On this episode of Just Grizzlies, Kelcey Wright Johnson is joined by Tim Howard, the current sporting director and minority owner of Memphis 901 FC. Tim reflects on his time playing for Manchester United and Everton FC, of the Premier League and talks about the differences in fandom between England and America. He also talks about the US Men’s National Team, the way athlete’s think and approach their jobs, as well as his Tourette Syndrome diagnoses and how he aims to inspire children who have TS too.
Grind City Media’s 3-Point Stance segment is a Skype-styled conversation between 2 friends, with 2 perspectives, on 3 topics from the weekend centered on sports, entertainment and pop-culture presented by MTN Dew. On Episode 85, Jessica Benson and Jon Roser discuss:
(0:53) WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational
The WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational wrapped up this weekend with Abraham Ancer being crowned the winner after a 3-person playoff.
(4:35) Bobby Bowden
Former Head Coach of Florida State, Bobby Bowden, passed away at the age of 91. Jessica Benson and Jon Roser reflect on his long list of accomplishments from his career.
(7:09) Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona announced that he will not be returning to FC Barcelona despite cutting his salary in half. Who are some NBA players that could follow a familiar path?
Grind City Media’s 3-Point Stance segment is a Skype-styled conversation between 2 friends, with 2 perspectives, on 3 topics from the weekend centered on sports, entertainment and pop-culture presented by MTN Dew. On Episode 81, Jon Roser and Meghan Triplett discuss:
(0:33) NBA Finals
The Milwaukee Bucks, led by a fuming Giannis Antetokounmpo, stormed back Sunday night with am impressive 120-100 blowout over the Phoenix Suns in Game 3 of the NBA Finals; inching the series closer to 2-1 Suns advantage. How does this affect the series moving forward?
(3:31) UFC 264
Aside from Conor McGregor’s horrific ankle injury in the main event vs Dustin Poirier on Sunday, UFC 264 provided a lot of entertainment between celebrity appearances, Sean O’Malley’s TKO over Kris Moutinho, and “Bam Bam” Tai Tuivasa’s reaction to beating Greg Hardy.
(6:50) EURO 2020
Italy handed England a devastating loss, winning the UEFA EURO 2020 in a penalty kick shootout after only tieing the match late in the second half. How will the English players recover?
With MBappe missing a huge penalty kick against the Swiss dashing the hopes of French men and women everywhere CJ decided now would be a good time to relive some of the most heartbreaking moments across sports with Meghan and Jessica.
Grind City Media’s 3-Point Stance segment is a Skype-styled conversation between 2 friends, with 2 perspectives, on 3 topics from the weekend centered on sports, entertainment and pop-culture presented by MTN Dew. On Episode 32, Meghan Triplett and Jon Roser discuss:
0:14 Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has reportedly signed a 10-year, $450 million making it the most lucrative sports deal in history, agent says. Does this contract makes sense and what does it mean for Kansas City?
3:45 FC Dallas has pulled out of the MLS back-to-play tournament due to coronavirus concerns. What does this mean for sports returns going forwards?
8:23 Kanye West announced on twitter he is running for President. Did you take this announcement seriously?
Just over a decade ago, I decided that it was time to bet big on soccer. I was working as an editor at SLAM, the world’s leading basketball magazine, and the company that owned us was always looking for different publishing avenues to explore.
I’d been watching early morning and late night soccer from England and Europe for a few years, but it was living in New York City during the 2002 World Cup that convinced me that soccer was coming to the U.S. stay. New York is a city filled with people who’ve moved to the Big Apple not only from across the country, but also from all around the globe, and the one thing everyone seemed to agree on during the summer of 2002 was that soccer was everything.
It took some convincing, but my bosses finally went in and allowed us to launch Striker, America’s ultimate soccer magazine. We immediately found open arms from Nike and adidas, who had these global stars they were trying desperately to market domestically. We quickly got shoots and sit-downs with everyone from Landon Donovan to Patrick Viera to Thierry Henry. I went to Barcelona to run around the pitch at Camp Nou with Ronaldinho, went to Manchester to hang with Tim Howard, had lunch in Madrid with David Beckham (and Posh Spice).
After four issues, we discovered a hard truth: The magazine sold pretty well on newsstands, with each issue selling better and better. But other than the shoe companies, there really weren’t any big companies out there ready to buy ads in our magazine. And while newsstand sales are great and all, magazines do not survive on newsstand sales alone.
Striker died after one year, but soccer in America has continued gaining ground, albeit slowly. The Euro stars that MLS imported may have been aging, but they’ve helped grow the league and the sport. This is totally anecdotal, but I also believe that as more and more people move to this country from soccer-first countries, they’ve brought a love of soccer with them and passed it down to their children. It helps that these days it’s easier than ever to watch soccer—you don’t have to stay up all night to find replays with the announcers doing voiceovers from a closet in Bristol. I don’t think soccer is on the precipice of becoming America’s pastime, but it’s clearly here and not going anywhere anytime soon.
I say all that as a preamble to what I witnessed a few weeks ago here in Memphis, when our new local soccer outlet, 901 FC, kicked off their premiere season. The local baseball stadium had been transformed into a full-on soccer pitch with sign boards and plexiglass-covered benches, one of which blew away during the second half. The field was perhaps a bit patchy in places, but for a minor league team, the setup was a major league effort.
And where soccer can really shine in the States is in the user experience. That night in Memphis, fans lined up to march the streets of downtown and stand throughout the game, banging drums and giving full-throated cheers the entire night. Colored plumes of smoke soared into the sky, as someone smashed an acoustic guitar over an amplifier to commemorate the occasion. My six-year-old son got into the spirit and chanted “Defend Memphis!” although it was unclear if we were actually under attack to begin with.
I don’t really even remember if 901 FC won or lost the game—considering the team has only won 2 of their 12 games, I don’t think we won—but I do remember the experience. I remember the atmosphere and the way all these die-hard 901 FC fans, who hadn’t existed before that day, came together as one to root for their team, which also hadn’t existed before that day. At least here in Memphis, soccer has provided a canvas upon which people are able to build a community. It doesn’t matter that the team isn’t actually winning matches yet, it’s about having a place where like-minded people can meet in the middle.
In retrospect, I bet wrong. Or maybe I didn’t? One decade ago, soccer didn’t immediately blow up to the point where it could sustain a magazine. But a decade later, American soccer culture right now probably could. (You know, if magazines still existed.)
Soccer in America, and in Memphis, is for real. There are 24 teams in MLS, with more coming. Sure, there will always be soccer fans in America who believe the sport isn’t getting enough attention, who wonder why soccer isn’t leading “SportsCenter” or on the front page of the local newspaper. (You know, if newspapers still existed.) Soccer will probably never be as big in America as many of us believe it should be, but when you look today at how far it’s come just over the last decade, it’s impressive.
And isn’t that good enough?
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Lang Whitaker are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.