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Looking for Feedback on soccer column

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by DGRollins, Mar 16, 2012.

  1. DGRollins

    DGRollins Member

    I try to post here once a year or so. I'd love feedback on this.

    This was written for a national audience for a soccer specific readership. It's an online publication. The names used in the article would be known to the readers.


    Start --

    There is little doubt that Vancouver knows how to throw a good party. The Olympic city did itself proud last month, drawing about 160,000 people out to the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying event, despite several lopsided games and little on-field drama.

    Not only did the Lower Mainland support the tournament, they did so wearing Canadian red and white – the Maple Leaf was omnipresent in the stands of BC Place throughout. There were heroes (goal-scoring Christine Sinclair and heart-warming Team Haiti) and villains (“turncoat” Sydney Leroux and high-fiving Pia Sundhage).

    Most importantly, the good guys got the job done. Canada is going back to its second straight Olympics and erased some of the bad memories of Germany 2011.

    So, CSA General Secretary Peter Montopoli would have been forgiven if he hoped that he could have escaped the post-tournament press conference without having to answer the question of when the Canadian men would make its return to British Columbia. He also would have been delusional if he thought there was any possibility of that happening.

    The reason Montopoli would have wanted to avoid the question is because he would have known that the crowd would not like his answer.

    “You have to look at the surface that you’re playing on,” Montopoli said, “You have to take a look at where the players are coming from, and where we’re playing [around the home games]. There’s a number of parameters. I will say that certainly the matches we’ve played in Toronto, there is a bit of a home field advantage. Players are very comfortable playing in that environment and everything that’s around there – the infrastructure, the hotel, accommodation, meals, the transportation. They’re very comfortable in that environment.”

    Or, to paraphrase: “Build a grass stadium then…maybe.”

    When you’re west of Kenora, talking about how much you really like Toronto is never the best way to win over a crowd. Reaction to the statement, which pretty much ruled out any men’s World Cup qualifying games being played in Western Canada or B.C. anytime soon, was predictable: frustration mixed with in with a dash of regional resentment.

    It’s understandable. After all, Vancouverites had just packed BC Place with 25,427 people for the final, with about 24,000 cheering on the home team, to watch what was essentially a friendly. Those that had been paying attention last fall would have remembered a half-empty BMO Field in Toronto for the second round of men’s World Cup qualifying.

    Points about hotel infrastructure, flight times from Europe and, especially, playing surfaces don’t have the same emotional pull that a big, pro-Canadian crowd does. A fan in Vancouver doesn’t want to hear those “excuses.” They just want to know why the CSA seems prepared to “screw” them in favour of Ontario again.

    It’s almost irrelevant whether the position of the CSA (which is really just reporting the preference of the players and men’s coaching staff to play games in Toronto) is correct. It probably is. In World Cup qualifying, the needs of fans are the last thing that should be considered in scheduling matches. Regardless, there is an issue here that absolutely needs to be addressed.

    The CSA needs to find a way to keep the fans that were excited by cheering for Canada engaged. The best way to do that is to play games close to where they live. If you can get them in the stadium, chances are they buy merchandise, maybe watch a future match on TV and in some cases get on planes to support the team elsewhere.

    If the CSA ignores the West they risk indifference, or possibly even hostility, from would-be fans.

    So, how can the CSA accommodate both the needs of the players and the desires of Western-based supporters? Is there a way to make Vancouver and the West feel included while respecting the wishes of the players to play in the East?

    The most obvious answer might be to base the women out of Vancouver. It’s likely they will be playing preparation friendlies in Canada in the run-up to London. Those games should absolutely be in Vancouver.

    However, that doesn’t solve the problem of the men’s absence.

    The solution might take some compromise and understanding. The qualifiers are too important to mess around with, but perhaps a Fall friendly against a significant opponent can be arranged. To avoid the issues with FieldTurf, the CSA could spend the money to bring in temporary grass.

    It would probably be a bit more costly than they would like, and Vancouver fans may prefer a fully competitive match. On the other hand, the CSA would be demonstrating its commitment to the West, and Western fans would have the opportunity to gather and build the community.

    Maybe one day circumstances will change and it will reflect both the players’ best interests and wishes to play a men’s World Cup qualifier in Western Canada. However, until that day comes it’s imperative to do all that is possible to give fans there a chance to see their national team.

    The West has demonstrated that it wants in; Canadian soccer needs to make sure it happens.
  2. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    You had a point, made it succinctly and used logic as your basis. That made this a fine column. More reporting would have been nice and validated the practicality of bringing the men's team to British Columbia, but not every news organization is built around reporting.

    A lot of the column was based on insider-level knowledge, but if you're audience is a bunch of Canadian soccer fans, you're good to go.

    Some critical advice: I think you really need to tighten your wording. Fewer clauses make a column easier to read. You also use quote marks at least three places where they were unnecessary: the paraphrase of the lead quote, then twice in the paragraph about screwing British Columbia fans. You hedge your opinions with qualifiers where they're unnecessary. All these things hurt your logos and pathos while dragging down the writing.
  3. JPW

    JPW New Member

    I agree that there are some places where you hedge your strongest opinions with extra phrases so as to lessen the impact. This is a crutch I have caught myself using before. If you believe something is right then go for it and say it.

    Also I agree that in some ways there is a lot of pretty specific knowledge needed to get into this column. As a soccer fan, I understood it, but I think some more detail on the players' hatred for fieldturf could be useful. You mention that as one of the main reasons for them not playing in the West, but don't explain why players dislike it or to what extent.

    Also one thing I thought could be more clear is that the tournament you describe in the lede is a women's tournament. Obviously the female names should give it away, but you even say the "good guys got the job done." Just one mention of this would make things much more clear once you transition into the bulk of the piece where referring to the team means the men.

    Other than those things, I enjoyed the piece a great deal and felt like it took a good, logical stance on an issue that fans are obviously very passionate about. Quality work.
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