California, of The Not United States

I was Assistant Referee for an AYSO Soccer match yesterday. The team on my side of the pitch was “Watts United” and they were playing against the “West Adams Wolfpack.” Oh my!

Those area names will mean something to Los Angelenos. Perhaps, for outsiders, only “Watts Towers” and “Watts Riots.”

As I ran up and down the field, I listened to the coaches yelling out to their players. I got “frente,” “controla” and a few other words. I didn’t think much about it until afterwards. It was obviously all positive, and here in the AYSO that is all we ask.

But think about it. In Los Angeles, a team full of 13 year old girls were being coached in Spanish, and…nobody noticed. What a wonderful thing to be so normal and everyday.

North Torrance G U-11

Is it the Spirit of AYSO? The tolerant attitude of Soccer? Is it Southern California and the reality of diversity? I think it’s all of those things that suddenly impressed me. I live in one of the most tolerant areas of a (seemingly) intolerant Country. I love a game that has only entered the American consciousness by forcing suburban mothers to drive their kids to it every week. The kids…they live in diversity and don’t know anything else.

See those kids above from North Torrance? They (hopefully) don’t know too much about hate and racism. It’s sad that they will have to learn some day while growing up in this America.

For my part, I hope that a few hours on a soccer field, in English or Spanish, will give them some joy and an attitude of inclusiveness they can carry on into their adult lives.


Fußball Fanatic in Less Than A Year

echteliebe_small“Jaaaaaa! Berlin, Berlin, wir fahren nach Berlin!”

Tomorrow I will be watching the DFB-Pokalfinales live from Berlin…on ESPN3 on my laptop.  Apparently no US broadcaster found the German Cup Final to be interesting.  I’m not that surprised, as I haven’t been able to watch a Pokal match on broadcast all year.  To be fair, I will be able to watch it in Spanish on ESPN Desportes, delayed by eight hours.

“But wait! You’re an American! Did you grow up somewhere else?  Somewhere…soccerish?” No, I didn’t. I’m here to say that anyone can become a fan of any sport or team in very short order, given access and incentive.

The incentive towards soccer came when I was a bit disgusted with rugby last September.  I had refereed rugby for 13 years and wanted to try something new.  I took an AYSO course, got a yellow and black shirt and I was off.  Except for one fact: I played soccer for three years in the 70s, and remembered little.  So time for a scan of my TWC channel listings.

So, the access.  You can’t watch much soccer on the standard cable package. Big games now and then on Fox Sports 1. I wanted to see matches on Bein Sports and GOLTV. I was to discover that Bein (and Fox Soccer) required a special $9 package. That sufficed for a month or two with Spanish and English soccer galore.

I had a second incentive. I intend to live in Germany within the next five years, so why not watch German soccer? The problem here was that the Bundesliga was licensed to GOLTV. That was another $9 “Spanish Language” package, even though the matches were broadcast in English. There’s a reason why TWC is the second most hated company in America.

In December I was watching German fußball for the first time.  Now, six months later, I am breathlessly awaiting the final match of the season.  How was it accomplished?

  1. Forsake all others – I follow the SF Giants and Irish Rugby. Not many Giants games on in LA, so no conflict there. Irish Rugby was an issue and I did watch three Six Nations matches. This was, however, a bit of a downgrade from all of the Munster, Leinster, Ulster and Connacht matches that were now available to me.
  2. Pick your team – at first I watched a few matches and thought that Bayern München was my team. Subsequent discussions with relatives in Germany and German friends here stopped that slow forming love affair very quickly. It was Dortmund or nothing.
  3. Watch and learn – when I started watching Borussia Dortmund they were at the bottom of the table facing relegation. The drama of each match was intense. Within two months I knew every player on the roster and their position.
  4. Get social – I’ve joined the Borussia Dortmund Reddit Group, follow the team on Facebook and often call my Brother-in-law in Westphalia after a match. I won’t see a match in Dortmund anytime soon, but today it’s possible to be a virtual fan.


After tomorrow, it will be the Women’s World Cup for a few months.  Only something to pass the time until the Fall. This time a full season with a new coach and new players.

Rugby Losing The Battle

Leah Berard
Leah Berard

A good friend of mine, and top ranked Women’s Rugby Referee, is going to Ireland this week.  She will be Reffing the Ireland v. England Women’s Six Nations match.  She will also attend the Men’s match.  I was thinking this morning about how much I’d like to be in Dublin to see that match.  What could possibly be better?

Strangely enough, when I really asked that question, I did think of something better.  On the same day in Germany.  I realized that I would rather be in Dortmund.  I would rather watch a Soccer match!  Given a choice between the best possible Rugby and the best possible Soccer…really?

Continue reading Rugby Losing The Battle