The Beautiful Game
I have a confession to make and frankly it is rather embarrassing.
I’ve been watching soccer and enjoying it.
The affair started with some people on Twitter sharing about the English Premier League. Then came the decision from NBC to air every single Premier League game live. I decided to dive in and have been following Newcastle United for about a year now. Casually at first but now I find myself DVRing games getting mad when they lose (I’m mad a lot lately)
But the funny thing is, as pure sport, soccer is just “okay” for me. Perhaps it is just my American conditioning, but I much prefer to watch baseball or football. Soccer seems too simple and the outcomes too arbitrary in relation to the skill of the team. But in the simplicity there certainly is beauty. There is a natural ebb and flow to the game. It’s more like watching an aquarium of fish swim around than it is a Bourne movie.
But soccer is more than pure sport, it’s a study in anthropology and geography. It has a whole culture.
For one it is a global game. Americans are not the best soccer players in the world. Even the word “soccer” would cause most people around the world to grimace. To understand a big time soccer club you must understand the people, culture, and language of the other place. This flies in the face of American exceptionalism and is actually quite satisfying if you are willing to put down your Quarter Pounder and consider something outside of ‘Merica.
Being a soccer fan is different than being a fan of different sport. I dare say supporting a soccer club is more about the experience of the match than the team itself. There are flags and drinks and scarves and songs and a general festiveness that is different.
I’ve been a bit jealous of my friends on the east side of the state as they have a pro franchise, the Detroit City Football Club. It looks like a lot of fun. I see the supporters march over to Cass Tech from the local watering hole waiving flags and generally having a good time. Why not on the west side?
What would a Grand Rapids franchise look like? I’m no expert, but lets do a little thought experiment.
Detroit City F.C. plays in the National Premier Soccer League. They have a Great Lakes division with three teams from Michigan already in place. Seems like it would pretty simple to add a GR team.
We need a place to play. A soccer only facility would be amazing, but it makes no sense to build something from scratch when we have ample spaces available. East Kentwood has a gorgeous new facility, but it is out in the suburbs. To me, soccer needs something urban, something, well, European. This brings us to Houseman Field. The field is in an urban area, has had recent extensive renovations, and seats 10,o00 people. There are a couple problems. One, those pesky garish football lines. Two, booze. I don’t know how the Grand Rapids Public Schools, owners of the field, would feel about beer in (or at least around) the field. Beer is going to be an important component, because we’ll need a…
The biggest impediment for any fledgling franchise is money. In order to get money (to start) we need some sponsors. What better sponsor for a GR team than Founders Brewing Company? They are a growing brand and are growing their national reach with their ever expanding facility. They have shown a interest in supporting other “fringe” sports like cycling and whitewater rafting. Their clientele fits soccer perfectly. Young, social, urban people with an interesting in having a unique, fun time without the baggage of traditional jock culture. If the English have thought us anything it is that drinking a beer and supporting a soccer team go hand in hand.
Not only are we going to put their logo on the kits, we are going to NAME THE WHOLE FRANCHISE AFTER THEM. Grand Rapids Founders sounds great, the Founders name has roots in GR history, and, we can always fall back on Founders Bank and Trust to send us money!
I chose to mirror the colors for the kit based on the Founders logo because not only are we selling out to the brewery, but because they also look damn good together. Tell me you wouldn’t wear that shirt around town and be proud.
Yes,Grand Rapids is known for the river and for the Calder, but it is also known for furniture making. The quality of furniture from Grand Rapids was so good that other companies outside of West Michigan would name their companies or brands “Grand Rapids” to fool consumers into thinking they were getting Grand Rapids made furniture. In response, furniture makers in GR created this trademark:
Here is another, cleaner, look:
I basically co-opted the look and darkened the red to match the Founders Logo. (I had a heck of a time finding a typeface that looked even close. This one is okay, but I’d still like it look more like the original)
Think of the people you see in a brewery on a weekday night or you see at the farmers market on Saturday morning. These are people who could support a team. Young, urban, professionals looking for something social to do. Supporting a soccer team in America is something you do with a wink and a nod, understanding you are being a bit eccentric. Cheering on a soccer team is a borderline hipster endeavor. I imaging people going nuts for it. Starting at Founders or Brewery Vivant and making their way to the field waving flags and wearing big hats. All the fun without the drama and posturing of going to Lions game.
Having a soccer team in GR would be a lot of fun, but this is more than just games. There is a huge potential for growth here. The Griffins and Whitecaps have proven success is possible in the more major sports and while soccer is young yet in America it is growing. As concerns about head injuries mount in football and more and more kids are being raised with soccer, the demand for the sport will grow.
So, if any of you has lots of money, and wants to start a team, send me an e-mail and a blank check and we’ll get to work!