Over on ze Twitter, Inside Minnesota Soccer made an excellent crack about the overlap between cyclists and soccer fans. However, the actual point of similarity isn’t in the activity (playing soccer/riding a bike) but in being a fan of the activity as done by professionals and semi-pros.
- In Europe, it’s mainstream. In the US, it’s fringe. Sure, soccer’s gotten a bit more play mainstream in the US due to Beckham playing in the MLS and the US team qualifying for the upcoming World Cup. The same could be said of bicycling in the Lance Armstrong era, along with a few other notable Americans (most of whom have been caught doping, oops). At the same time, racers and teams and players and sides are only easily named by a sliver of society.
- The best US athletes in both sports end up in Europe. MLS blah blah blah. Continental cycling squads blah blah blah. The best and most talented and fastest and etc. all sign with Euro sides. Who wouldn’t? There’s more money, more races, better fan support, and like it or not, a higher level of play/racing in Europe.
- Both are relegated to weird times/channels on the telly. Again, go to the UK, and the evening match featuring Chelsea is on a major channel in prime time. Here? Well, it gets back to the European thing. Soccer fans rely on TiVo and broad cable packages to pick up even MLS matches, let alone international contests. Cycling fans are stuck with the drooling stupid that is most cycling coverage on Versus. And if it’s not the Tour de France, expect to see week-long races condensed to 2 hours of coverage if you’re lucky, and one day classics squeezed into an hour with commercials.
- Fans of both soccer and cycling dress funny. Soccer jerseys are brightly colored and emblazoned with advertising logos. Cycling fans who also ride may wear team jerseys, which are brightly colored and emblazoned with advertising logos. Various sides and cycling teams could hold contests for most appalling color combos.
- Proximity. In Minnesota, the NSC Velodrome is next to the home of Minnesota’s only pro soccer side (name pending). Self-evident. Catch Thursday night racing one night, and a pro soccer match the next. Sleep in your car and you won’t need a new space!
From a participation viewpoint, bikes are seen as toys in the US, thereby driving a lot of the antipathy to cyclists on the roads. Soccer is seen as a sport for pee wees, and not a pro-class sport like baseball or football. Oddly, cycling is often part of the rehab for various soccer injuries among pro players, as it’s used in a lot of knee injury rehab regimens.
In summary: Soccer fans should not run over the cyclists at the NSC, and the cyclists should give a cheerful wave to the soccer hooligans. We’re all wanna-be Eurosport geeks.