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An open letter to Matt Zencey

Photo: Earl Gardner

This weekend, the Inquirer published an op-ed in which the author explains why soccer bores him and does his best to otherwise poop on our season-opening parade.  Haters, as they say, gon’ hate.  That doesn’t mean we have to take it lying down.

Dear Mr. Zencey,

Congratulations are in order. Anti-soccerism is a syndrome we soccer lovers are more than familiar with, but in your capacity as a journalist, you’ve managed to articulate the most callow and infantile complaints against the game with more eloquence, but somehow less originality, than any of the knuckle-dragging sports xenophobes whose arguments rarely go beyond online trolling. If any of them made sense, your op-ed would almost have been worth writing, and very nearly worth the minute or two you’ve stolen from everyone who expects the Inquirer to print meaningful commentary.

That’s not to say that everyone needs to like soccer. If it’s not your cup of tea, join the club. (It’s a huge club.) That said, for you to argue against soccer as somehow objectively inferior based on a string of arguments that are as unsound as they are tired is crossing the line between expressing an opinion and severely overestimating its worth.

And you do argue just that, despite an afterthought about not “begrudging” us, in your infinite grace, our enthusiasm. You claim that “an hour and a half” is too much time to invest if it’s only to see one of Philadelphia’s major professional teams “– hold your breath — score a goal or two.”

What about that rationale seemed cogent enough to warrant its being dusted off and dragged into 2013 from its rightful place in the previous century? Are you under the impression that, in being printed, it becomes more valid a point than when it’s slurred from the mouths of the bitter holdouts whose only real objection to soccer is that it’s new around here?

If any soccer fan could condescend to challenge your poor excuse for a premise, they’d only need to point out the amount of touchdowns scored for every hour and a half that passes during a football game, or the amount of athleticism that even you admit is on display so rarely in a baseball game, or the fact that the Union’s popularity is eclipsing that of the 76ers, despite the fact that a given NBA game has a score line in the low thousands.  None of which is to suggest that those games aren’t legitimate and exciting pastimes if you’re into them. Hell, some people like curling; that doesn’t evince a need to point out its alleged shortcomings.

Finally, your entreaty to not let Philly’s rising tide of soccer fandom “unleash the same violent passions and hooliganism that sometimes erupt in Europe and Latin America” is either a joke you’re having at the expense of anyone gullible enough to take it seriously, or a particularly lazy attempt to meet some word quota. Soccer is no more likely to incite violence in Philadelphia than Quidditch (probably less likely, really).  As you point out, this town doesn’t need inspiration from abroad to take fandom to a dangerous level, and even abroad soccer is only the backdrop for, and not the cause of, their woes. But you probably already know all that.

Something convinced you that your distaste for soccer was worth writing about at the start of the fourth season of a game that means as much to its fans as anything means to anyone in this area’s sports scene. Maybe it was hubris. Maybe you didn’t have anything to write about. Maybe it was a streak of contrariness brought on by the recent attention given in the Inquirer to the upcoming film about the Sons of Ben, the grassroots group whose passion for the game created the Philadelphia Union out of pure will. Whatever it was, keep it to yourself next time.


A Union Fan


  1. No mention of Porcupines? 😉

    Well said.

  2. It isn’t really worth writing a response too. So much journalism is just clickbait trolling these days. It is just better to let it slide and try not to let it effect you. The angrier you get the more eyeballs to draws to the page the more they will be encouraged to do it again.

    Soccer sells its self. so Fuck em.

  3. I wholeheartedly invite this Mr. Zencey to a game so he can experience it for himself. That way we can brutally execute him on national TV.

    Seriously though, all kidding aside, well written Conor!

  4. Good point about American football. I’ve spent countless hours defending soccer, and have somehow never managed to think of that…

  5. Matt Zency isn’t even a blip on anyone’s sports radar. Soccer and the Union will be around long after he’s compost.

  6. Given that Matt Zencey’s latest book is about how liberal Sarah Palin was as governor, I’m pretty sure he’s just in it for the trollz. Blame the Inquirer for thinking that piece was worth printing. On a completely unrelated note, why isn’t Mike Magee in the national team picture?

  7. You didn’t point out the clear misrepresentation of the Escobar situation… which would completely ruin any reputation he had of being a former journalist to nothing…

    I am kind of upset over that.

  8. Just a thought, from a Dad and Fan
    Another reason I’m glad to be Union fan and soccer supporter and what happen to make my wife and daughters ones too.
    MLS Opening day Union vs. SKC, I get five tickets for myself and four of my friends. These are guys that for the Eagles, Flyers, and Phillies will tailgate all day because they are real sports. At the last minute they bailed I guess it was too cold for them.
    So I‘ve got four tickets. That I don’t want to waste in step the wife and three daughter’s only 1 is a fan and she plays. So I joined the SoB I get tickets for the Stache Bash/tailgate party. Wife kids get dragged out in the cold from 11 AM to the 3 PM tailgating with other Union fans and the SoB at PPL Park listen to the bands eating and kicking the ball around starting to have fun but very cold time. Anyone with significant other and has had to listen to them complains about the cold knows where I’m at (dog house).
    From kick off to the final whistle they sat bundled up and surprise they began to cheer and even Dooped for the Union. With the Union losing 3-1 in favor SKC and fare weather fans leaving the stands to head home. I asked family if they wanted to leave and was told “NO, We’re staying” they wanted to stay and see the finish 4 minutes were to be added which never got played. They made their way down towards the field to see the players up close and clapped as the players applauded the fans still in the stands.
    Then as we made our way to leave the stadium our youngest asked if she could try to get players autographs she ran to the River End hopping to catch just one player before they had all left the field and at the corner one player (Le Toux) had returned coming back out into the cold to meet with fans.
    My youngest got her jersey signed and picture taken with a French player who had come home to live and play in Philly. That Player and the Union Club that brought him back made my wife and other daughters’ fans for life, seeing the look on youngest one’s face as she lit up with joy. She posed with Le Toux holding her newly signed jersey. That warmed them up a little from the cold night air. They never got it until this night this game. The wife, girls, and I talked about the game the whole 2 hour ride back to Jersey. They all asked when the next home game was and could we go. So for the guy that wrote the article that spawned open letter. I’ve got four more soccer fans from one Opening day game that could only be made better if the Union had won and it been a little warmer.

    • Great story. Le Toux seems like a real class act. He is taking some heat (including from me) but there is no question he is good for the franchise and seems like a good guy.

  9. Genius my Union friend, genius! Super letter, i’m sure this has given the jumped up little sh*t head the idea that soccer is open to everyone from anywhere! Does he not realise the fans go for a reason, that reason not being because they’re forced to go. I will give you a handshake and a beer when i see you next! Lets DOOP all over this Mr Matt Zencey!

  10. Roger Allaway says:

    Unlike Matt Zencey, Jim Rome and others, I’ve never felt a desire to shout from the rooftops about what I don’t like. For example, it would take one hell of an ego for me to imagine that there is anybody out there who gives a damn what I think about lima beans. Zencey should take a few deep breaths and get some perspective.

  11. Zencey thinks soccer is boring? Does he read his own writing?? Bet he can see Russia from his window too. Dork.

  12. Hey did Zencey post that on the internet? you know what they say…. if it’s on the internet it must be true! Soooo soccer rules! there I said it…eat that Zencey! Great fun at the opener! And Seba scoring the 1st goal was worth braving the cold for!

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