When a ticket to a sports match includes a free hot dog, you know you’re going to have a good time. When this ticket also includes a calendar featuring the home team's dancers in their lingerie, you're sure it will be an experience to remember!
The soccer team at the special needs college where I work was celebrating the end of our season with a Saturday night outing for the Philadelphia’s indoor soccer team, the Kixx, take on the mighty Chicago Storm. The aforementioned dancers got the proceedings off to a flying start with some smooth moves in the centre circle, and then it was time for the match itself.
For a Brit like me who grew up on a steady diet of regular soccer, this was a whole new sport. Two or three points for a goal (depending on where it was shot from), six players to a side with rolling subs (this means continually on and off during play, rather than doing backflips onto the pitch), two referees on the field, and the game divided into four 15-minute quarters, that were split yet more by teams taking time-outs.
My favourite player was the Kixx forward, Boney, seen here at the bottom centre of the picture. I couldn’t decide if he and Fabinho were using pseudonyms, or if their parents just had active imaginations, but they were entertaining to watch.
The thing that got me about the whole event, though, was the extent to which the football was almost subservient to the incessant marketing, advertising and all-round corporate lovefest. Before the game began, we were introduced over the loudspeaker to Mike, the “Man in the Stands”. I guess I always assumed that watching live professional sports in America allowed you to be free of the commericial bullshit that interrupts every time someone drops a ball – when you’re watching the television.
In fact, it’s worse – they don't even wait for the player to drop the ball! Mike was promoting spas, chicken fillets and aquatic tours of the Kalahari Desert – over the loudspeaker whilst the match was in progress! And just in case you thought you could escape his irritating voice by looking at the scoreboard, they scrolled the ads across there simultaneously!
Our pal, Mike, gave two lucky young boys the chance to sing a jingle for the local friendly Nissan giant. The crowd also got to partake in the Kixx frisbee toss, the Wachovia T-shirt launch, and hear soccer referred to as – The Game, The Lifestyle, The Brand – repeatedly. The T-shirt launch was the only occasion when the majority of the crowd got out of their seats and showed some excitement, apart from the rare times when the scoreboard encouraged them by flashing up messages of “Go Kixx” and “I can’t hear you"!
Having said all that, the game itself was a lot of fun to watch, as you can see from the engrossed look on Jeffrey’s face.
To be fair to the audience, they weren’t given the opportunity to make much noise; various songs were played on the loudspeaker for most of the match. This would have been barely tolerable, except someone from an inane focus group determined that people only wanted to listen to 45 seconds of any one song. Just as you started singing along, they’d stick something else on, or good old Mike would chip in with an ad for that penguin collision insurance you never knew you needed.
The game is very fast paced. There are some silky skills, including one that involves bouncing the football against the wall. I managed to bring my total tally of hot dogs up to four. I contemplated a fifth, but decided that a slice of pizza would prevent those hot dogs in my stomach from feeling victimised.
All in all, I had a really good evening with my soccer-loving group.
It's hard for me to believe American sports spectators put up with all the "non essentials" that are a part of the event. I think you should not have to have your ears (and those of your children) subjected to advertisements when you’ve paid to watch a sports match. Perhaps that’s why the place was three quarters empty.
Chicago Storm 10 – Philadelphia Kixx 4.
Read more from this author at blogs.bootsnall.com/Bucky