up for two low-table teams? Wolves haven’t picked up a point in their last five matches. Their last came against Aston Villa, a team that prides itself on playing for a draw. Swansea at least can be entertaining  (and god help the team that concedes a penalty and sees Scott Sinclair stepping to the spot) but a purposeful awakening seems a bit much if you’re not a Swans supporter.

Lost Abbey The Angel’s Share: Sorry dudes if I’ve included this one before, but my high-tech tracking system (ok, so it’s me remembering to include the beers I’ve written about in a spreadsheet) says I have not. And Angel’s Share is the crème de la crème of barleywines. Sure, maybe you don’t think you should start off the day drunk off a 12.5%ABV beer, but I say that just gives you an excuse for a quality noon nap. Like most barley wines, it pours deep brown with a thin head and no lace. Alcohol is heavy in the aroma along with chocolate and raisin. The taste is bourbon, brandy, raisin, chocolate, vanilla with an intense warming ability. Yum.

Inter Milan v Chievo Verona: Sunday, 4pm CT on Fox Soccer (delay)

It’s clear Fox Soccer made a non-negotiable schedule of matches, or else they’d never show this, even on replay. If you’re an Inter fan, you’ll need strong booze to get you through the match, but if not, perhaps it will help you feel giggly rather than wanting to smash your head against something hard. The nerazzurri are quite dreadful thus far this season, above the relegation zone only because they’ve managed to score more goals than Bologna. The [redacted] Flying Donkeys, on the other hand, bring a big bus on all their travels, and park it just in front of goal. If this game ain’t beer-inducing enough for you, watch a replay of the Juventus-Chievo match. That’ll have you running for the alcohol.

Dogfish Head Immort Ale: A widely available barley wine – for those of you lucky enough to live in areas where Dogfish Head distributes, anyway. And use your Dogfish Head glass, of course. Pours peachy amber with plenty of beige clings. Aromas are of yeast, smoke, and evergreens, so it should get you in the Christmas spirit.  Lingering smoke taste after toasted malts and bread. The only drawback is that the palate is slightly syrupy, but at 11%ABV, this one will leave you feeling giddy, no matter how crap the game is.

For you crazies – Manchester United v Manchester City: Sunday, 7am CT on Fox Soccer

Let’s face it, if you root for one of these teams, your Sunday as the potential to be quite disheartening. Both teams remain unbeaten, with City drawing away at Fulham, and United drawing last week to Liverpool and before that, to Stoke. Both remain untouchable at home, however, although the Red Devils at least allow opponents to score before demolishing them (but hope lies with the next team to play at the Etihad – if Stephen Warnock can do it, so can you!).  Anyway, it’ll only be fun for neutrals, so bring out the…

Lagunitas Brown Shugga: mmmm, such a tasty winter ale, and at 9.84% ABV (no, I have no idea how they get it so exact, either) it will keep you warm even if your team leaves you in the cold. It even pours a pretty red brown with a white head—like Santa Claus. Smells of lots of brown sugar with a bit of citrus hop, and tastes like a perfect winter brew, with lots of sugary spiciness and alcohol.




 About Kirsten

I may be a law student at Lewis and Clark, but soccer is my true love, with beer coming in a distant second. That’s not to say I don’t love beer–I’ve tasted over a thousand different brews, and listed many of them onRatebeer. Living in Portland, Oregon, I attend quite a few festivals and tastings, and am able to argue passionately about the merits of Cascade hops vs. Chinook. 

As for the soccer, I’m the Managing Editor of SB Nation’s Aston Villa site, 7500 to Holte, the Italy Editor for SB Nation Soccer, and cover the Seattle Sounders on SBN Seattle (don’t judge–I’m from Seattle!) Finally, I write for Two Footed Tackle when I find words worthy enough for the site. Want more? Follow me on Twitter!



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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Brews and Views Essay Series: Why American Soccer?

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We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It’s called “Brews and Views” and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We’ve got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we’ll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we’re asking our respondents the question, “Why American soccer?”.

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we’ve got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world’s game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It’s ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men’s National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA’s Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, “Why American soccer?”, then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that’s like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.

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“American Soccer: A Dissident, A Dissident Is Here”


By Matt T / “The Shin Guardian”

A few weeks back I took a listen of Coldplay’s new single “Paradise.”

With it’s first release, Yellow, way back in the 1990’s, Coldplay had some promise. They weren’t quite Radiohead-ish in their approach and analogies to Scottish-band Travis popped up for them as they got going, but soon it was the full, near-oppressive marketing force or power or whatever that thrust them through the MTV channel on the box and into every kid’s earbuds.

Before that moment, it was of course, Coldplay and it’s raw music arrangements. The band had talent and even at the moment after the song “Yellow” and it’s accompanying video screamed up the charts, there was a feeling that the band still could choose the path it wanted to take.

Christ Martin & friends as we know took the fortune and fame route. I don’t begrudge them that at all, but the release of their second album oozed with “stadium-fillers.” What are stadium-fillers? Anthemic songs that play well to large audience in massive arenas and…stadiums.

At that moment they lost me, they choose their route and I choose mine; a route not unchoosen by many early adopters of a band. I choose the wistful, “I remember when” and thought of songs like “Sparks” whenever “Clocks” and “Green Eyes” would emanate from the ceiling speakers at my dentist’s office.

Now, I take a listen of new Coldplay singles in the hopes they’ll one day return to their roots, flush with cash and settle back into a more anonymous existence producing the music that I hoped they’d make. They’d backtrack and take the path not taken.

But, before I even listen to the new singles, I’ve already pre-determined their personal failure and listen more with amusement imagining how this song or that song will be tweaked at the O2 in London or at Red Rocks in Colorado. My predetermined expectations have never been bucked.

Pearl Jam turned 20 years old recently and they may as well have choosen Frank Sinatra’s “We Did It Our Way” as their anthem.

Igniting out of Seattle as “The Grunge Scene” was taking grabbing a foothold in the early 1990’s, Pearl Jam’s “Ten” was strong, nay, it was fierce, flush with musical accomplishment.

The band’s follow-up “Vs.” only hit harder, ironic in that it was acoustic piece “Daughter” that resonated the best. The album sold the most copies at the time of any album in it’s first week.

Then the band hiccuped. It went toe-to-toe with Ticketmaster who had marked up tickets for shows on their tour. The band in-fought and the product suffered. The next releases underwhelming into the late 1990’s–the album “Yield” had every Pearl Jam fan scratching their heads wondering if the tombstone had already been etched for the Seattle crew fronted by Eddie Vedder and backed up by Stone Gossard.

The previous album No Code had been experimental but Yield was supposed to illicit the pleasures of yesteryear. It didn’t. But Pearl Jam kept toiling and kept toiling.

The band overcame the loss of band members and the Rokilde tragedy (when a compressed crowd led to 9 deaths at a show in Denmark). They perservered…and in hindsight now appear better for it.

They did things their way–releasing recordings of what felt like all of their live shows to keep fans engaged as well as make some coin.

Lead singer Eddie Vedder explored the depths of himself as did the band, staying true to their landscaping sweeping rifts while introducing new wrinkles.

They arrive at their 20th birthday this year with a sense of class, a grizzled meaty tale of true artistic success and a brand that conjures up every antonym of the word “sellout.” Why American Soccer?

The parallels between MLS and Pearl Jam are there. With a squint, they look identical.

The difficulties in filling stadiums without adequate promotion, the cultivation of the game without losing its identity, the gradual but measured success.

Because of ambassadors like “Lalas,” “Wahl,” and “Twellman,” who remained true to the cause like Vedder and Gossard did to Pearl Jam, the US game arrives near it’s 20th birthday (2013) with its own meaty tale that will resonate through the rest of my lifetime and with those that I sang “Jeremy” with at my prom (yes, um, that unfortunately did happen.)

With Coldplay I’ll reminesce about what could have been. With Pearl Jam, 20 years in and I’m still rocking and believing in something meaningful. I’m sure I’ll feel the same in 2013.

 


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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Tuesday 10: Endorsement Deal Edition

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You can just tell by his look how ridiculous he think this is.
Over the weekend, we tweeted a joke about how Tim Howard’s orange jersey with the U.S. National Team and camouflage one with Everton makes him a prime candidate for an endorsement with Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shop or some other hunting outfitter. That got the wheels turning, and we decided to come up with ten other soccer player endorsement deals that need to happen.

Juicy, indeed.
1. Bob Bradley for Juicy Couture – If anyone can pull off the Velour tracksuit, it’s our main man Skeletor.

2. Nigel de Jong for Allstate – You should have gotten Allstate to be better protected from mayhem, like him. 

3. Xavi for Coca-Cola – On the pitch, he’s the pause that refreshes.

4. Thierry Henry for Nestle – Oh Henry! proved he’s no Butterfingers against Ireland, and while he’s sometimes had issues in Crunch time, his goal-scoring record has made him worth well over 100 Grand.

5. Johan Cruyff for Rosetta Stone – He’s perfect for this one, as he speaks Dutch, English and Spanish, none of them fluently.

6. Ezequiel Lavezzi for the T-Mobile Sidekick – At the beginning of last year I remember there being some doubt or confusion as to who was Batman and who was Robin. Not really anymore.

7. David De Gea for Krispy Kreme – For reasons too obvious to enumerate here.

Perfect choice for “the Glass Man”.
8. Arjen Robben for Pier 1 Imports – Like Robben, everything inside of one of their stores is breakable.

9. Gary Lineker for Hanes – An even better choice than Michael Jordan, in our opinion, as he’s sure to know whetherany, erm, stain, washes out.

10. Peter Crouch for Virgin Atlantic – If his famous response to the question “What would you be if you weren’t a footballer?” isn’t worth an endorsement deal, I don’t know what is.


About “The Other 87 Minutes”

What is this new site we’re exposing you too? We’ll let them explain:

The Other 87 seeks to provide something that’s not instant analysis or eve of matchday previews. Think of us as the good bits of your favorite soccer coverage: the profiles that examine what makes a certain player tick, the historical background that sheds some light on how the sport has evolved to the present day, the silly features that are more than just tacking names on a list, but considering and explaining why each one deserves to be there.
O87 wants to be a home for soccer writing that makes you think, but that also treats the game as just that, a game. The greatest game, the one we obsess over and fixate on, to the point where we can’t read that gas costs 3.43 a gallon without thinking of Ajax’s 1995 Champions League winning team. But a game nonetheless.
“When you play a match, it is statistically proven that players actually have the ball three minutes on average. The best players – the Zidanes, Ronaldinhos, Gerrards – will have the ball maybe four minutes. Lesser players – defenders – probably two minutes. So, the most important thing is: what do you do those 87 minutes when you do not have the ball…. That is what determines whether you’re a good player or not.” -Johann Cruyff

Monday, October 17, 2011

Making The Case – We Call It Soccer

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Preview: For those reading this (and that’d be you right now), this post is about more than semantics in calling our sport “soccer” instead of “football”. It is about defining our own history with the sport and our own identity within the global game.


In the last few weeks we’ve been reading David Wangerin’s (author of “Soccer in a Football World”) “Distant Corners” which chronicles the emergence of soccer in the United States. Even though we consider ourselves passionate American soccer fans we’ve found ourseves woefully ignorant on the depth and complexity of the beginnings of the sport here.

Inspiration.
For many younger soccer fans in America it’s easy to assume that our sporting history does not extend much before the 1994 World Cup or the foundation of Major League Soccer in 1996. For those more seasoned veteran fans of the game they can recall the heyday of the North American Soccer League, the New York Cosmos, and a gaggle of foreign stars on our shores. You may even have heard or read a blurb about Joe Gaetjens and the “Miracle on Grass” in 1950 or that the United States somehow managed to field a side in the inaugural 1930 World Cup.

The truth is that since the end of the Civil War this sport has slowly, ever slowly, grown. From a game played by a sparse few and fertilized by “hyphenated” Americans to one embraced by all-American squads from New York to Pennsylvania to St. Louis and beyond. From the likes of the “Father of American Soccer” Tom Cahill to the birth of the American Challenge Cup in 1913 (that would later become the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup), American soccer has history.

With that being the groundwork for everything written henceforth, the Free Beer Movement declares that we must erase the term “football” from our collective vocabularies and instead replace it with soccer when referring to the game as it’s played in America.

Before anyone swells up into righteous anger, please hear us out.

At the most basical level this is to reduce confusion. Our American nation already has one football and, at this time, is the most popular sport in the country. Continually referring to soccer as football is confusing and ultimately unnecessary. For any of us that have friends, family, and co-workers that tolerate our soccer talk, blending “football” and “football” is at the least confounding and at the most, annoying. We’ve been prone to referring to “football” as “throwball” and that is most certainly insulting to fans of that game (whether you care about hurting their feelings or not… many of them are potential FBM converts).


As cited by an English gentleman, Daryl Grove, on the “Total Soccer Show” countries that have dueling “footballs” often defer to the term “soccer” to avoid confusion. And well, if that’s good enough for Australia I don’t know why it isn’t good enough for us.

Semantics aside, though, soccer means something. Despite the fact that “soccer” itself is a Oxford-“er” abbreviation of “association football” that originally evolved in the 1880s, the word “soccer” has taken on a uniquely American identity.

Despite the best efforts of many ex-pats in the United States to establish “football” as the prevailing title for the round ball sport emerging in the early 1900s, “football” of the gridiron-persuasion took hold, and as we know in today’s Bud Light/NFL world, has not relented since.

To use the word “soccer” instead of “football” is to make a greater distinction than just separating ourselves from the pointy-ball version. It is to declare our independence from the “football” of its birth nation, much like we did from its political system over 200 years ago.

The bright lights of Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, and Anfield are alluring, like the Sirens from Greek mythology, crashing our expectations for what this sport should be on their rocky shores. Their sport is football and there’s no crime in calling it so, but when referring to the Chicago Fire, it should be as their full name implies, a “Soccer” Club.


Fall River Marksmen from the
1921 American Soccer League season.
The first “significant, viable professional league” in the United States even adopted “soccer”, the American Soccer League, which lasted from 1921 to 1933, before they fell victim to the Great Depression and political infighting. 
Despite their failure it was understood that their name be distinctive from both the “American Football” played professionally and on college campuses and “European Football” played overseas. 


The national federation has, as Wangerin, explains, gone through “a confusing number of name changes, first founding itself as the United States Football Association (until 1945) then the United States Soccer Football Association, and then correcting themselves as the United States Soccer Federation in 1974. A proper name for a proper soccer nation.


For better or worse our history has earned us “soccer”. From innovative ideas like substitutions (first used in ASL games in 1926) to the less-so, like the 35-yard running shootout of the NASL and early MLS days or running our season contrary to the FIFA calendar and shying away from promotion/relegation, American soccer is unique and deserves a name that attests to that. We’re “soccer” in that we embrace the franchise system and playoffs as the rest of our sports do. Our supporters culture is uniquely “soccer” in that, much like our nation’s history, the stands are a melting pot (or the more properly and preferably, but less recognized “salad bowl”) of diversity.


By virtue of years of watching, waiting, and dreaming in the shadows of our other major sports and the global versions of this game we should embrace the word “soccer” as a badge of honor; to indicate the hard fought battles of sporting integration to legitimize a game birthed far away from here. 


Give credit where credit it due. Football, invented an ocean away, has inspired generations and millions of Americans (and immigrant Americans throughout) today. We can be fans both of the continental game (and other leagues of the world) and our domestic game, but it’s time to call a duck a duck and soccer, soccer.

We eat cookies, not biscuits. We have fries on the side, not chips. We wear pants, not trousers. We go to the bathroom, not the loo. We’ve declared our independence from so many other English words. Why not football?

For a nation so enamored with “exceptionalism”, “leading from the front”, and “making the world safe for democracy” we’re awfully content to take our cues from our more experienced brethren. We think by now we’ve gotten what we need from them and it’s time to continue our evolution and develop our own, American soccer identity. It’s not to say we don’t still aspire to the level our continental counterparts, but we must make sure what we produce is as unique as the country our domestic game grows within. Using the word “soccer” is a good start.

But really using “soccer” is just a way of sending a signal to the rest of the world (and many fans of the game here) that we’re through subscribing to the way things were or the way things are. There is only the way things will be.

We call it soccer.

Post-Script: The title of this post is both to make a point (obviously) and a tribute to a now defunct blog titled, “We Call It Soccer”. The author of said blog first came up with the idea of the Free Beer Movement, which we now curate.


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Friday, October 14, 2011

Going Suds Up: The Best Beers, The Best Soccer

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By Kirsten Schlewitz / Senior West Coast Beer and Aston Villa Correspondent

It’s October! And do you know what October means (besides bundling up in scarves and boots)? It means all things pumpkin, including…pumpkin beers!

Drink Up:
Smuttynose

Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale: One of the standards of pumpkin ales, and particularly easy to find if you’re east of the Mississippi. Not so much a standout as just a solid pumpkin – one that can be drank as a session ale if you’re so inclined, particularly as it’s just a 5% ABV. This one isn’t so much “pumpkin” as it is “pumpkin pie spice,” so if you’re the type that appreciates plenty of clove in your beer, race on down for a six-pack or two.

Pair It With…

Italian Serie A – Lazio v Roma (Sunday, 1:30PM CT, FSC)
Stock up and play your own derby drinking game! Every time the announcer mentions Francesco Totti out with injury? Take a drink. Roma’s new American owners? Three drinks. And if anyone happens to mention that Lazio miss Fernando Muslera in goal, chung – and grab another while chugging again, all while replaying Paraguay’s last minute goal against Uruguay on Tuesday.

Drink Up:

Post Road Pumpkin, Brooklyn Brewery: A pleasant surprise from a brewery I rarely get to sample, Brooklyn’s pumpkin offering actually tasted, like, well, pumpkin. Aromas of cinnamon and clove in this one, but the actual taste was pumpkin, as well as a bit of vanilla, and, of course, the spices.

Pair It With…

Major League Soccer – Portland Timbers v Houston Dynamo (Friday, 9:30PM CT, MLS Direct Kick)
No clever analogies here – just an MLS match that you should be watching. If Houston beat Portland, and DC United fail to win against Chicago, the Dynamo…won’t clinch a spot. But then again, it’ll make it much harder for the Timbers to reach the playoffs so nya nya nya nya. Figuring out anything else about the MLS playoff standings makes my head hurt, so let’s move on to other beers.

Drink Up:

Night Owl, Elysian Brewing: Surprisingly, not the best pumpkin ale you’ll find from Elysian, who sponsors a pumpkin beer fest every year in Seattle. Their best is Dark O’the Moon, but good luck finding that outside King County. Night Owl is quite delicious, however, and if you live in an area fortunate enough to have Elysian available, pick up a bottle. Aromas common to a pumpkin pie–cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. The ginger comes through in the taste and the pumpkin lingers and the end.

Pair It With…

Bundesliga – Werder Bremen v Borussia Dortmund (Friday, 1:30PM CT, GolTV)
Werder Bremen, sitting second in Germany, host last year’s darlings, Dortmund, who have slipped down to sixth place. The title holders have won their last two league matches, but lost to Marseille 3-0 in the Champions League, while Bremen get the pleasure of solely focusing on the domestic league. With 29 goals already scored between the two teams, you’ll be able to enjoy the match, rather than fuss over why your best friend can’t score you a bottle of Dark O’the Moon.

Drink Up:

TREAT Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter, Midnight Sun Brewing: If you live in a region where you’re unable to buy Midnight Sun, well, go curl up in a ball and cry until winter warmer season. Otherwise, what’s stopping you? Go buy this, my favorite of pumpkin beers. A plethora of smells, including bittersweet chocolate, cinnamon, clove, yeast, caramel and squash. Palate is smooth and taste is superb. Pumpkin pie spices are present but don’t overwhelm. A bit of earthiness, vegetable, and caramel enhance the flavor, but the definite treat of this one is its velvety chocolate ending.

Pair It With…

English Premier League – Manchester City v Aston Villa (Saturday, 8:30AM CT, FSC)

Not so much because this promises to be the most enthralling match in the Premier League this week, but more because Liverpool – Manchester United is on at an inappropriate hour, and yours truly needs an almost-8%ABV to get through this match. The unbeaten – yet really, unchallenged – Villa travel to Manchester for the first time this season, hoping to be the first English side to score at whatever City are calling their football stadium these days. Or, knowing the Alex McLeish style, simply packing ten men behind the ball and crossing their fingers they can hold on for a point. Yeah, gonna need booze to get through this one.

 About Kirsten

I may be a law student at Lewis and Clark, but soccer is my true love, with beer coming in a distant second. That’s not to say I don’t love beer–I’ve tasted over a thousand different brews, and listed many of them onRatebeer. Living in Portland, Oregon, I attend quite a few festivals and tastings, and am able to argue passionately about the merits of Cascade hops vs. Chinook. 

As for the soccer, I’m the Managing Editor of SB Nation’s Aston Villa site, 7500 to Holte, the Italy Editor for SB Nation Soccer, and cover the Seattle Sounders on SBN Seattle (don’t judge–I’m from Seattle!) Finally, I write for Two Footed Tackle when I find words worthy enough for the site. Want more? Follow me on Twitter!

 Get the NEW Free Beer Movement “Pint Glass” shirt! Only from Objectivo.com

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Brews And Views Series: Why American Soccer?

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We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It’s called “Brews and Views” and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We’ve got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we’ll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we’re asking our respondents the question, “Why American soccer?”.

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we’ve got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world’s game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It’s ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men’s National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA’s Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, “Why American soccer?”, then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that’s like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.

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By Jason Davis / Match Fit USA and the NEW “Best Soccer Show”

As my response to Dan’s call for answers to the question “Why American soccer?”, I could regale you with emotional arguments draped in the tropes of the American spirit, the idealized inclusive nature of the sport itself, or the undeniable fact that local is always better than distant. It is, by the way. Maybe I should leave at that.

But I won’t. I won’t leave it at local is better than distant, even if our televisions serve as portals to other lands whenever we want them to, or trot out the good, but over-cited reasons for “Why American soccer?” (which I myself have cited in this very space some time back), which mostly boil down to notions of community and identity. Instead, I’m not going to try to convince you at all. You’re here, reading a post at The Free Beer Movement, which means you’re most likely one of those that has already declared themselves a proponent of American soccer. Why should I preach to the converted?

Your answer to the question might be the same as mine, or it might be something wholly different. The answer is as personal as any of the myriad choices you’ve made in your life (and specifically your sports life). Far be it for me to imply that your particular answer is either A.) trumped by another answer (namely mine) that won’t resonate with you on more than a philosophical level or B.) needs any augmenting to be really real, supremely true, and completely defensible. Your answer is as good as mine, and I don’t even know what yours is. From hipsterism to jingoism and everything in between, it all brings us to the same place.

Instead, and in the spirit of The Free Beer Movement, let’s talk about what it will take for those of you already on the bandwagon to increase the numbers of our flock. Proselytizing? Nope. Nothing so aggressive. Debate, as arguing the merits of the American game with someone wearing Sky Sports brand blinders, thereby (hopefully) turning an existing soccer fan to our side? I think not. That’s a fool’s errand with a low rate of return and the guarantee of unneeded frustration. Nowhere outside of politics and religion are people so married to their beliefs as they are with their sports. The worldview of the American sports fan – soccer fans included – solidifies at some point in adolescence/early adulthood and cannot be moved except of their own volition. If that worldview has no room for soccer or is soccer-friendly but only for non-American versions of the sport, no one is going to change their minds. No one but themselves, that is.

Which is why the FBM is brilliant. It’s a proactive way to expose the unconverted to the sport, and to our version of it, without applying any direct pressure. It doesn’t require a dissertation on the joys of supporting American soccer in America. It doesn’t mandate that the FBMer do anything to the FBMee but provide a tasty beverage in the presence of a live or television soccer match. It doesn’t assume that the person on the receiving end of the free beer is wrong, or that they need to be “enlightened.” They don’t need anything, but their life could be enriched if they discover – on their own, because that’s the only way the worldview is going to shift enough for it to happen – that American soccer is the S-H-I-Z-N-I-T.

And it will. Believe in the power of the sport to transform people into fans because of all that it is, not because you have a solid rhetorical point. You can tell people that they should love American soccer, but you can put it in front of them – tasty fermented libation in hand – and let it do it’s work.

Okay, okay, I’ll answer the question. I owe that to Dan for including me in a series littered with great soccer people. Why American soccer? Because it’s awesome, that’s why. Categorically, one hundred percent, with zero equivocation, as it is and as it will be, totally and completely, undoubtedly and to my great benefit, awesome. No explanation necessary. I reached that conclusion totally on my own, not because someone told me it was so.

American soccer is awesome. I know this. You know this. Soon enough, the people will, too. Buy them a beer and watch it happen.

About The Author

Jason is an award-nominated blogger (Match Fit USA), a columnist for the US Soccer Players website, a writer and editor for the soccer culture blog KCKRS, a podcaster for the newly launched The Best Soccer Show, and a guy that needs to slow down a little bit. Sheesh. 

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tuesday XI: American Lit Edition

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Tomorrow the creatively named National Book Foundation will announce their finalists for the National Book Award. That got us thinking about a squad of American writers, combining all the energy, creativity and bombast that characterize their works. Here, we’ve lined them up in a fluid 4-4-2, think Manchester United in the days of Cristiano Ronaldo. 


GK – Harper Lee – Makes of her role in limited action, always rising to the occasion when called for.
LB – Mark Twain – His versatility and his quick thinking serve him well as he moves up and down the flank.
CB – Ralph Ellison – Uses a finely-honed sense of positional awareness to snuff out attacks before opposing forwards even know he’s there.
CB – David Halberstam – Who said our squad had to be all fiction? Halberstam’s a towering yet versatile presence in the center of the defense, able to keep up with the Best and the Brightest thanks to his keen knowledge of the Breaks of the Game.
RB – Emily Dickinson – Is happy to stay home and cover the bombing runs forward of her cohort on the right.
LM – Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss – Don’t be fooled by his children’s books, as his genius ensures that our forwards get looks. With wacky passes and outlandish ideas, he can split any defense and leave them in tears.
CM – David Foster Wallace – DFW devoted his career toward making sense of the mayhem of modern life, finding some order in the chaos. He does the same thing on the pitch here as a deep-lying distributor, slowing the game down for the many manics arrayed in front of him.
CM – Joseph Heller – No one understands better the paradox of being a two-way midfielder: That he has the right to do anything the opposition can’t stop him from doing.
RM – Jack Kerouac – Not much to track back on defense, Kerouac only knows one direction, forward, and one speed, fast.
CF/CAM – Hunter S. Thompson – Combines the hyperactivity of Carlos Tevez with the absurd genius of Eric Cantona and the fear and loathing of .Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
CF – T.S. Eliot – Wasn’t getting looked at in the deep forward pool of the British writers squad, so he returned to the country of his birth in search of international football. 
Special Bonus XI: 
I’m not the only English major around these parts (Excuse the dropping of the editorial we. Truthfully, we think it’s pretty stupid, and only do it on these posts out of laziness.). So I got Wes to scrape up his American XI as well. He lined up his authors in a 4-3-3. 
GK – David Foster Wallace – Stacks a couple of copies of Infinite Jest to keep shots out.
FB – William Faulkner – Only recognized for his greatness after his prime.
CB – Ernest Hemingway – Tough, no-nonsense defender. As brave as he is ruthless.
CB – Henry David Thoreau – A true old-fashioned center-half. Emphasis on the old-fashioned.
FB – Alice Walker – Spent her career defending civil rights by going on the offensive.
DM – Emily Dickinson – Plays lots of short, staccato passes.
CM – John Steinbeck – A tireless worker in the center of the pitch.
AM – F. Scott Fitzgerald – Temperamental creative midfielder. A real game-changer, when he can find the motivation
LW – Tennessee Williams – There wasn’t a defender he wouldn’t take on.
CF – Truman Capote – Never took a shot on goal he didn’t miss.
RW – Flannery O’Connor – Cuts through opposing defenses like a scathing insult. 
About “The Other 87 Minutes”

What is this new site we’re exposing you too? We’ll let them explain:

The Other 87 seeks to provide something that’s not instant analysis or eve of matchday previews. Think of us as the good bits of your favorite soccer coverage: the profiles that examine what makes a certain player tick, the historical background that sheds some light on how the sport has evolved to the present day, the silly features that are more than just tacking names on a list, but considering and explaining why each one deserves to be there.
O87 wants to be a home for soccer writing that makes you think, but that also treats the game as just that, a game. The greatest game, the one we obsess over and fixate on, to the point where we can’t read that gas costs 3.43 a gallon without thinking of Ajax’s 1995 Champions League winning team. But a game nonetheless.
“When you play a match, it is statistically proven that players actually have the ball three minutes on average. The best players – the Zidanes, Ronaldinhos, Gerrards – will have the ball maybe four minutes. Lesser players – defenders – probably two minutes. So, the most important thing is: what do you do those 87 minutes when you do not have the ball…. That is what determines whether you’re a good player or not.” -Johann Cruyff
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Monday, October 10, 2011

Shotgunning: Monday’s Top Stories, Slammed

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All the news that’s fit to drink.

And because you’d rather have a beer than be reading all the time… we’ve taken the day’s top news and given it the Reader’s Digest-treatment so you can get to that post-work pint quicker.


* Could Brek Shea take that awesome rooster hair to England? According to his agent, who told Sky Sports, as it was reported in the New York Daily News (still following?), several English Premier League sides are taking a look at the FC Dallas man. Manchester City and Liverpool scouts “were believed to have watched” Shea play this weekend in Miami.


* Grant Wahl says Clint Dempsey should be U.S. Soccer’s “Player of the Year” and we’re hardly one to argue with that statement.

* More than fifty years of adidas kicks is pretty sweet and KCKRS has the link and the story behind the preservation of the iconic shoe companies soccer history.

* Our friends over at “The Shin Guardian” have their, as usual, brilliant re-cap of this weekend’s action between the USMNT and Los Catrachos.

* And a preview from TSG as well for tomorrow’s showdown with Ecuador.

* FutFunatico‘s Elliot Turner looks at “Hispanic Identity and U.S. Soccer” for Fox Soccer. A great read in two parts. Part onePart two.


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Better Know A Supporters Group – Sons of Ben

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We continue our comprehensive coverage of American soccer culture with our series “Better Know a Supporters Group,” just like Steven Colbert’s “Better Know a District” from “The Colbert Report“. 


Our goal: to feature each of the MLS teams’ supporters groups. We’ve sent e-mails to each and every SG in Major League Soccer and soon you’ll be able to check all what each is all about and what awesomeness they have to contribute to our growing American soccer world.

When we devised this idea a while back it was cool to be able to see what each supporter group is about, but in light of the terrible, one-sided, anti-American, condescending profile of Philadelphia’s Sons of Ben SG by the British GQ (not even going to link to it to give them the site hits) we think its all the more important to give supporters groups in Major League Soccer the proper exposure and voice they deserve.

Today… it’s the supporters group that inspired our series, Philadelphia Union’s Sons of Ben.

As told to the Free Beer Movement by Sons of Ben President Matt Ansbro.

The Basics
Photo Credit: Paul Rudderow

MLS Club: Philadelphia Union

Stadium: PPL Park

Year SG Founded: 2007

Section Name (if other than SG name): The River End

Any other SGs apart of your section? The Illegitimates, Bearfight Brigade

Location of SG in Stadium (section #, side, direction): 134 – 140, River Side

The Meaty Questions

Photo Credit: Daniel Gajdamowicz
What are the origins of your groups’ name?

In late 2006, after some long discussions on BigSoccer Ethan Gomberg, one of our original members, suggested the name “Sons of Ben” and it was almost immediately adopted. 

Favorite chants/songs?

Dale Philadelphia and Phindaloo

Another favorite to the tune of She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain: We’re the best behaved supporters in the league, when we win / We’re the biggest bunch of bastards, when we lose.

Why is being in the supporters section the “best seat in the house”?

There is nothing quite like sitting in an area you had a hand in designing.  In conversations with the ownership group from the start they wanted to make sure we had our own section set up in a way that would be the best supporters experience in the league and the most intimidating. We, and the team, have accomplished both

Photo Credit: Paul Rudderow
Brag. What makes your SG one of the best supporters groups in MLS?

“Here before the team”.  Sons of Ben was born out of the passion for the game and the desire to have it played in our city.  That started in 2007 when SoB was formed and has continued through today.  Our members are ridiculously passionate about this game, this team.  They bring their energies each and every game, for 90+ minutes, through thick and thin.  We’ll abuse our opponents (and their supporters) the entire game all the while supporting our boys and pushing them on to 3 points.  Other SG’s have done this longer than us, and some of them are pretty good at it, but we would put our short history up against all of them.

Greatest game(s) in team history?

June 27, 2010 vs Seattle Sounders – The first game at PPL Park and our first true home game, win.  It was our first game in the River End.  The first time on our new, beautiful pitch. The first time we all got a glimpse of the energy we could create.  And, most importantly, the first time we were truly a supporters group.

Predictions for this season?

MLS Cup Champion.  Is there really another answer to this question?

Why Major League Soccer? Why American soccer?

It’s all ours.  There is a sense of pride in coming to a professional soccer game near home. Many Union fans had never had that feeling and with ticket sales very strong the interest won’t wane any time soon.

US Soccer has travelled light years since their “just happy to be here” qualification for Italy in 1990. The players are getting valuable experiences all over the world and ratings for World Cup & Gold Cup games have grown audiences at rates that make ESPN & Univision take notice.  Lots of people talk about the destination of Winning the World Cup. It may happen someday, but why focus on the future when we are pretty damn good right now.


For more information OR to join the Sons of Ben, check out their website.


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