Sunday, January 24, 2010

Big Soccer Strikes Again

Big Soccer. A big soccer website and forum, yes. But what else is going on in the little nest egg of hate?

I don't get this site at all. Let me be the first to say that Bill Archer, Dan Loney and Aaron Stollar, the triumvirate of American exceptionalism with regard to MLS, are capable writers. They're certainly knowledgeable about MLS, although they often rely on a sort of hyperventilating, alliterative prose to stand in for coherency from time to time. (I'm not including Fake Sigi with this group, first because he doesn't have a blog page there, and second, because while he's ideologically in step with much of what the above writers have to say, he at least resorts to pithy refutation based on fact, and has sort of toned down the self-consciously clever ad hominem stuff recently).

Chances are, if you're a big time blogger and you write about MLS, and you think there is a lot of room to improve the league, expect a forceful rebuttal from any one of the above. No, not forceful, juvenile. Noxiously, self-congratulatingly so. So much so that any actual argument gets lost amidst all the cathartic, self-serving snark. For the most part, their approach isolates them from any meaningful engagement with writers with opposing views, in contrast to someone like Fake Sig who has engaged with several writers of opposing views, some more civilly than others..

Witness Aaron Stollar's post (via Fake Sigi) on Kartik Krishnaiyer taking up a communications position with the new NASL. Kartik has a lot to say about the USSF, a lot of it based on based on hearsay, much of it based on a particular opinion on the way US soccer has been managed. Like all opinionated soccer writing, there's a lot to take issue with.

Yet Stollar's piece doesn't provide an any substantive reason why Kartik shouldn't be working for NASL. The post is headlined with a crudely doctored "For Dummies" style cover, and the high school newspaper op-ed-style doesn't stop there. Witness the total lack of self-awareness in the writing here: "Let's see, he hated MLS with the passion of 1,000 suns, primarily because they bailed on his home of South Florida and Florida in general. His views on the US Soccer Federation more resemble those on a 9-11 Truther message board than of those of a responsible writer."

"The passion of a 1,ooo suns"? The chiding of Krishnaiyer for not being a "responsible writer" in light of most of the rest of stuff here is pretty funny. A taste:

"As an aside, how many different websites did Kartik maintain, write for and show up on? He had like 74 different gigs, didn't he? He was like herpes in that way." Oh, the hilarity. Wait, what does Kartik think about MLS exactly?

"If you think hiring a meathead like Kartik will help your league gain mainstream media attention in any way, you're delusional." Yeah, what an asshole! So, really, what is it you disagree about again?

"Let me make it clear that I am not saying that Kartik shouldn't have written what he wrote. It's America, obviously he can write what he wants to all legal extents. But, it doesn't mean I can't call him a moron for writing what he wrote. Censorship is wrong, but abject idiocy is nearly as bad." Yeah, you give credit to the fact he's allowed to blog, but really, fuck him. So what did he write again, exactly?

This is kind of the general tone for pretty much the entire site, and the comments section unabashedly praises the post, except for one or two dissents which are followed ravenously by one apologist or another.

Basically, Fake Sigi, it's time to write an epic post defending your association with the tone—not the opinions, the tone—of Big Soccer. These are grown up writers, presumably. Why are they not able to defend their position like grown-ups?


Charley said...

I can't stand big soccer.

i was going to elaborate on how much I hate it, but really, why waste the space on it.

I like to read informed, intelligent and well written articles and pieces on the game and the effects of the game on the world. So, because I like to read those things, I don't visit big soccer anymore.

miked9 said...

To some degree, it's a matter of taste, and I think that's fine. I personally enjoy reading Archer, even though I rarely agree with his take on things (which, incidentally, is how I feel about Krishnayer). Loney I think is a lot of fun and has a worthwhile perspective. Stollar, to my mind, is not worth reading. This, of course, is just my take.

But I do think you're wrong to call these three out (though you really only directly address Stollar) for their *tone*. The problem with Stollar's post you identify isn't its tone, it is the lack of substantiation. Complaining about *tone* is one of the ways that people get to ignore actual arguments--ie, "I don't care what he said, he's a snooty elitist so he can't possibly know anything about real 'merica." Tone is a matter of preference or style, not really a gauge of the quality of writing. Substantiating your criticisms is, however--which is precisely why this entry lands on Stollar but doesn't on Archer and Loney, the claims aren't substantiated.

Which is all to say, I don't think being intelligent and informed is incommensurate with being clever or snarky. That's why the Daily Show is good, after all.

Charley said...


That's true that you can be both intelligent while being sarcastic. I love the Daily Show. But, I just don't think big soccer does it that well.

There is a balance that is required, which I don't think they hit.

Also, your take on tone. The tone and the lack of substantiation aren't two different things. They are one in the same to me. The lack of substantiation and the wild and often baseless arguments they use makes the tone amateurish individuals with axes to grind.

I can't take them seriously, nor do I trust their opinion, and that is because their tone is all wrong.

Charley said...

but you are right that it is a matter of taste.

obviously many people like it.

Elliott said...

Here is how I paint the picture - I love the Daily Show, but can't stand Colbert. I guess I draw the line between irony and sarcasm and being good natured - is it your intent to improve the sport and players, or to bring them down?

I haven't been on a forum in years - I detect too much anguish in the real world creeping into soccer viewing, and released upon these poor players.

Richard Whittall said...

miked9 - -

Well, perhaps picking on Stollar is like shooting fish in a bucket, but if you like, I can supply quotes from Loney's incoherent mock Kartik speech, or from Archer's response to critical posts on his simplistic anti-Africa post, which takes hearsay to a whole new level. That's just this past week.

You see, the difference is Jon Stewart has some measure of principle behind the rage.

It's hard to imagine Jon saying this to an opponent: "Everybody has the right to make themselves look like an imbecile, but your was particularly dumb and. frankly. nobody needs it."

I guess Loney often comes out okay; he's made his peace with Duane Rollins, certainly his post-Angola post is worth reading. But then you get this raw steak stuff thrown to his insanely sycophantic fans, like Kartik's press conference, and it's like, "oh, yeah...ha ha." I'll keep reading.

Duane Rollins said...

Comparing Stollar to Archer or Loney is (within the context of North American soccer writing) a bit like comparing me with Stephen Brunt. Technically both parties do the same thing -- write about sports -- but the scale in which they do it is completely different.

And, like I would one day like to be Stephen Brunt, Stollar seems to want to one day be Archer or Loney.

I think it's also worthwhile to remember that all three men are American writers and are writing for an American audience. Stylistically, the bombastic prose and ad hominem tendencies is far more common in the U.S. than it is in Canada. That's especially the case in sports blogging where the deadspinification of the genre is nearly complete. Thoughtful American voices like, for example, Match Fit USA, get lost in the noise.

That said, I like Loney. I think he does what he does very well and I always enjoy his work. It's rare that he just goes off of someone and when he does it's usually on someone in the public light. And that's fair play, in my mind. Where I take the most issue with Archer (and where your opinion of FakeSigi and mine part) is that they have a tendency to go after other bloggers. I'm not sure how I have become part of the story in Archer's mind, but it's clear that I've become a prop in his act. I'm really trying not to engage him any loner, but I'm not always successful in that.

Here's the thing though...there is little doubt that Archer and Loney have a little bit of influence. Although they only get about 2,000 reads per article, the type of person that does read them tends to be far more involved in MLS and American soccer than the folks that might read a soccer article in the mainstream. That means they punch above their weight class and it's a bit silly to suggest that they don't have influence. My first run ins with Archer were in his comments section when I would respond to his anti-Canada in MLS rhetoric. Often I was correcting blatant inaccuracies in his entries. Not surprisingly, he banned me from commenting. That's his M.O.

Ultimately that's why I keep interacting with him. I think he can be dangerous (although less so now that the Canada to MLS battle has been won. Go back and find his writing on the subject from about 2006 and you'll see what I mean -- especially the stuff he posted inside on the forums, which is even rawer than what he puts in his blog. The real Bill Archer can be seen in the Columbus forums. He's a real piece of work, without a doubt).

Anyway...I'm rambling a bit...the reason it's important for people to read BigSoccer is that the writing there does influence things. And since, when you break it down and look at the content, I disagree with much of what they write I read everything Archer and Loney (who, again, I like) write. There view, as you point out, represents a significant, if shrinking, demographic in the NA soccer fandom.

Stollar, on the other hand, has no influence whatsoever. I only read him if he's linked, or I'm a little bored.

Fake Sigi said...

How are other bloggers not fair play?

Anonymous said...

If you can't understand the distaste people have for a "renowned journalist" and blogger sitting on information for eight months, then accepting a job from the people who he protected (partially by calling those who didn't think the secret USL bidders were great as spewing "ignorant discourse"), you're part of the problem.

He has been a shill for the Traffic/Cooper people for a long time while telling us how lucky we were to have him as such an intrepid blogger. Now, he'll feed his handful of buddies quotes and news, all the while secretly writing for MLS Talk, MLS Rumors and Lord knows who else.

He's a pimple on the ass of soccer discourse in this country. He makes J Hutcherson look professional and mature. He deserves every ounce of scorn for his unethical practices over the past year or so. The NASL will rue the day they hired him.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and you criticize those who don't jump to Karti's defnse as apologists when if you actually took the time to read those pieces, they featured very detailed and specific problems with his unethical handling of the entire USL/NASL/USSF mess.

People have "defend(ed) their position like grown-ups," but all Kartik can muster is silence from himself, Brian Zygo trying to change the topic and "The Gaffer" acting as if Kartik hasn't peddled in juvenile name-calling himself lo these many months.

Dan said...

It's "Priestley," you idiot.

Richard Whittall said...

Touché, touché.

Duane Rollins said...

"How are other bloggers not fair play?"


Because we aren't the damn story. Yes, in an inbred little world some people are interested to read Archer and I having another pissing contest, but those people represent such a small percentage of the overall audience that it hardly matters. Plus, the majority of bloggers are hobbyists. Calling them "stupid" or "douchebags" or whatever just makes you look like a bully.

You'll note that I'm not saying that you can't attack a blogger's idea. I just find that too many think that the way to do that is to also attack the credibility and intelligence of the writer. Doing so is juvenile.

We write about soccer. Perhaps a little perspective is in order from time to time -- attack ideas, not people.

Charley said...

this is starting out to sound like big soccer. hmmm

Anonymous said...

If you can't find any discernible difference between what Archer writes and Stollars rantings then you're obviously as dumb as he thinks you are.

Richard Whittall said...

I've more anonymous comments on this post than any other I've written. Is it shame? It can't be shame.

Fake Sigi said...

-You'll note that I'm not saying that you can't attack a blogger's idea. I just find that too many think that the way to do that is to also attack the credibility and intelligence of the writer. Doing so is juvenile.

When another blogger is consistently wrong, misleading, an asshole, all of the above, or even egregiously so on a single occasion, that's more than enough to call them out. Not every ad hominem attack is a logical fallacy, nor is it always juvenile. And on a personal note, when I say someone is an idiot or doesn't know what they're talking about, I substantiate that claim as best I can with references and reasoning.

I'll agree that at some point it's beyond mean and no fun to keep pantsing the retarded kid at recess, so I try not to do that. Sometimes though, the flesh is weak.

Anyway, on the general "tone" of BigSoccer (the forums, not the bloggers) I don't have any real issues with the argument culture there (misogyny is another issue). There's plenty of idiots there who fill up threads with their own private hobby horse material, so I think that and lax moderating leads to the ruthless sort of vigilantism that goes on. Like the rest of the internet, there's the demand that outsiders learn the local conventions before spouting off about it. But I do think the posters there who think through their reasoning, use concrete examples, and take into account the arguments of others have a pretty easy time of it.