Where Have You Gone Kyle Rote Jr ?

January18/ 2000

… The #1 Rule to be a clever sports pundit is the obligatory “Why isn’t soccer a big deal in the USofA?” column.  I don’t want to lose my “sports pundit” handicapped parking sticker so here goes.  It could be worse … The Rules also require a “do away with the designated hitter” column too.  This one is funnier … trust me.  With due respect to Simon & Garfunkel, Kyle Jr. never quite reached “Joltin’ Joe” status.

 NOTE:  Despite the sarcastic tone of this column, I DO NOT DISLIKE SOCCER … unless the UNC faculty squirrels or Cindy Sheehan likes it … then I don’t like it.  Otherwise I think it is a very fine sport especially for little kids to play while their pretty mammas sit in folding chairs and read Danielle Steele novels.


   The seminal event in USA Soccer history occurred in 1999 when Brandi Chastain ripped off her jersey in the Rose Bowl.  NOT “the Cosmos signing Franz Beckenbauer” or “Freddie Abu asking Michelle Wie to the prom”.    A LOT of genuine sports fans can tell you “where they were” when Brandi ripped her shirt off.  Those same pervs can tell you “where they were” when they saw that headline “Two Cheerleaders In A Toilet Stall”.

The 2nd “greatest Soccer-related event” in America was the appearance of Posh Spice w/ hubby David Beckham at Bellagio’s last Fall.  Posh did NOT remove her shirt.

Any discussion of “Soccer in ‘This Country’” begins with H.L. Hunt’s son Lamar.  H.L. Hunt was a Texas oil “tycoon” (what is the difference between a tycoon, a mogul, and a magnate?) and Lamar was the “son of a tycoon”.  Lamar owns the Kansas City Chiefs and, his real footnote in history, NAMED THE SUPER BOWL after his daughter’s “super ball”.  But for the grace of God that game could be called “The Yo Yo Bowl”.

Lamar was driving around far, fashionable North Dallas in the early 70s and saw “scads” of young white kids “playing soccer”.  Lamar was a budding entrepreneur and thought “hey, all these kids PLAYING soccer will grow up and really like WATCHING other people play soccer.” It made sense, but so did casting Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty in Ishtar.  The long range net gate receipts have been about the same for both ventures.

So Lamar funded the NASL (North American Soccer League) and handpicked handsome Kyle Rote Jr to be the face of American Soccer.  Kyle Jr played at SMU which coincidentally is where Lamar went to school and really near Lamar’s house.

Kyle Jr is/was the son of Kyle Rote Sr who played for the New York Football Giants as a teammate of Mr Kathy Lee Gifford aka Frank.  Kyle looked like he fell off a Wheaties box so he was perfect.  He could read, write and speak English.  Remember this was a waaay long time ago … 30+ years.  Tiger Woods was yet unborn and neither Roger Clemens nor Michael Jordan had retired for the first time.

Lamar named Kyle’s team The Dallas Tornado.  People came to see the first 2-3 games and most haven’t been back since.  Kyle gained more glory on Superstars … a schlock TV thing pitting pro athletes against each other in oddball events … the concept of watching Oscar Bonavena and Willie Shoemaker compete in a 3-legged race over a shark tank might work in today’s market.  It did outdraw soccer.

Superstars led to American Gladiators which had ‘roided up gals and guys named Storm and Zeus and Phallus and Mammary riding zip lines into vats of flaming jello … and also drew more viewers than soccer ever has EXCEPT when Brandi did her thing in Pasadena.

The NASL had its obligatory “New York” franchise … the Cosmos.  They imported “big names” like Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Johann Cruyff to be Cosmos.  Every Brazilian, German and Dutch guy in Greater New York came to see the first 2-3 games, then they started charging for tickets and everybody went back to whatever they were dojng before Johann and Franz came to Gotham.

Zipping right along.  Your faithful pundit stuck a Swaggerian toe in the “when they grow up they will want to WATCH soccer” pool in the late 70s.  The Greater Kansas City Sports Commission appointed “moi” as point man to bring a MISL (Major Indoor Soccer League) franchise to KC.  We even had a name – The Cavalry.  I still have the 100 business cards we printed up with BL Swagger – General Manager – Kansas City Cavalry on’em.  “Indoor soccer” was marketed as “human pinball” in the first effort to popularize “soccer in America” by changing everything they possibly could about “soccer” in order to attract real ticket-buying fans.  Soccer “purists” were appalled but the 27 of those living in America in the 70s attracted as little attention as did their sport.

Lamar was right about one thing.  All those kids playing soccer in North Dallas in the 70s DID grow up with a desire to “watch soccer” IF their own toe-headed little sons and daughters were playing it … otherwise, no thanks … lets watch poker or crab fishing in the Bering Sea.  How about a World Cup of King Crab Fishing?

   The most significant impact of Soccer in America is its direct stimulus to the sale of mini-vans. 

Soccer has not caught on here as a spectator sport for ALL those litany of reasons that pundits have listed for going on forty years now … blah, blah, blah.  Yes, more “people in America” have watched this year’s World Cup than any other year. BECAUSE a bazillion more Mexicans, assorted other Latinos and Caribs now live in America.  

I think soccer is a very fine sport.  and I think anchovies are a nice pizza topping.  I think Anson Dorrance is a minor deity deserving of his own bobblehead doll.  I am glad Mia Hamm’s husband Nomar got into the All-Star Game.  And I wonder how Johann Cruyff feels about the designated hitter?

“Suicide Is Painless” was the theme song for what TV show?


 BLS sez …

 No boy, no matter how curious, 

REALLY wants to see his mother nekkid.


   Jane Fonda played a hooker in TWO movies.  Klute was the one we wanted but apparently she also plied the oldest profession in Walk On The Wild Side.   No one knows exactly what Barbarella was?

   MEGA KUDOS to two recent SSays column subjects … Jaime “Joy” Pressley and Greg “President Logan” Itzen both got Emmy nominations announced on Thursday.  Can we pick the rising stars OR WHAT!

   Our RBC column stirred up a few loons.  One notorious board CaroLoon (who is a VIP BobLee Buddy!) tried “at least OUR Arena (Dean Dome) has the OFFICIAL school color”.  Oops … there is NO OFFICIAL Carolina Blue … even Ye Olde Legend admitted tweaking the PMS chart to suit his purpose.

   LOTS of you recognized the line from The Old North State … the State song … which we are willing to bet has not been sung in a NC public school in 20 years.

   Go see Pirates Of The Caribbean … but don’t expect it to be as good as the first one … it isn’t.  Kid came out FURIOUS at Jerry Bruckheimer.

   BobLee’s BIG Inside The N&O dealie starts on Monday.  Indeed, BLS will be on the Front Page Committee each day (until they throw him out).

   Want to e-mail BobLee?

[email protected]

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