By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
A Little Help Here?
I’m a lawyer in real life and am fortunate that there are people I could look towards, both nationally and locally here in South Florida and see the path laid by others.
Ok, so why am I talking about this? Well it’s because of my part-time job. I’ve been writing about the Beautiful Game for about four and half years. Being a soccer journalist was not something I ever sought out to do.
I contacted the CEO of this website about possibly putting a link to my own soccer website and the next thing I know he’s got me writing match reports, opinion columns and hosting a radio show on the BASN Radio network as the organization’s resident soccer journalist.
I’ve enjoyed it and it’s led to an additional opportunity to be “One Grown Man” with an opinion over at US SoccerPlayers.com. Some of the things I’ve written have given me a little bit of shine. I get some decent feedback on my articles from fellow soccer fans, MLS and US Soccer Hall of Fame officials and even some fellow journalists.
I was recently was mentioned in Rob Woodward’s book Black People Don’t Play Soccer. Towards the end of the book, he put forth a scenario where Americans as a whole had embraced the game.
“The black media frenzy would be just as intense as Ebony Vibe and BET played catch up falling all over themselves to find the few soccer people in the media like ESPN’s Allen Hopkins and BASN’s Andrew Dixon,” he envisioned.
While my family, especially my wife, was impressed with my being mentioned in a book and I was psyched to have been mentioned in the same sentence as the most well known Black American soccer commentator in recent memory, I was also kind of taken aback.
This was further driven home when I put together my list of the Best XI made up of Soccer’s Buffalo Soldiers . Of the few negative comments I saw there was, “Let’s get over this black crap. You have a black president now, end it. You are not the only minorities in the USA” and the predictable “Rarely have I seen any divide amongst are the USMNT and by dividing them now, I think we are doing more harm than good.” My favorite was that I was being racist.
I had to shake my head. I kept thinking, ” I’m not racist, who ELSE is going to highlight these players and how is my article going to drive discord amongst the US National Team? Do any of them even know who I am?”
It’s easy to say, “well, we’re all Americans” if you conveniently ignore 233 of American history and, more germane to this discussion, the overwhelming lack of interest in the sport amongst Blacks in this country.
Far too many have no clue about the game and think of it as a sport for “White people and Mexicans”. As a Black soccer journalist I’m trying to do what I can to help introduce the game, eliminate these negative opinions and show how wonderful this game really is.
So who else is in a better position than me to write such an article?
But then I have to step back and ask…well why me? Are there so few Black soccer journalists that when Rob comes up with names who Ebony, Vibe and BET would ask about the World’s game, it’s Allen Hopkins…and me?
ESPN’s Allen Hopkins (ESPN)
The limited shine is nice…but I am not satisfied.
I know there are others out there. Howard University graduate and former Trinidad and Tobago International Shaka Hislop is a regular on ESPN and has written columns over in England about MLS. Ron Goode has written some pieces for MLSNet about FC Dallas.
I remember Desmond Armstrong doing some sideline reporting for the US-Mexico qualifier 11 years ago. There’s even that guy on YouTube that calls himself The Shogun who talks about the game there and on his website, Road to the Cup.
But I’m hard pressed to think of any nationally known Black journalists, in print or in media that pay any attention to the World’s Most Popular sport. Michael Wilbon talks about it occasionally and certainly doesn’t hate the sport like others but doesn’t spend a lot of time on it either.
The Two Live Stews are football guys.
Michael Smith? JA Adande? Jason Whitlock? Don’t think so.
Stephen A. Smith at least tried once on his ESPN show but demonstrated his own complete lack of knowledge when he referred to soccer’s world governing body as “the F.I.F.A” instead of FIFA (pronounced phonetically) as its known all over the world.
I don’t single out these guys to criticize. They cover what they’re told to cover and then write about what they feel people want to read about. Unfortunately for us who don’t care about NFL draft combines, 40 yard dash speeds or Steroidgate, it ain’t soccer.
Understood. I doubt any of these guys were soccer fans anyway.
Further, there’s not a lot of Black sports writers anyway. A 2007 report by the Associated Press Sports Editors found that only 6.2% of sports writers were Black.
Think those few are going to spend time on a sport that’s at best ignored and at worst mocked by most sports editors and is invisible in their own communities?
I’m sure someone’s rolling their eyes saying “Do we need Black soccer journalists? Can’t people learn to appreciate the game through the journalists we already have?” Of course.
People like Rob, Steven Goff, Ives Galarcep, Jack Bell, Frank Dell’Alpa, Grant Wuhl, Andrea Canales, Martin Rogers, Jen Chang, Luis Bueno, J Hutcherson and others; they’ve all probably forgotten more about the game than I know.
They cover it every day.
But I also know that people often listen to those with whom they can identify. I’ve had Black soccer fans from all over the world thanking me for writing about the sport we love and taking some of the positions that I do.
But Black non-soccer fans also have written me in appreciation of the knowledge I drop, saying that they only knew about football or baseball or basketball and that they’ve learned a thing or two.
I don’t ever want to be perceived as “The Black Soccer Guy”. Like Jemele Hill once said, I only hope to be a voice.
But I’m going to keep doing me. Scoop Jackson (no, not the senator) once wrote “Who I am, what I write and how I write it is not something I’ll ever have to explain or apologize for to anyone!” and I will keep writing with this philosophy in mind.
But I do so hoping that there are other Black sports journalists, in print or electronically, that will help spread the gospel about this game I’ve come to love.
Perhaps it’s someone right now that with a much higher profile than I will probably ever have. Maybe it’s a future sports writer who happens to like and respect the game as they do other sports.
When a college friend of mine first saw my website seven years ago he said, “Wow. This is really good…I didn’t think there was a brother who knew THAT much about soccer.” I know it was a compliment and I took it as such.
But I’m envisioning a day where such knowledge is commonplace.
I’m not satisfied being one of the few.