It has been a four-decade journey to making peace with soccer. I had never seen a moment of the fancy footwork in person until 1976, when the Minnesota Kicks surfaced at Met Stadium.
I was covering baseball and also writing a Thursday general sports column for the St. Paul Dispatch. The madness of youth filling the Met was too astounding to ignore, and I got out there for a contest on an early-summer night.
The debauchery in the parking lot was entertaining, but the game? Uff da.
I did cover a handful of matches when the World Cup was held in the United States in 1994, and it was much fun interviewing the hard-partying foreign fans in parking lots.
The first game attended was Ireland vs. Italy at Giants Stadium on June 18, 1994. I was mingling with my mother’s people, the Irish, and they were outraged at the lack of World Cup media coverage the previous day.
“We turn on the telly and, every station, all we see is this white lorry driving ’round and ’round,’ ” one well-lubricated gent said. “What is wrong with you Yanks?”
I explained that we Yanks tend to get worked up when a Heisman Trophy winner is suspected of double murder.
The pending World Cup led to another attempt to provide the United States with a higher level of professional soccer. The formation of Major League Soccer was announced in 1993, and the first season was contested in 1996.
Two decades later, the league is a success, and the Twin Cities finally have a chance to be a participant.
It is incomprehensible the same politicians — including Gov. Mark Dayton — who gave us the scam of electronic pulltabs to cover the state’s hefty share of the Taj Ma Zygi, that signed off on $52 million in public money to pay for a ballpark for a club that’s a step below minor league, have bellowed there won’t even be chump change to make sure America’s version of big-league soccer returns here after a 35-year absence.
They are amazing dimwits over there at the Capitol.
The lead of this piece contains an unforced error. I was looking through some packets of clips from my days in St. Paul -- for the sake of posterity -- and was shocked to discover this:
I covered the semifinals and finals of the state soccer tournament in early November 1975. Richfield defeated Cretin (no Derham Hall merger yet) and Mariner defeated Edina West in the semifinals. Richfield then defeated Mariner for the title, in what was claimed to be a state-record soccer crowd of 3,000 at Richfield High.
Mariner was the short-lived second high school in White Bear Lake, and West was the second high school in Edina. That's right, isn't it? West was the new school, and East was the home of the Cake-eaters we all loathed for winning everything.
I was the Twins' beat writer then, and must have volunteered to help the Pioneer Press prep crew with this new-fangled soccer deal, because that's just the kind of a guy I was ("was'' being the operative word).
Plus Three from Patrick
An MLS franchise will put the Twin Cities in elite company as a U.S. metro area with teams in the six major leagues (others: NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, WNBA):
New York: The Gotham market has 12 teams in six leagues, including three in the NHL.
Chicago: The Windy City has seven teams in six leagues, with the Cubs and the Mighty Whiteys in baseball.
Washington, D.C.: The Beltway has a team in each league, as would the Twin Cities if Minnesota United is able to upgrade to the MLS by 2018.