Ray Ratto: ‘Nobody Knows Future Of Soccer’
CSN Bay Area columnist Ray Ratto has had enough. He enjoyed the World Cup as much as the next American, and he’s proud that the U.S. advanced past the Group of Death.
But please, no more talk about what the U.S. national team’s second straight appearance in the knockout stages means for the future of soccer in America.
“I think soccer – singularly among all the sports – has always been graded by (the idea of) ‘What will this mean to the casual fan?’” Ratto said on The John Feinstein Show. “And the fact is, soccer has grown not because it worried about the casual fan; it grew organically (by allowing) people to see the best players in the world all year long on television. You could see Lionel Messi pretty much 30 times a year. You could see Wayne Rooney whenever you wanted. You could see Cristiano Ronaldo. You could see all the great players. And in the past, soccer people try to force feed you either the NASL or its new grandson, the MLS, and say, ‘This is what you should follow. This is what you should care about.’ And people don’t want to be lectured to. They want to come to something naturally and organically. If they like it, they’ll keep coming back. If they don’t, they’ll walk away.”
“So every time somebody says, ‘Well, what does this mean for soccer in America?’” Ratto continued, “(I say), ‘Well, it doesn’t mean anything for soccer in America – unless you want it to. And if you want it to, it means you’re already a fan. And if you don’t want it to mean anything at all, it means you’re not a fan. And everybody gets to decide what they want to do with soccer. It shouldn’t be a litmus test.”
But please, no more big-picture analyses of where we were, where we are and where we’re going. Just enjoy the games, which were highly entertaining, and move on.
“Nothing is more boring, it seems to me, than trying to say, ‘What does this mean? What does that mean?’” Ratto said. “It sucks the fun out of the deal. And the fun about the game the other day against Belgium was that you got to see American soccer present, warts and all – which is they are hard to play against, they run all day (and) they don’t quit, but they’re also still sort of technically deficient. They don’t have enough good players. They were trying to get by on hard work and just indomitable spirit – and that’s sort of where it ends.”
“That’s where soccer is right now,” Ratto continued. “And nobody knows what the future is going to be. It could be the same future in four years or eight years, but there’s just no sense (of people saying), ‘Boy, that was fun,’ and (then letting) it go. It’s always, ‘Well, what does this mean in the bigger picture?’ There is no bigger picture. It’s entertainment. Be entertained.”