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What Do We Know About the World Cup, Anyway?

July 18, 1998

Grahame Jones [July 14] is wrong. He's not too old to cover soccer, he's just too jaded.

I for one am tired of reading about his disappointments with Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer. Most of his articles leave me depressed.

This is a young league and a young sport in this country and we need to approach the game with marvel and enthusiasm and most of all patience. Criticism is constructive, but relentless negativism is not. I think it's time for Mr. Jones to step aside to make room for Mike Penner, who is genuinely excited about what American soccer can be.

MEL DAMSKI, Santa Monica

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In his July 13 article, it would seem that Mike Penner's main concern rests more with the financial status of Nike than with the well-being of a young sports superstar. Mr. Penner's ignorance of the game, not to mention the arrogance in which he tries to diminish Ronaldo's inherent talent, is embarrassing for a country that barely acknowledges the existence of the World Cup or supports its own players.

TRACY DROLET, Van Nuys

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Poor Nike.

Mike Penner pities the shoe manufacturer for the millions it has invested in this year's big loser at the World Cup.

Never mind that Nike teams such as Brazil and Holland were given every conceivable break throughout the tournament, while non-Nike powers were dropping like flies because of questionable officiating.

Never mind that the semifinal between Brazil and Holland was somehow spared of a red card, when the two games preceding it and the two games following it were scourged by red cards.

Never mind that red cards wiped out the chances of three former world champions and non-Nike teams England, Argentina and Germany, making it that much easier for Brazil to repeat.

Never mind all that, because the real tragedy of this World Cup is that the Ronaldo McDonald of soccer didn't live up to the hype of all the Nike commercials featuring him.

Poor, poor Nike.

The truth is, Nike was taught a lesson at the World Cup. The World Cup isn't some Mickey Mouse league like the NBA. It's the real world.

Penner has also learned a lesson. Four years of exposure to the game of soccer means you're an amateur in this league. Your place is among soccer moms and local sportswriters who whine about the penalty shootout.

ARNO KEKS, El Monte

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I have enjoyed The Times' coverage of the World Cup.

I have enjoyed Helene Elliott's addition to the soccer-writing staff.

I have long supported Mike Penner as a replacement for the arrogant and presumably overpriced Grahame L. Jones, and with Penner's prediction for world champion having lost, 3-0, I was looking forward to reading while he ate what he wrote.

Instead, he spent his column inches taking potshots at Ronaldo. What a disappointing insult to the game, to fans and to The Times' coverage of the Cup.

It's news that Ronaldo's fitness was so vaguely described. It's boring and pathetic journalism that Penner resorts to blaming Ronaldo for it and blaming Brazil's loss on him as a result.

I know Penner plays in his Sunday journalists' league and all that, but he is still as unfamiliar with the game as he thinks Ronaldo is unused to pressure. Ronaldo's best scoring opportunity was hardly a "gimme" and wasn't shot "lamely." If Ronaldo was "jogging halfheartedly" and "shuffling idly," that would be news worth telling Thuram, Desailly, Lizarazu and Leboeuf, all of whom made one hell of a strong defensive line. I guess Rivaldo and Bebeto and Edmundo and Sampaio and Denilson were just nervous too.

MORT BUTCHER, Los Angeles

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Every few years, The Times runs a column exposing soccer's flaws and how the game will never take off in the United States. J.A. Adande is the latest to step up and spread this gospel [July 11]. Soccer is not perfect, but despite of all this, it remains the most popular sport on the planet. If soccer is destined never to achieve mass adulation by the U.S. media and sporting public, so be it! Those of us who love and follow the game do not need support from media who don't know the first thing about the beautiful game. I'd suggest J.A. stick with sports he knows a little bit more about.

SETH SHORE, Los Angeles

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A yellow card to Mr. Adande for a boring, completely unoriginal attempt at provoking soccer fans with an argument that we have heard as many times as Cantor has screamed "GOOOOOOL!" Furthermore, a red card and a two-game suspension for your reckless avoidance of facts and logic to support your opinion.

You don't like soccer? There are about as many American sports journalists who don't like soccer as there are British hooligans who have served jail time.

Americans not taking to soccer? Two or three World Cups ago, how many column inches of coverage was there in the L.A. Times? How many more inches are there this time? Do you really think your editors are dumb enough to increase coverage for a sport nobody is interested in?

PETER RATH, Los Angeles

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