By Mark Concannon Special to Published Jun 23, 2010 at 12:06 PM

Dear Dave Begel:

It's bad enough that we fans of the beautiful game have to endure some of the national sports talk icons (like Jim Rome) watch a soccer contest that ends, 1-0, and declare that the sport is a mind-numbing joke, but your recent column brings the already unseemly level of cheap shots to a new low.

Let's address your recent submission point by point. "Players spend lots of time just standing around?" There have been many documented cases of midfielders wearing pedometers which clocked them running 10-12 miles a game. Google it for yourself, Dave. "Average distance run by a soccer player." You'll find it's between 6-8 miles a game.

Now, Google "Average minutes of live action in a football game." Answer? 11 minutes. Don't get me wrong, Dave. I love American football as much as anyone. But if you're going to criticize soccer for having "countless opportunities to just stand around," your next article should claim football players spend too much time in the huddle.

You think fans watching soccer would have an equally exciting experience by "putting giant multi-sided screens in the center of the field to have beginners play a game of pong?" There is no other sport that features such constant attacking and counter-attacking. There is no more thrilling sight in athletics than a striker dribbling across midfield with four or five of his teammates right behind him, charging like Secretariat to offer support.

But it is hard to score goals because the defenders are so tremendously accomplished. There's plenty of skill and action in our game but it is a game of great defense. Your back line defines your team. I don't remember too many Brewers fans being bored in 2008 when CC Sabathia was painting the corners with 95 mph fastballs as his team won, 2-0. Defensive wizardry can be a thing of beauty.

Speaking of baseball, I am a die-hard Brewers fan and spend many of my happiest hours cheering for the home side at Miller Park. But there are many people in Europe, Asia and Africa who may question our grand old game. They'll wonder why we can love a sport where the only time a team can score is when they're at bat and for the most part, the only time anyone runs is when someone hits the ball. But while these folks from different continents perhaps don't understand our game on the diamond, they don't go out of their way to call it stupid or irrelevant, which is the attitude that some Americans have towards soccer.

"Broadcasters needing to criticize referees to keep from getting bored out of their minds?" Have you ever tried doing play-by-play of a soccer game? It's one of the hardest jobs in sportscasting with 22 players (who all come in contact with the ball) to keep track of, with no timeouts. Now, imagine broadcasting a game every day, calling the action between two teams, that in almost every case, you've never seen before.

The announcers are anything but "bored out of their minds." And as far as referees having too much of an impact on the game, you could make that argument in every sport (see Jim Joyce, Armando Galarraga and the perfect game that wasn't).

The "off-the-field machinations" certainly have taken up their share of headlines, but they are so yesterday's news, Dave. The drama on the field is overwhelming. The hopes of all four teams in Group C (USA, England, Slovenia and Algeria) come down to one game. The determination of success or failure after four years of intense training boil down to 90 minutes.

That's the same scenario in Group D, where surprising group-leader Ghana takes on powerful Germany, while Serbia faces Australia. All eight of the aforementioned squads could move on to the round of 16 or be eliminated. And those are just tomorrow's games.

You claim that "our best athletes play football, basketball and baseball." That may be true to some extent but many of those talented kids are playing soccer, too. Former Brewers manager Tom Trebelhorn, one of the most erudite baseball men I've ever interviewed told me in 1988 that baseball's American talent pool was being impacted by kids choosing soccer. It's still true today.

Look at all the current MLB rosters. 28 percent were born outside the USA. In the minor league systems, it's 48 percent. And what was with the pejorative tone of your statement that "the kids who play soccer are the kids who join the AV club, the glee club and the academic decathlon?" I would greatly enjoy seeing you make that claim while standing in the same room with Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Tim Howard.

You mention that none of the big stars seem a lot better than the obscure players. Take my advice, Dave. The next time you're choosing up sides for a schoolyard soccer game and some World Cup players happen to come by, take Lionel Messi. He's a little better than anyone on North Korea.

It is true that for many people "their day wouldn't fall apart if they didn't know the scores." But that doesn't mean they're not very interested. There are plenty of baseball supporters who sleep well not knowing the final result of Kansas City at Seattle who would still consider themselves devoted fans.

And while soccer has not brought about world peace (what has?) it did settle a devastating civil war. Minutes after leading his Ivory Coast team to the World Cup finals in 2005, Didier Drogba fell to his knees in the team dressing room, grabbed a microphone and on a live national broadcast, begged the two warring sides, which had been fighting for five years, to make peace. A week later, the war was over. Can any other sport claim such diplomatic success?

Yes there are extremist soccer fans that turn violent with terrible results. But given the total number of fans worldwide (almost 27 billion watched the 2006 World Cup) the percentage is infinitesimal. I had the privilege of seeing a match at Real Madrid's Bernabeu Stadium with 75,000 other people three years ago. I felt as safe as I would have at Lambeau Field.

Dave, I understand that you don't get why many of us love the beautiful game and I respect that. But don't insult our game, about which you clearly know very little. 

Mark Concannon Special to
Mark Concannon moved to Milwaukee in 1987 when he started at WITI TV as weekend sports anchor. He began hosting Wakeup News, signing the new program on the air in 1990. He anchored Wakeup until the spring of 2010. In his 23 years at the station, Mark won four Emmy Awards and multiple local, state and regional honors.

Before arriving in Wisconsin, Mark was a TV sports director at stations in Greensboro, the Quad Cities and Fort Smith, Arkansas. He got his first job at the ABC affiliate in Syracuse during his junior year at Syracuse University where he majored in TV and Radio at the Newhouse School.

Mark is an avid fan of all sports. He covered the Packers at Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans and has also reported on the Final Four, the Daytona 500, the Rose Bowl, the NLCS and the PGA and U.S. Open golf championships. He covered the GMO for 20 years. Mark played soccer in high school and is a passionate supporter of "The Beautiful Game." One of his greatest experiences was attending a UEFA Champions League game hosted by Real Madrid at Bernabeu Stadium.

Mark was born in Philadelphia but has happily made the transition from cheese steaks to cheese heads and is thrilled to now call Wisconsin home. He is currently president of Concannon Communications LLC and working on projects involving, writing, producing, voice-overs and public relations.