By Morganne Gagne
It’s no secret that soccer popularity in America pales in comparison to other sports. Football, baseball, basketball, and hockey all make the list of favorites before the world’s most beloved game. However, the Free Beer Movement is hoping to change this, one beer at a time.
The Free Beer Movement is a grassroots movement of American soccer fans looking to educate not-yet-converted, but willing, friends, family, and co-workers in exchange for a free beer. It works on a simple pay-it-forward philosophy: If you’re an avid soccer fan, buy a newbie a beer and educate them on the ways of soccer. If someone bought you a beer, go do it for someone else. Will this actually work? The FBM believes that although on a person-by-person basis, it may seem insignificant, the movement will grow as each new fan commits themselves to the Free Beer Philosophy. The only way to create a country where soccer is mainstream, popular, and enjoyed by a significant portion of the population is to steadily grow a supportive fan base that actually attends, watches, and enjoys soccer matches.
While I grew up playing soccer (like most suburban American children whose parents were looking to give them an afterschool activity), it was never the sport for me. I hate running, and I was never able to master anything beyond the toe kick. Although my soccer career as a player ended in high school, I found myself refereeing youth games to make a little extra cash. At first, I refereed for the money, but I soon realized that there was an unexplainable force that pushed me to pack my weekend full of games, drive across state for tournaments, and even agree to officiate games in early March when the ground was still frozen (I’m from Boston) and my fingers were too numb to hold onto my whistle. The game of soccer is beautiful, and I truly loved refereeing it. My reffing days ended when I moved away to college and the academic rigors of Duke took over. My passion for soccer dissolved with it. Now, I fall smack dab in the middle of the Free Beer Movement’s target demographic. Love beer? Check. (And bring on the hops!) Not a huge soccer fan anymore but willing for that to change? Double check. For me, free beer is the perfect incentive to give soccer another chance.
For this reason, I was overjoyed when I stumbled across The Free Beer Movement’s blog. The FBM actively educates its members with a full-featured blog on all things American soccer. They attract the casual reader by using clever, punny feature names – my favorites include “Happy Hour,” “DrinkWear,” “The After Bar,” and “6PK Interviews.” However, the blog also satisfies the soccer diehard with links to analysis from some of American soccer’s best writers.
My favorite feature undoubtedly has to be the “Best of Both Worlds” section whose articles focus on when soccer and beer collide. It tactfully combines information about matches, teams, or players with great beers and local breweries. The most recent article prepared fans for the USMNT’s international friendly match against Bosnia and Herzegovina, which took place on August 14. At the time, the US had just scored a victory in the Gold Cup and was 19th in the world ahead of Mexico, which the FBM compared to “beating your little brother in a race for a spot in line for a roller coaster ride then realizing you’re still behind all the older kids.” Spot on and hilarious. To face the “dragons” of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the FBM appropriately recommends two heavy-hitting stouts: Middle Ages’ “Dragon Slayer” and New Holland’s “Dragon’s Milk.” The aggressively-flavored beers would be needed for the aggressive match and strong US performance against the #13-ranked team. The writing perfectly exemplifies the atmosphere that the FBM is trying to achieve. The casual style, laced clever quips and jeers, makes me feel as though I’m actually sitting at a bar about to watch a match with a good friend.
The FBM has provided excellent coverage of the recent World Cup qualifying matches. The “The After Bar” section briefly summarizes the game, includes a YouTube video of the highlights, and links to in-depth articles and player ratings. The variety of material attracts the full spectrum of soccer fans. The casual fan can watch the most exciting 5-10 minutes of game (and then pretend to know what they’re talking about), while the hardcore soccer nut can read about player performance, tactical analysis, and match implications. It is truly impressive for a blog to have this widespread of appeal, and I look forward to coverage continuing through the World Cup.
This blog also tackles the larger issue of why soccer isn’t popular in America. In the special “Brews and Views” series, the FBM calls upon diverse voices of the soccer world to share their thoughts. I particularly liked Miriti Murungi’s (NutmegRadio.com) contribution because he draws attention to the fact that the MLS has only been around since 1996. That’s only 5,700 days. Considering that in 1995 the average MLS attendance was 0 and has since grown to roughly 17,000 today, Murungi is optimistic about the future of American soccer, arguing:
At the beginning, few could confidently say that Major League Soccer would succeed; few could envision a US men’s national team consistently in the knockout stages of the World Cup; few could envision a Women’s World Cup. But against the odds, all of these fantasies have become reality, and we’re only at the beginning.
With articles like these, the FBM builds an excellent case for American soccer, and I believe the movement is a step in the right direction.
If you’re like me and need a reason to fall in love with soccer, I highly recommend perusing the FBM blog. It offered me all the necessary equipment to play the game; now, all I need is a free beer to step onto the field. Who’s with me?