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Soccer goes mainstream at Fenway
by Paul Kennedy, July 22nd, 2010 12:40AM

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TAGS:  college men, my view, portugal, scotland, soccer business

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[MY VIEW] Listening all last weekend on the Red Sox telecasts to the promos of Wednesday's friendly between Celtic and Sporting Lisbon at Boston's famed Fenway Park hit home just how mainstream soccer has become.

It was one thing to see the "Football at Fenway" ads on NESN. It was an entirely another thing to hear about the soccer event from Red Sox announcers Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy between conversations bemoaning what was wrong with the ailing Sox (11 players on the DL!).

A crowd of 32,162 almost filled Fenway to watch the preseason friendly that was won by Celtic in a shootout after their game ended 1-1. Pretty good for a game that was, as Remy kept reminding us, also televised live regionally on NESN. (Yes, they sang "Sweet Caroline" at halftime [VIDEO] and belted "Dirty Water," emblematic of a Sox win after the game.)

With the Sox on the West Coast, sod was placed over the infield dirt and where the pitcher's mound is located and the field ran from the third-base line to the right-field bullpens with the midfield circle in shallow center field where Jacoby Ellsbury would be patrolling if he were healthy ...

The idea of playing soccer at Fenway didn't sit well with everyone in Red Sox Nation. According to the blog Fenway Pastoral, Fenway is a "sacred asset" not to be rented to anyone, and its "excessive whoring out" has gotten out of hand with soccer in the summer, hockey in the winter and concerts of all sorts.

The reality: Sox owners could have abandoned intimate Fenway with its 37,000-seat capacity and built a bigger stadium elsewhere, so if Sox fans want to keep their charmed Fenway, they must put up with the occasional event when the Sox are out of town.

The Celtic-Sporting wasn't the first time anyone played soccer at Fenway. It was the home to the NASL Boston Beacons in 1968. Celtic played at Fenway as far back in 1931, losing, 4-3, to the shortlived New York Yankees -- the soccer Yankees, as opposed to the baseball Yankees or football Yankees of their day -- on a hat trick by the great Billy Gonsalves.

Fenway Pastoral likened "this particular pairing of two minor league soccer clubs [to] the Portland Sea Dogs taking batting practice in Wembley Stadium. It is an insult to fan intelligence disguised as something other than a recycled idea."

Recycled idea? Perhaps. But while no one in London would know the Portland Sea Dogs, Celtic and Sporting still have significant followings in Boston.

We usually think of the big NFL stadiums -- all modeled or remodeled with soccer's wider dimensions in mind -- when we think of venues for international soccer matches. Like Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field, site of Wednesday's game between the Union and Manchester United. Or Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City and Reliant Stadium in Houston, site of Man. United's next two games.

Baseball parks aren't configured for soccer, but that isn't stopping baseball folks from looking to attract soccer events.

On Tuesday, it was announced that Regions Park -- the home of Michael Jordan in his short minor league career with the Birmingham Barons of the Southern League -- would be the site of the 2011 Men's College Cup.

Like "Football at Fenway" in the summer at Fenway, soccer in the late fall in football-mad (the real football) Alabama is another sign that soccer has gone mainstream.



0 comments
  1. Chester Grant
    commented on: July 22, 2010 at 9:10 a.m.
    Anti soccer folks like Fenway Pastoral and Jim Rome just show their total ignorance when they disparage soccer. Those folls are still stuck in the horse and buggy age.

  1. John Paz
    commented on: July 22, 2010 at 1:15 p.m.
    What's really funny about soccer haters is parallel to the hypocrisy of many conservatives, so-called libertarians; how can you preach about freedom and still position yourself against the lifestyle of others (gays/recreational drug users)? If soccer haters like Rome really didn't like soccer, then why do they have to come out against it so openly? Things I don't like never get a fraction of my brain power. It's an act. It's to appeal to the dim wit fan who's scared of anything different. We all know many of them in our day-to-day. It's mainly just to be anti-bandwagon, they want to appear that they are free, independent thinkers. Read any of the "why soccer sucks" articles and you'll see the connecting points; any who "hates" soccer only does so because other people love it. They'll hate anything important to someone else. There is more going on than at first appears people, and anyone of color can point it out from a mile away. It's being opposed to any different. Period. A sad way to live a life, because there is so much to appreciate. Why hate anything?

  1. Manuel Trejo-von Angst
    commented on: July 22, 2010 at 6 p.m.
    @John wow...uhhh 'excellent' political analysis there. Also great job ignoring the fact that you have managed to stereotype around 66% of the country (we are a center-right nation after all) as a bunch of 'gay haters' which is precisely the thing you are railing against. Just a quick note: libertarian doesn't = conservative. There is a big difference. Educate yourself. On another note, Jim Rome is an avowed liberal so again, your point? (which is to say nothing of the fact that coming from New England the guy writing the Fenway Blog has a pretty good chance of being a Democrat as well so definitely not conservative) Furthermore, not liking someone's lifestyle isn't the same as not being tolerant. Tolerance doesn't = acceptance. So now that we've shined a light on your ignorance, let's stick to soccer shall we? Who cares if they hate soccer and denigrate it? You openly denigrate conservatives and libertarians despite your demonstrated lack of knowledge on the subject. It's what people do. If society at large wants something to happen it will happen and those who are against it will be cast to the wayside. Soccer is a growing sport and is already very well known and accepted in this country. The soccer haters largely hate because they don't understand and in the case of Rome, is afraid that he'll be out of business when his producers ask him to do 15 minutes an hour on a sport he knows nothing about but the audience wants to hear about. So of course he's going to put it down to try to convince others of his viewpoint. It's self preservation. He needs his audience to believe it sucks until he retires.

  1. David Huff
    commented on: July 23, 2010 at 4:51 p.m.
    A lot of baseball people fear soccer because they feel it will lead to boring baseball's demise in the future given its popularity with youth. Nothing would make me happier than to operate a D-9 to demo a baseball field and replace it with a soccer field instead.


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