American Soccer’s Very Own Recognitions

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Lo and behold, the NYTimes relocated/rebranded the Goal Blog but soccer popped up in the Style Section. The general theme was this: the young and hip urban class of New York has embraced soccer (albeit not MLS). This group of childless rapscallions flocks to bars or “pubs” on Saturday mornings to don scarves, drink overpriced imported beer, eat a warm British breakfast, and/or maybe watch grown men kick a ball on TV. Predictably, the super super trendy have backlashed. Why?

Because nobody hates hipsters more than other hipsters. Sadly, the same is probably true of soccer fans in the states. Still, what most intrigues me about this debate is the reality vs. perception of New York City. Luckily, the second part of William Gaddis’ novel The Recognitions also grapples with this slippery concept. And provides some guideposts.

There’s basically three categories for examination: (1) NYC as NYC wants to be seen, (2) NYC as other Americans see it, and (3) NYC as reality. This Style section guide definitely has a lot of category one: NYC is the Big Apple where media types gather to discuss ideas, network, and create creative things. They now do these things while downing Newcastles in the early AM on weekends and watching Newcastle (the club) fail to win or tie games, yet remain in 9th place.

But what is our prototype and the reality of this “creative class soccer fan”? On a mix of speculation, twitter research, and my own time on the Beast Coast, they probably graduated with good grades from a good college but live in a Brooklyn brownstone with a window A/C unit and more roommates than is permitted by law. They may flock to trendy Manhattan bars, but probably take the subway and won’t even be able to afford living in Brooklyn in five years time. Those good colleges they attended probably saddled each one with two figures of student loan debt and, I dare wage, they probably enjoy four figures of credit card debt.

They enjoy a wealth of writing and editing opportunities, yet find themselves leaning on Capital One for grocery purchases at the end of each month, and, like, owning a home or starting a family is 100% out of the question. An MFA may be a graduate degree and share two letters with an MBA, but only one will get you that downtown loft. In terms of category 2, Midwesterners may be jealous of the creative employment opportunities. On the other hand, they are kinda the self-appointed starving artists. They suffer, but failing to pay down debt or living in a place without affordable housing are slightly less sexy crosses to bear.

Thus, you ask, what current soccer types would be which character from William Gaddis’ The Recognitions?

First off, Franklin Foer is Wyatt Gwyon

Just as Wyatt made a Faustian pact to create Flemish paintings and let them be sold as forgeries, Foer’s How Soccer Explains the World didn’t really explain the world. It was basically Soccer Against the Enemy but sans the Kerouac-esque On the Road vibrancy. Still, like Wyatt, Foer is young and could always move to a Spanish monastery where he would come up with a more appropriate title and scribble an authentic masterpiece.

Second Off, David Wangerin was Wyatt’s Dad

If you don’t know who David Wangerin was, then you should. He wrote the excellent Soccer in a Football World, a book that chronicled the early history of the sport in the US. He also tragically passed away before his time. If Wyatt’s dad passed hours of his time locked away in a study and immersed in the religious rituals of druids, then one could envision Wangerin wandering the stacks of a public university library at midnight, tracking down a citation from a microfiche of an old newspaper clipping. Rest In Peace.

But, of course, questions abound. Who would be the moody muse Esme? The abrasive but industrious Otto? The at-times too smooth Stanley? The amoral capitalist Recktall Brown? I originally had a list of MLS owners that fit those characters, but sports owner jokes are overplayed. I encourage you the reader to nominate soccer creative types for those roles.

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