CARSON, CA - OCTOBER 16: On the field vs. on the interwebs (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
A quick peek behind the curtain, if you will. In the world of professional sports, hype is an inevitability, especially considering the amount of money involved. Alongside the hype, though, is the also inevitable backlash, such that people even tire, if not necessarily scoff at, the seemingly-constant brilliance of Lionel Messi. I noticed the warring factions between hype and backlash myself this week, and how sometimes the desire to know the quality of a new player just doesn't beat seeing him with one's own eyes.
New Chivas USA signing John Alexander Valencia has a lot of expectations attached to his arrival. He is a big center back, and while it is unfair to compare players from the same country who play the same position, I know I was one who had at least some hope he could be at least reminiscent of, if not exactly like, Real Salt Lake defender Jamison Olave, a dominant center back also from Colombia.And while his arrival comes in the midst of a lot of squad turnover and even a couple of other South American signings, the dire state of Chivas' defense at the end of the 2011 season means upgrades are not only necessary, they are essential to improving in 2012. So I am eager, like many Chivas fans, to see what he could do.
On Thursday, I was poking around Twitter, and found a surprising stream of tweets from Colombian soccer fans. I was really surprised at what I saw, especially considering how well regarded Valencia was by the Chivas coaches and General Manager Jose Domene when the signing was announced. I sent out a tweet that day: "Cause for concern? Colombians on Twitter are slamming the complements paid to John Valencia by
#ChivasUSA. Their message: Good riddance. :/" The overwhelming tone among those tweets was that not only was Valencia not a very good player, but that Robin Fraser and Domene were not very bright for being bamboozled into signing Valencia.
A few people responded to my tweet, and while discussing it, I realized a few possibilities were at play: first, the fans were right, he was a bad defender and they were glad to see him leaving Atletico Junior. Second, they could be fans of other Colombian teams, and so they were trolling Junior fans. Third, they could be idiots. That last possibility sounds pretty harsh, but consider this: what if people in other countries took a look at the American sports landscape through twitter? Let's take an example of the NBA, since Los Angeles is a basketball town. If you were to look at the tweets concerning the Lakers and Clippers, you would see a bizarre mix of tweets in support, tweets against, and a few well-reasoned tweets mixed in with trash talk and worse. One tweet would declare Kobe Bryant the best player in history, while the next may consider him horrible. You know how it goes. Truthfully, he's one of the best players in history, but if you don't root for the Lakers or like some of his actions in his personal life, than you are not inclined to give him credit.
I think a similar principle is at work with the anti-Valencia tweets coming from Colombia. Although if he turns out to be a terrible player, they will have the last word, but I think the tone of sports tweets among fans means their opinions of him should be taken with a giant boulder of salt. After all, if we listened to fans of other MLS teams about Chivas, the team should have been shut down two days after it was created, a sentiment that I think continues to come up on average about five times a week that I see (and I'm sure there's far more out there that I don't even see).
Meanwhile, Valencia was on the field in game action for the first time on Friday in their scrimmage against the Ventura County Fusion in Oxnard. I wasn't at the game, and unfortunately the stream that was made available for the match was of such a poor quality that I couldn't really follow who was who on the field. So I have to continue to rely upon the word of others, and Adam Serrano, in his recap of the match on the league website, thought he played well on Friday. I trust Adam's assessments of players, so this first look gives me a great deal of hope, although I still need to see him for myself to really make a confident assessment.
This anecdote probably falls in the category of the rather obvious, but I think it is important to occasionally stop and take perspective of how we discuss the sport, not only within the United States and Canada and specifically MLS, but also how it is discussed around the world. I don't think Colombians are any different than the rest of us in their opinions, but I have to remember there's a difference between somebody who has an opinion, and somebody who is willfully trying to be a jerk. For the sake of Chivas, I hope the tweets I saw Thursday reflect the latter, but time will tell which kind of fans I encountered on a random day on twitter.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!