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San Diego Sportscene

Incredible Postgame Hype Hurts Sockers' Credibility

March 30, 1985|DAVE DISTEL | Times Staff Writer

Everyone loves a carnival, right? Step right up, ladeez and gentlemen . . . See the bearded lady, dog with horns, barking cow . . .

Such flim-flammery is commonplace in the pseudo-sports of professional wrestling and roller derby. It's show biz, baby, theatrics at the lowest level.

The post-event dialogue at these things is perfectly suited for Brutus Beefcake and Hulk Hogan. Grab that microphone and work the multitudes into a frenzy. The hope is maybe, just maybe, the folks will return to the carnival once again.

Sadly, there is another area of bluster and bravado outside of the bruised roller skaters or abused wrestlers, an area not a part of those vaudevillian worlds.

Ladeez, and gentleman. Presenting indoor soccer . . .

All too often after Socker games this season, coaches and players alike did their Hulk Hogan imitations, talking about other coaches and players in a way that sounded like canned carnival hype. There seemed to be a steady eruption of postgame diatribe.

It isn't expected that opposing teams exchange hearts and flowers and chummy salutations. But such inflamed dialogue is so rare in both baseball and football that it makes big headlines when it happens.

Only once in recent memory did either Padres or Chargers leave the field vowing physical vengeance on their adversaries. That, of course, was after the Padres and Atlanta brawled last August. And that occasion was universally condemned for its ugliness.

When the combatants cooled off last summer, and after numerous fines and suspensions were levied, all parties swore there would be no future conflict. They argued that they had made their remarks in the heated aftermath. The same teams were to play six of the most docile games in baseball history in the last month of the season.

Maybe that is the way it is in soccer as well. Maybe it is a matter of screaming and yelling and then going out together for a beer. Somehow, it would be easier to stomach if the anger would be more genuine.

Of course, a lot of pushing and shoving happens during the games. Soccer is a physical game, and a burst of temper here and there is understandable. Remarkably, and thankfully, it has not been a sport noted for any outright fisticuffs--at least not west of the Atlantic Ocean or north of the Equator.

Nevertheless, all the post-game rhetoric denigrates the sport.

Indoor soccer has become very popular in San Diego. When the Clippers were here, playing ersatz professional basketball, the Sockers outdrew them consistently, sometimes in multiples of five. Attendance is down a bit this season, presumably because owner Bob Bell disposed of some popular players.

Most of them come back tonight with the Las Vegas Americans, and therein, it would seem, lies the crux of the ramblings.

One of those players, Juli (Don't Spell Me Julie) Veee, happened to be perhaps the Sockers' most popular player. He remained popular in spite of his departure. Meanwhile, Steve Zungul, his successor, was struggling to be accepted.

When last the Americans visited here, Veee went out of the way to head-butt Zungul in the back. It was in the fourth quarter of a close game, and the ludicrous misdeed resulted in a two-minute penalty that took Las Vegas out of the game.

Veee, the erstwhile hero, became an instant villain. And Zungul, the wronged party, was suddenly the recipient of sympathy--and cheers.

"I've never seen fans change so fast in my life," the beleaguered Bell said after the game. "It's unbelievable. I'll stop getting hate mail now. It sure takes a load off my back."

But it also might create a little skepticism in people's minds. Heroes and villains being instantly created by outlandish acts conjure up images of roller derby and professional wrestling.

Indoor soccer in San Diego already suffers from garish pregame introductions and the hype-and-holler announcing, both of which would be more fitting for a circus midway. It certainly doesn't need phony postgame oratory and verbal cheap shots. After all, isn't the game supposed to played with the feet, not the mouth.

If it's supposed to be a carnival, let's get Andre the Giant to be the goalkeeper. Nobody would get a kick past him. Just out of him.

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