News and reviews of Rock n Roll Soccer

ROCK N ROLL SOCCER: The Short Life and Fast Times of the North American Soccer League, by Ian Plenderleith. This is the blog to back the book hailed as "fantastic" by Danny Kelly on
Talksport Radio, and described as a "vividly entertaining history of the league" in the Independent on Sunday. In the US, Booklist described it as "a gift to US soccer fans". The UK paperback edition published by Icon Books is now available here for just £8.99, while the North America edition published by St. Martin's Press/Thomas Dunne Books can be found here for $11.98. Thank you.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Wondrous Stupidity of Teams in Hawaii and Vegas

At the height of the Ronald Reagan era in the mid 1980s, Elvis Costello released the album ‘King of America’, including a song that sneered at the United States for being “a brilliant mistake”. I steal this phrase for the title of chapter six of Rock n Roll Soccer: ‘Brilliant Mistakes: Quicksilver teams in Vegas and Hawaii’, which examines the joyous folly of NASL franchises in improbable soccer cities. Two classic examples were Team Hawaii and the Las Vegas Quicksilvers, both of whom only lasted one season, in 1977. They came and went quicker than the Sex Pistols, though given the size of their stadiums, at least they were in no danger of selling out like a major label punk band.

Quicksilvers - easy come, easy go,
like chips at a Vegas casino
The players I talked to all fondly remembered their trips to Hawaii and Vegas, where they’d be warmly welcomed and would often stay for several days. Details of the actual games, though, are sketchy. It’s possible that a lot of players stepped out the worse for wear after a day on the beach or a night in the casinos. The only thing absolutely certain besides the small crowds and sore heads was the debilitating heat. Alan Merrick recalls his boots melting and falling apart. Las Vegas player Alan Mayer remembers that even as a goalkeeper the climate was intolerable. ‘You’d come in to the locker room and dunk your feet, with your shoes still on, straight into a bucket of cold water,’ he says. ‘At that time they didn’t have all the protective wear that keepers have today. So if you slid on Astroturf you got burnt, and you got burnt pretty well. The burns you got, I can still feel them today, they were atrocious.’

Here’s another short extract, likening the NASL’s life to a once happily married man who falls victim to the lures of that anomalous settlement in the Mojave desert.

From a writer’s point of view, naming the NASL’s team in Las Vegas the Quicksilvers seems almost too good to be true. The unpredictable, mercurial league that had tried its hand at steady growth now found itself eager to grab every opportunity to expand while the going was hot. In the early 1970s, the NASL was like a steady married man who’d settled down with a frumpy but reliable girl following a turbulent youth  filled with heady heartbreak [the late 60s]. Then, all of a sudden, the steady married man went on a trip to, let’s say, Vegas, and was reminded of how exciting things used to be. The married man forgot about all the accumulated stability he had worked so hard to build back in his home town, and found himself gambling inadvisable sums in a casino, while drinking reckless amounts of alcohol. There were strippers sitting on his lap, and all kinds of temptations and distractions that came with the strippers. Sure, it was just a brief fling, and all details would stay within Vegas, but once Mr Steady had renewed his taste for the high life, would the lapse into decadence become a pattern that would usher in eventual divorce and ruination?

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