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John Gonzalez And John Smallwood Fail At Writing About Soccer

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Even Jordan Harvey and Chris Leitch are infuriated with these soccer columns.
Even Jordan Harvey and Chris Leitch are infuriated with these soccer columns.

After last night's 1-1 draw, one would think that the columns in today's newspapers would be focused on the positives Philadelphia Union.  They battled an injury to their goalkeeper to manage to get their first point ever against the Los Angeles Galaxy, a team that features the most recognizable face in U.S. Soccer today, Landon Donovan.  However, unfortunately aside from a pair of game stories and a good column from Bob Ford, the mainstream Philadelphia sports media spent the rest of their morning completely trashing soccer with little factual basis.  Here is the first part of the most offensive of the column of the day, from John Gonzalez (a.k.a. Gonzo)

David Beckham didn't make the trip to Philadelphia. Five or six area soccer fans are still upset about that. The rest of you are almost certainly asking yourselves the same question right now: David Beckham was supposed to be in town?

Indeed. The L.A. Galaxy played the Union/Bimbos on Wednesday, but Beckham wasn't at PPL Park. No specific injury was cited as a reason for his absence. It's possible Beckham won't ever play professional soccer in Philly again. He's in the final season of a five-year contract. There's been speculation that he wants one last gig in Europe before he retires and becomes his wife's full-time Ken doll accessory. Those same five or six area soccer fans are probably angry that they missed what was possibly their last chance to see Beckham in person. And everyone else shrugs.

Sadly, he's slipped. His fellow Brits - who have always been fascinated by him and gave rise to his fame with their endless fanboy slobber - don't drool and obsess over Beckham quite as much now. The British tabloids have moved on to Pippa and other current curiosities. He's not even in the top 5 Davids on Google at the moment, trailing such other Davids in Internet search fame as David Yurman, David Foster, David Bowie (he's still alive), David Goetta, and David Letterman. Like Michelangelo's David, Posh Spice's David gets no online love these days.

Beckham's primary talent - ahead of his incredible ability to launch curved crosses into the box with pinpoint precision - was always getting attention. Now that's in question. His fleeting hold on the casual sports fan has long since relaxed, while his grip on the devoted soccer/football/futbol/foot-to-ball fan isn't nearly as tight anymore.

Unfortunately, this is only half of the column.  The other half he talks about his neighbor the Scottish soccer fan and CNN's coverage of the Royal Wedding, somehow using them to make a point about David Beckham.  It's Gonzo.  Logic and rationality are absent in his writings.  

John Gonzalez is not the only idiot to write a column about soccer today.  Another clueless hack, John Smallwood, decided to write a column that somehow paints Beckham as the be all and end all to MLS.

For an MLS stint with so much promise, Beckham has delivered comparatively little.

Last night, Beckham was a healthy scratch for the Los Angeles Galaxy playing the Union at PPL Park.

Becks wasn't even available for "curb appeal," as Galaxy coach Bruce Arena decided the $6.5 million-a-year "Face of MLS" was too pooped to make the cross-country flight from Los Angeles.

"Fatigue, bumps and bruises you typically get," Arena said in reference to Beckham, who makes more than the entire roster of the Union team that tied the Galaxy, 1-1, last night. "We decided to rest him."

This couldn't have been what MLS had in mind while trumpeting Beckham as a game-changer for professional soccer in the United States when he was signed in 2007.

Beckham was supposed to help push MLS to a "major" status to match its name.

Yetin his fifth MLS season, Beckham was listed as a healthy scratch for a trip to one of the league's signature markets.

"I'm [hissed off]," said Karen Korver, of Norristown, who was attending her first MLS game. "The reason I came here was to see Beckham."

I will once again spare you the rest of the article.  Click on the link if you want to read more of Smallwood's ridiculous insights.

What I fail to understand is this idea that the mainstream media has that David Beckham is the be all and end all of soccer in the United States.  In his column that spawns across two online web pages, not once does John Smallwood mention the possibility that even though Beckham was scratched, that fans would have an interest in seeing Landon Donovan, who as all soccer fans know, is kind of a big deal in U.S. Soccer.  Like, face of the U.S. Men's National Team big.  The words "Landon" and "Donovan" do not make an appearance in Smallwood's column.

This demonstrates among other things a failure to understand about U.S. soccer than David Beckham.  All one has to do is re-visit the World Cup.  David Beckham did not even play in the World Cup, yet look how it captivated the nation last summer.  Look at how the Philadelphia Union continue to set attendance records at PPL Park.  Even with the knowledge that David Beckham had been scratched, how many empty seats were there last night?  Answer:  Very little.

To backtrack to Gonzo, while it is good that he recognizes that there is a bit more MLS than David Beckham, he still makes cheap jokes for his own amusement.  Despite the fact that John Gonzalez is a person who amuses himself on a very frequent basis he re-iterates the same tired and true soccer jokes that everyone is sick of.  He belittles the number of soccer fans even though they drew last night the same amount of people as some Flyers games (though in fairness, Gonzo does belittle the Flyers and hockey as well), he calls the Union "Bimbos" without ever explaining what Bimbo or the importance of the sponsorship.  To the uneducated casual fan (the only people who read Gonzo's column), Gonzo was calling them a derogatory term for women.  Granted, I think that's what the prick was going for, but if he is going to make bad jokes, should he not at least dumb them down and explain them so his dumb audience that worships him understands the dumbness?

I can interweave jokes and points about these columns all day long, and it is not going to change much.  I'd lay down a challenge to John Gonzalez, but I am not pointing out how he failed at radio, so he will likely not even read this post.  For all Gonzo knows, I am one of only five people in Philadelphia who care about soccer.  And because of that, I am irrelevant.  As a fellow Philadelphia sports fan on SB Nation likes to say, John Gonzalez caters to the lowest common denominator Philadelphia sports fan.  He writes for the idiots, and the idiots in turn worship him as a great columnist.  That someone like him as a job with Philadelphia's most circulated newspaper is quite disturbing, really.

I want to plea for better coverage, but there is little I can do to stop it.  I want to yell "FIRE GONZO" and "FIRE SMALLWOOD," but that is an exercise in futility.   They do not care about the sport.  They do not understand the sport.  They do not care to understand the sport.  And if the columns they wrote today are any indication, this is not going to change any time soon.