Commentary

Tackling soccer and the stone casters

Updated: March 2, 2011, 2:51 AM ET
By Duff McKagan | Special to ESPN.com

A few weeks ago someone wrote on this column's comment board, asking if I could maybe write a little bit about soccer. Not being the biggest follower of the game, I would be hard-pressed to give any sort of novel stance on soccer.

[+] EnlargeBirmingham City/Arsenal
Shaun Botterill/Getty ImagesBirmingham City players celebrate their 2-1 victory over Arsenal in the League Cup final on Sunday at Wembley Stadium.

But this past weekend, I was in the United Kingdom, and thought that maybe I could ask around and see if there was some sort of angle that I was overlooking toward soccer … er, football. I have a bunch of friends over there, and they are as die-hard toward their "clubs" as I am for my Seattle teams (football, baseball, college basketball).

The rock fans in the U.K. know a lot about their bands, and my being a big sports fan is no tiny secret over there. In every city from Dublin to Glasgow, and Liverpool to London, I have been pleaded with to outwardly root for whichever city's soccer team. And they give presents, too. As a result of this combination, I have a jersey, hat, socks or a banner from about every imaginable team in the U.K. and Ireland.

So, back to this past weekend.

On Friday night, I land in London and promptly get driven the 100 or so miles north to Birmingham. My friend Tom picks me up for the ride. I tell Tom that I now write for ESPN, and that I want to know how to get introduced into soccer … er, football, so that I would be interested enough to write about it. OK. "Fair enough," he says.

"What you have to understand about football is, is that the game doesn't stop like American sport(s), when it's nil-nil and the pitch is frantic with some real top hard men" -- that's what she said, I thought quickly -- "the crowd is right crazed for a bust-up." What?

Well it turned out there was going to be a League Cup championship game that Sunday between Birmingham City and Arsenal (best sports name ever, by the way). The League Cup should not be confused with the FA Cup or the Premiership or all of the other cups and championships. They don't have the defined playoff brackets like we have in the NBA or NFL or March Madness. It seems a bit confusing, but that is not hard to fathom considering the author (me).

As it turns out, Tom and I were driving back to London from B'ham that Sunday, so we tuned in to the game on his car radio. One of the announcers was a Scotsman, and therefore, I couldn't make out one word he was saying. What I did glean from this game, though, was that Arsenal was the clear-cut favorite coming into the game. Birmingham City? A big underdog. As the game went to halftime, it was tied at 1.

Naturally, the England versus India cricket match came on at that point, and I learned from Tom all about the bowlers, the wickets, the points system, and … without seeing it on a TV or live, I had no idea what he was talking about.

As our football match resumed, Birmingham City scored another goal, and ultimately upset the almighty Arsenal. I always like when an underdog wins!

I think that, ever since the U.S. team made such an exciting showing in the World Cup in South Africa, I have been looking for an introduction into soccer. I hear Seattle has a great MLS team, and I am in the U.K. and Ireland a bunch it seems.

Unfortunately for me, I just simply couldn't understand what these two announcers were really talking about -- the accents were too thick, and the crowd roared at every near goal, drowning out the sportscasters just when I was catching an audible and discernable line of thought. It was comical for me. Maybe I just need to actually go sometime. I have heard it is a sport where being there counts for a lot.

That will probably be the most soccer reporting you will get from me during my tenure here at ESPN.com. Not very good, was it?

Now, to something completely different …

Last week, a couple of people in the comments area accused me of using "meth" and heroin (in fact, those two drugs were never my choices back when I was making those dumb decisions in the late 1980s and early '90s … but I digress). And while these obviously intelligent posters may think things like this are funny, they are indeed a sign to us all that maybe it is our turn to take some responsibility for what we say on the Internet.

I say this, not for my own sake, nor because it might have hurt my feelings (it did not). I play rock music. Inherently, when you are in a band -- from your first teenage gig on -- you get told "you suck!" by one or another faceless voice in the crowd. And that's the same thing here with online news sites. Posters post with screen names, and often offer no e-mail address or other tangible information on themselves. They can cast stones at will, they are never put under a spotlight in which to examine their own lives' dirty deeds on a public forum.

But here we are, and it is 2011, and print newspapers are either dying out completely, or getting smaller by the day. The Internet is where we get our news these days.

In print papers, you must leave a full name and return address if you want to send a letter to the editors for print in the op-ed section or what-have-you. Dating back to the first U.S. newspapers in the 1600s, the village paper would leave a blank page in the back on which the townspeople could write their comments about certain articles. They would then pass that paper on to their neighbor, and that neighbor could see what "John Smith at 65 Squabble Lane" had to say. John Smith had balls enough to say what he said, and put his name and address on it, as if to say "If you don't like it, you know where to find me." But if nothing else, this whole practice bred responsible, brave and intelligent discourse.

This brings me back now to those anonymous casters of stones that we see now in the "comments" section of so many different Internet news ports. It is time for us to take up the slack and return to responsible and intelligent co-citizenry and civility.

Have some stones. Use your name. Or at the very least, leave us your e-mail address next time you are just going to sling mud without the least bit of forethought or knowledge of your subject.

Musician Duff McKagan, who writes for Seattle Weekly, has written for Playboy.com and is finishing his autobiography, writes a weekly sports column for ESPN.com.

Michael "Duff" McKagan, a founding member of Guns N' Roses, writes a weekly column for Playbook Sounds and is a passionate sports fan. McKagan is currently playing in Loaded and Velvet Revolver, is a prolific writer, including an autobiography, "It's So Easy: And Other Lies."