Ron Artest was amnestied, Dwight Howard wanted to “have fun again” and Steve Nash worked out for Inter Milan?
While his workout on Tuesday was something that could remove another starter from a deteriorating Lakers’ lineup, don’t expect Nash to jump ship like Howard.
Inter Milan is a professional soccer club in Italy’s Serie A league that is based in Milan. It has hosted elite soccer players like Kaka and Ronaldinho. So what makes a two-time NBA MVP something of interest for Inter Milan?
Well, the fact that he can dribble with his feet sure helps.
The Canadian point guard is an avid soccer fan who just so happens to be talented at both sports. Nash has mentioned in interviews before that he would have played soccer professionally if it wasn’t for basketball. And while Nash most likely won’t make the team, there is some good here that Major League Soccer (MLS) may want to take advantage of.
The popularity of soccer in the U.S. has been thought to be on the rise the past few years, but the MLS and its clubs are seeing much of the same when it comes to ratings and attendance.
Former NFL wideout Chad Ochocinco had a four-day tryout with the MLS’s Sporting KC in March of 2011 but failed to make the club. Ochocinco admitted that his speed was simply not enough to compete with the other players trying out. Nash worked out for the New York Red Bulls in the past, but his other career prevented him from wearing a Red Bulls jersey long-term.
While one tryout was just for fun, Nash said his most recent tryout fulfilled a lifelong dream. That begs the question, what keeps the MLS from fulfilling a dream of its own and garnering a fan base that resembles those of the mainstream professional sports?
The answer to that can be found in the pool of players that play other sports professionally in the United States. Nash may be the most recent player to tryout for a soccer club, but for the sake of the MLS and its increasing popularity, he shouldn’t be the last.
Soccer is a sport that involves a great deal of conditioning and athleticism, just like football, baseball and basketball. The conditioning and athleticism is already present in any football, baseball or basketball athlete who played soccer earlier in their athletic lives. All the MLS and its teams would need to do is open their checkbooks and find the ex-soccer players among the NBA, MLB and NFL.
Those most likely interested in doing this would be those near the end of retirement and athletes in between contracts. Although I’m certain there will be a portion of soccer purists who detest the very idea of this, I think there are a lot of people who are on the fringe of being a fan of an MLS soccer team but haven’t yet been given a reason to fill the seats and watch the games.
It seems that every country but the U.S. has a hunger and passion for the game of soccer that rivals and often outdoes the fandom of football fans and baseball fans within the states. With the MLS forming in 1996, many potential soccer fans have paid more attention to the players and teams in a sport that they already root for and often see in the media, instead of following a new game like soccer.
The idea may be a bit outlandish, but with the NBA, NFL and MLB firmly rooted into American culture, soccer seems to be at a disadvantage that may take decades to overcome.