Soccer really isn’t that bad after all

Published 12:54 am Sunday, January 27, 2008

It was a great Saturday of college basketball action.

South Carolina was battling a surging Kentucky team in Rupp Arena, Connecticut was pulling off a major road upset of No. 7 ranked Indiana and No. 1 Memphis was trying to maintain their ranking against a scrappy Gonzaga team in the FedEx Forum.

So why then, was I watching Chelsea battle Wigan in an FA Cup match on the FOX Soccer Network?

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The mere thought of me choosing to watch a soccer game between two teams in another continent over college basketball seemed blasphemous even a few weeks ago.

But you know, “the beautiful game,” as it is known everywhere in the world except America, is growing on me.

I know the sport hasn’t captured America’s fancy. Most fans avoid Major League Soccer like the plague, and the league’s attempts to gain attention for itself by signing an aging soccer pretty boy who is on the downside of his career (David Beckham) and happens to be married to Posh Spice of the Spice Girls came off as desperate and pathetic.

Americans generally don’t like soccer because of two things — low scores and the fact that numerous games end in ties.

Americans like either fast-paced sports like football and basketball or leisurely sports like baseball and golf.

I was in the fast-paced camp. Sure I casually watched the World Cup every four years but that was about it.

However, what most people, including myself, fail to see is that soccer is one of the fastest sports.

There may not be a lot of scoring, but there is tons of action. The way the players have to maneuver the ball through the usually tough defense with only their feet, heads and chest is pretty fascinating to watch.

I’m not sure when the tide started to turn on the sport.

But I think it is the quality of high school soccer here in Natchez that helped.

I’ve been to several soccer games involving both Cathedral and Natchez and have yet to see them lose, other than when they were playing each other.

Both teams are also fun to watch. Natchez has an attacking style led by record-setting forward Ross Smith, who is a wizard with his foot.

Cathedral also has a scoring threat in Hunter Foster, who is quick with his feet and his head.

The Cathedral girls aren’t shabby either. They, along with the Green Wave boys and Natchez boys, will take part in the state playoffs next week.

Perhaps it was Cathedral soccer announcer Kenneth Stubbs and his enthusiastic calls of the Green Wave games that did it.

Stubbs, who said he enjoys announcing because it is a way to inform people about the game and help them get interested in it, sure did that with me.

I decided to check out the action of the English Premier League on the FOX Soccer Network and I was pretty well hooked.

Now, I’m not saying that soccer is my favorite sport. Being a southern boy, of course college football is still my obsession.

But thanks to the local soccer teams and local soccer announcer, I have another sport I can watch and enjoy on a Saturday.

Jeff Edwards is the sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3633 or