A Letter To A Douchebag
"Hey, I'm Rick Morrissey. I write for the Trib. Perhaps you've read me...No?...Heard of me?...No?...Hello? Hello?...Why won't Around the Horn call"
This is an actual letter I'm sending to the Chicago Tribune's Rick Morrissey, who is a mostly inconsequential columnist here in Chitown...
I don't recall ever writing a letter to a columnist before regardless of how pleased or angry he/she made me, so congrats on being my first. Your column on Saturday, "Wimpy soccer doesn't deliver for U.S. males," drove me to it, and I'm guessing I'm not the only soccer fan who will be so inclined.
First of all, this column follows one you wrote only twelve days before, "He's a header case," in which you state that - oh, woe is you! - you just can't get into soccer. Now, my first question is, Didn't your mom teach you anything? Didn't she teach you that if you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all?
This is what I don't get: You don't like soccer. Fine. Dandy. That's your opinion and your entitled to it. But why do you feel the need to waste valuable column space saying so? If you don't like the World Cup, then why not just let it pass without casting your negative judgement? Simply ignore it if you must, but don't rain on the parade of others. This is very small of you. Very small.
But back to your latest column on "wimpy soccer." Let's break down some lines here...
If soccer doesn't toughen up, it will never be a major force in U.S.
Well, right off the bat you're mistaken, if only slightly. Granted, soccer may not be a "major force in U.S." yet, but if you don't see that it has grown immensely, and continues to grow, then you're simply choosing not to. Every game of the World Cup is being televised. The ratings (relatively speaking) have been fantastic. The highlights are getting major chunks of airtime at the beginning of SportsCenter and on ESPNews. Newspaper and internet coverage has been immense. There are now two all-soccer television channels, 24-7, 365 days a year. More and more MLS teams are getting their own, private stadiums.
But go ahead, Rick, and pretend it's still the 1970's and that soccer in America is little more than a handful of kids playing in AYSO behind a park district somewhere. For a guy who very recently criticized Jay Mariotti for not going out to meet a story, you seem strangely out of it yourself.
Things you won't hear from your average, red-blooded American male:
• Honey, what book do you want to discuss this month?
• Would you mind if we just cuddled tonight?
• I'm pretty clear on what Phil Donahue would have done, but what would Oprah do?
• This World Cup soccer extravaganza—it's right up there with "Wicked," wouldn't you say?
Rick, this isn't necessarily related to your opinion on soccer, but let me offer some constructive criticism: you're not funny. Sorry, but you just aren't. Every column you have your moments exactly like the one above. These moments, in fact, are a staple of your writing style. You try really, really hard to be funny, but you aren't. There are few things worse than someone who isn't funny or witty trying really, really hard to be funny and witty. I'd say that, as a writer, this is your greatest weakness. Bernie Lincicome you are not.
Now, I bring all of this up because, for many of us red-blooded American males (RAMs), the enduring image of the 2006 World Cup will be:
American Claudio Reyna getting the ball stolen in front of the U.S. net by Ghana's Haminu Draman and Reyna immediately being carried off the pitch on a stretcher after Draman's easy goal.
I'm sorry, soccer fans, but it looked awfully wimpy. That's the image, though perhaps not the reality. As it turned out, Reyna had injured his left knee and later gamely tried to play on, but the damage was done—to the game of soccer in this country. All I could see was a huge population of RAMs rolling their eyes at how soft it looked without knowing the extent of the injury.
Actually, all I could see was the ceiling because I was rolling my eyes too.
Actually, Rick, only days before the World Cup, Reyna's status was questionable. He's been hobbled. The guy is old in athletic terms and his health has long been an issue. Oh, and Reyna is very overrated and, truth be told, kind of sucks, as any smart American soccer fan could probably tell you. If only he could have gone down for good before the tourney even started perhaps the U.S. may have fared better.
Besides, does a guy have to go out like Joe Theisman getting broken in half by Lawrence Taylor before a tough guy like yourself - and, clearly, you're a tough, tough guy - gives him the benefit of the doubt?
Fair or not, one of the problems the sport has in the United States is that it seems to be perfect for the faint of heart. Players are forever falling on the grass writhing in pain after minimal contact.
In a country that lives for NFL Sundays, it's difficult to see a man in agony one moment and up on his feet, suddenly recovered, the next. I'm sure Ozzie Guillen would have a word for this.
Come on now, Rick. Ozzie is from Venezuela, which you should know considering you've written numerous columns berating his rough-around-the-edges style and proclaiming his status as a foreigner as a weak excuse. Venezuela, Rick. That's South America. And while Venezuela's soccer team is to South American soccer what Northwestern is to Big Ten hoops, the sport is beloved there nonetheless. So, yeah, I'm guessing Ozzie doesn't have a problem with soccer. And, yeah, I'm guessing he's a fan. In fact, one of my favorite moments from the White Sox' postseason run in 2005 was the ALCS game in Anaheim (or was it the World Series?) when Ozzie put an official Chicago Fire jersey on over his White Sox attire to do his postgame interviews on the field. I don't know why he did so, but it was sure nice to see that Fire jersey right there on the telly during the baseball playoffs. That was awesome. Pure class by Ozzie. He was representing for both his city and the sport of soccer.
And how dare you cite Ozzie as support for your cause after all the spite you've tossed his way. (Ooooh, Ozzie said 'child molester,' the sky is falling, the sky is falling!)
Is that simplistic? Is that taking a few plays out of an otherwise good sport and passing judgment? Is that throwing the baby out with the bath water? Will I ever stop asking myself questions?
Rick, here you go again with that thing where you try to be funny, but you aren't. You should reconsider this tactic. Seriously.
The answer is no. These are important issues for soccer in the United States.
There are fundamental reasons why the sport hasn't taken off in this country the way its proponents have hoped it would for the last 30 years. There is something basically flawed about the game—or at least flawed in combination with something very elemental to our country.
We like things a little rough around here.
Oh, great. This is the very predictable part where the American who watches soccer once every four years tells the rest of the world - the BILLIONS of people who follow, play, and love soccer all over the planet - that they're all wrong, and that he's right. Billions of people love soccer and have done so from generation to generation and now you, Rick, are going to tell them all the sport is flawed. Well, Rick, I gotta tell you. Now this is funny. I'm laughing here. You're funniest when you're not trying to be. (Although, to be fair, is still isn't overly funny.)
The player being carried off on a stretcher, the stretcher held by two men, it's so … so … so overly dramatic, so over the top as to be almost comical.
Until soccer figures out a way to toughen itself up, it never, ever will be a force in the United States. For a nation raised on bare-fisted, county-fair boxing matches, for a nation whose pastime still includes beanball wars and raised spikes, the sight of all these theatrics is just too much to take.
We're not big on nuance.
The onus is not on the rest of us in this country to embrace soccer. The onus is on soccer to deliver a product that meets the needs of our culture. And, frankly, seeing players perform the suicide scenes in "Romeo and Juliet" with dramatic precision after every collision just doesn't fit us.
Rick, here's a clue: While some of the players being carted off are genuinely hurt, some are wasting time. Their team has a lead so they roll around and get carted off as valuable seconds tick off the clock. So in a sense, you're correct. This is garbage. In fact, there are plenty - plenty! - of soccer fans who will agree with you. The fake injury/time wasting routine is an aspect of the sport that even the biggest soccer apologists will admit is garbage. But it has nothing to do with players being wimpy; they're being smart in a sneaky, contrived way allowed to them by a loophole in the rules. It's gamesmanship and it is unacceptable as far as I'm concerned. But it isn't wimpy.
Also, have you ever taken the bottom of a spiked cleat directly to the knee or shin? It hurts, Rick, it hurts a lot.
Tied in with all of this is that, in a tournament that has been full of incredible athleticism, the U.S. team lacked toughness. Would a U.S. team member like to start lifting weights? That probably would be a good idea for 2010. Did you happen to check out the upper bodies of Ghana's players? Think that might help a little while battling for the ball?
Our display didn't look close to the best athletes a nation of 280 million people could muster up.
But it's one thing to lack speed, which the United States surely did. It's another to be outmuscled, which the United States surely was. That's called a lack of training and preparation. And we looked like the rich kids who had the money to buy all the best equipment but didn't know how to play the game.
Of course, Rick, you'll be first in line when the next wave of columns criticizing steroids come out. You'll bemoan the fact that modern, professional athletes are getting bigger, stronger, faster and that kids nowadays are getting caught up in it all and turning to unsafe performance enhancers and when - oh, when? - will the explosion of America end? Why does America have to always be bigger? Stronger? Faster? Why is it never enough to compete as is? After all, according to a column by you (if I remember correctly), Babe Ruth did it on hot dogs and beer.
You're a hypocrite. And while the U.S. team could have been more athletic - what team in any sport couldn't, Rick? - that has nothing to do with why they lost. Nothing. They lost because they failed to show up against the Czechs, played with only nine men against Italy, and gave up Reyna's horrible mistake against Ghana while also being the victim of an absolutely horrible penalty kick call.
It's as if you didn't actually watch the games, Rick. Or perhaps you watched with your negative, spiteful, inevitable column already formulated in that tough, tough noggin of yours.
The World Cup, in all its glory and weakness, is on stage. The play has been impressive, the pageantry almost as impressive. There's a lot to like about something this big.
But for us RAMs, there needs to be something a little more RAMly, for lack of a better term. There needs to be a lot more players like England's Wayne Rooney, who was spitting fire when he was taken out of a recent game against Sweden, and fewer guys getting escorted off the pitch. On a stretcher.
Rick, please, please stop talking about RAMs. I mean, you of all people?
Listen, you're biggest weakness as a writer, other than being sadly unfunny while pathetically trying to be so, is that you're the exact opposite of a RAM. You're wishy washy. Your columns have no bite. No blood and guts. It's usually you just whining about something and covering up your lack of balls with vain attempts to be humorous.
This is probably why your columns come and go like a fart in the wind. Hey, I dislike Mariotti as much as the next guy, but I'll give him credit for one thing: He gets noticed. Your boring, spineless columns generate about as much buzz as Clay Aiken would if John Lennon and George Harrison awoke from the dead and the Beatles reunited.
As long as I'm writing you, Rick, I'll let you know exactly when I had you pegged: Thanksgiving weekend, 2001. At the time, Chicago sports, which can be notoriously lousy at times, were on an upswing. The Bears were enjoying that shockingly successful 2001 season. The White Sox and Cubs both had winning records that summer, which is a rarity. The Illini football team was en route to winning the Big Ten title (though headed to the Sugar Bowl instead of the Rose) and the basketball team was starting its season ranked second in the polls. Northwestern's football team was going to a bowl. Even the Blackhawks were enjoying a solid start to the season and destined to make a rare playoff appearance.
The point is, Rick, Chicago sports were actually looking good. So what did you do on Thanksgiving weekend? You wrote a column imploring Chicago fans to enjoy it while it lasted because things were all going to end badly. Nice, Rick, real nice.
But that's you in a nutshell, Rick: a whiny, wishy washy, negative dude who isn't funny.
The Unknown Column
PS - Another memory I have of you is Mike North having you on his radio show. You said you were talking while driving and North asked you what kind of car you had. You said you were in your wife's Suzuki. OK, maybe it wasn't a Suzuki - my memory is foggy here - but it was definitely some decidedly womanly vehicle.
Being driven by a RAM such as yourself.
Ah, the irony. You can't make this stuff up. Hysterical.