Soccer Culture in the US Needs Community Support to Grow Faster

In many places throughout Europe and Latin America, a soccer club is a built-in part of a community. London neighborhoods can be defined by the football club they support and the bond that creates between members of an area. In the US, this is bond is something we associate more with college sports or maybe baseball. With soccer, there’s not a very rich history in the United States; the game is just now seeing a resurgence in interest for the first time since the early Twentieth Century.

Major League Soccer is a great thing overall for soccer in the US, but it does have some drawbacks. MLS teams don’t generally seem to have a solid connection with their communities. For example, FC Dallas can’t seem to break into the spotlight of the DFW sports scene. Colorado Rapids has poor attendance in Denver. New England Revolution’s support currently is like a drop of water in a bucket compared to the lake of Patriots fans. Maybe it’s the poor stadium locations, the crowded markets, the lack of advertising, or the ownership. Many MLS teams can’t seem to make themselves a big deal in their market.

However, some MLS teams are doing a great job at engaging their city. My new hometown team, Atlanta United, is quickly becoming a big part of the Atlanta community, setting the high water mark for attendance in the 2017 MLS season. Portland Timbers, with their beloved Providence Park nestled in Portland’s Goose Hollow neighborhood, have become a massive stalwart of Portland culture. Orlando City and Seattle Sounders also have some real roots in the community, but many other clubs in MLS either have no roots and poor attendance or decent attendance but live as *just another sports team* instead of being a real part of the community.

I think what soccer needs in the US is more lower-division teams which have the ability to branch out and become deeply involved in their respective cities and towns. Many lower-division clubs in leagues like the NASL, USL, NPSL, and USL PDL have been able to find support. The footprint of soccer fandom in the US should only increase in the future with the introduction of two new third division leagues, the NISA in 2018 and USL Division III in 2019. If more teams can start to spring up in smaller cities that don’t have any major sports teams (or even just one), then those cities will almost certainly come out to support their new club.

This is a sensation that can be seen all over the current USL. Teams like Rio Grande Valley FC, Sacramento Republic, Louisville City, and Reno 1868 come in towns with one or fewer major sports teams, and they all have respectable support. Pro soccer needs to find its way to cities like these. I think in the future they will, but right now, we as soccer and sports fans need to take it upon ourselves to go support our local soccer teams. If your area doesn’t have a team, go call for local businessmen to found a team and plop it into a lower league. You could even get together local soccer fans and found a supporter-owned team. The great thing about soccer is that it’s so flexible. Every supporter can be a part of the team, and every team can be a part of the community. That’s how it should be, and that’s what we need more of here in the US.

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Chess is a Game That Everyone Should Learn How to Play

Chess is one of those games that no one really plays all that much anymore, but many people know how to play. The game of chess is over a thousand years old, and it still has a very sizable player base. There are also professional chess competitions. The person widely regarded as the world’s best player is the 26-year old Norwegian grandmaster, Magnus Carlsen. His net worth is estimated at $8 million.

A strategy game through-and-through, chess pits players’ analytical skills against each other. It’s a great game to play at the park or just inside with a friend on a rainy day. There are also a number of good resources to learn chess and play against people online. I personally use Chess.com’s app, and it’s good because it has a variety of different modes to pit you against opponents of a similar skill level.

The best way to learn, however, is probably to watch videos online or watch someone in-person and have them teach the game to you. Chess.com also has resources to teach you all of the basics if you want to know how to make basic moves, set up the board, etc.

Chess is one of those games that can bring people together. It has a long, rich history. It helps your brain get some needed exercise in a fun way. Learn how to play, and go to the park and find yourself an opponent next time you’re bored. You’ll enjoy it.

The Top Ten History Youtube Channels in 2017

  • CrashCourse ~ CrashCourse is a longtime stalwart of Youtube’s educational community. They have videos on nearly every subject, and they have extensive World History and US History series which are taught by John Green, the famous author.
  • Epic History TV ~ This channel doesn’t post all that often, but when they do post, their videos have quality content. They have video series about Russia, the First Crusade, and American presidents.
  • Historia Civilis ~ With videos focusing on (but not limited to) Roman history, History Civilis is a good place to widen your understanding of the Roman Empire and Republic.
  • Invicta ~ So admittedly, this is a video game channel, but Invicta also posts some in-depth history videos every once-in-awhile. The gaming is mostly Total War anyway, and that’s already a history-focused series to begin with. Check this channel out if you’re a gamer who likes history.
  • The Great War ~ Indiana Neidell’s fantastic narration and fantastic content are the trademarks of this channel. The Great War focuses on World War I, retelling the stories of battles and other events exactly 100 years after they happened. With 670k subscribers, this is one of the most popular history-focused Youtube channels.
  • IT’S HISTORY ~ This is the second channel which benefits from the narrative skills of Indiana Neidell. It covers a wide range of history interests. After a hiatus lasting nearly two years, this channel is back in business. Now would probably be a good time to start watching.
  • The French Whisperer ~ Since it’s difficult to explain, I’ll not go into details about the concept of ASMR for those of you who are unfamiliar, but this is an ASMR channel with a historical core narrated in English by a French guy. It appears to be inactive now, but there are plenty of good videos there to watch already.
  • Real Crusades History ~ The title is pretty self-explanatory. If you’re interested in learning about the Crusades, this is the place.
  • Suibhne ~ I personally think this channel is just awesome. Suibhne posts animated videos which tell a country’s history. Due to the time required to animate a video, this channel posts infrequently, but the animation is a good change of pace compared to other history channels.
  • BazBattles ~ I saved my favorite for last. BazBattles is another channel with animated videos that gives the history of important battles based off of historical accounts. The battles are presented in a top-down tactical view which shows the arrangement of military units and their actions. BazBattles is a great channel for lovers of military history, and it can probably help you with your Total War gameplay, too.

This is just my personal list of 2017’s top 10 history channels on Youtube, and they’re in no particular order. If I missed one of your favorite channels, let me know so I can check it out sometime!

Saying Farewell to Atlanta United’s First Home

This past weekend, Atlanta United FC ended its tenure at Bobby Dodd Stadium with a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Orlando City SC. From here on out, the Five Stripes will play home matches at the new Mercedes Benz Stadium.

I only got to see two matches at Bobby Dodd in person, but I have seen many Georgia Tech football games there (sorry, UGA fans). The atmosphere for soccer was something else. Soccer and Atlanta United have left their mark on Bobby Dodd, and ATLiens will remember these past few months of the world’s beautiful game on the Flats with the fondest of memories.

Whether it’s that first-ever ATLUTD goal scored by Yamil Asad in March or all the countless goals thereafter, Bobby Dodd was a joyous sight for all the South’s soccer fans. I doubt that the Five Stripes will play at Georgia Tech ever again, but it was sure fun while it lasted.

With that being said, I’m looking forward to Atlanta United’s future at Mercedes Benz Stadium. It looks like the stands there will be steeper. Combine that with the roof, and the new home of Atlanta soccer ought to have an atmosphere of equal intimacy to BDS. The only downside to MBS is that the roof likely won’t be open for the rest of this 2017 season, but I’m looking forward to many matches of natural-lit soccer in seasons to come.

How to Avoid Getting Stuck in Tourist Traps; My Tips and Thoughts

We’ve all been there. You just wanted to go see this one really cool, really popular place, but it’s surrounded by all these neat little shops! Oh, whatever shall you do!

It’s common to go to a place intending to see the main attraction, but instead, you end up spending half your time and all your money in the surrounding area. I’ve seen it all over the US. It may be good fun, but it takes away from the rest of your experience by hampering your time spent exploring your true surroundings. Plus, no one likes arriving back home with a bunch of useless knick-knacks and an empty wallet.

So how do you avoid getting caught in a tourist trap? Here are my tips:

Move quickly. If you’re just standing around aimlessly in the middle of a touristy area, you’ll feel an urge to go into the stores and buy things. It’s healthier to be walking instead of standing, anyway. Just keep moving, and you’ll get through the tourist trap hazard zone unscathed.

Set a time limitAlright, so maybe you really want to get some souvenirs, but you don’t want to go overboard. Set a time limit for yourself, and you can keep yourself from wasting the whole day away in the stores instead of sightseeing. There are a couple ways to limit yourself. If you’ve got decent self-control, just pick a reasonable time and monitor your watch or phone clock. If you need more substantial restraints, set a countdown timer on your phone. Turn it on vibrate to make sure not to cause alarm, but adhere to the timer when it goes off.

Setting a time limit for your souvenir shopping adventure will ensure that you have time to enjoy all the attractions your vacation destination has to offer. It’ll also help you indecisive folks to pick souvenirs faster since you’ll be time-constrained.

Pick one store. I’ve been to lots and lots (much too many, really) of souvenir shops. I can assure you that they’ll all be more-or-less the same. Pick the one which looks the most appealing, and purchase everything you need in that one shop. I suppose if you really want one particular item you could check another shop if it’s not in the first one, but it’s probably a better idea to ask someone where you could find that item beforehand rather than shop-roaming. If you roam, you’re likely to spend too much time in every shop and buy a bunch of knick-knacks to justify all the time you’ve just wasted. Don’t do that.

Buy food beforehand or bring your own. I’ve not mentioned food yet here, but dining is the other component to tourist traps. The food in touristy areas is generally average at best and overpriced. Don’t eat there unless you want to spend some serious money for mediocre food. I suppose I personally violate this rule a lot to eat at Hard Rock Cafes, but their Twisted Mac ‘n’ Cheese is a favorite of mine and actually quite good.

Just make sure to be smart. There are likely food options surrounding the touristy area that serve perfectly good food for a reasonable price. You can also bring food with you to wherever it is you’re going to ensure you save time and money.

AtlantanKnight Blogs: Be Nice

Hey y’all, AtlantanKnight here. I’ve just got to get this out there because I feel like there’s a real problem nowadays. Be nice! It’s not hard, but no one seems to do it much anymore (myself included sometimes).

Being nice isn’t really an action; it’s a lifestyle. It’s an attitude. Being nice is the idea that you would willingly and voluntarily go out of your way to help someone without expecting anything in return. This “someone” could be a stranger or a friend, any age, any race, any sexuality, and any gender. It doesn’t matter who they are, but if they are a human being and need help, offer your help if you have any to give. If you can’t offer help, maybe offer a kind smile or some soothing words. Don’t be apathetic.

Apathy is one of the real problems. In Western culture, individualism is encouraged. While that’s a positive overall and does wonders for personal advancement, it hurts our mindsets. We don’t feel like helping anyone because it’s “not our problem.” Well, guess what? It is our problem. A stranger’s problem ought to be your problem.

Now, I’m not saying that we should be intrusive. If you offer assistance for any sort of problem and your offer is declined, that is their choice. Don’t press the issue. Just be on the lookout for the community around you. Help people out just a little bit, be nice, be a better person. If we all do this together, the world will become a little bit friendlier bit by bit.

It’s a culture change we need to change the mindset. Be independent, but take it upon yourself to help others that cannot help themselves. And with your friends, do them something nice every once in awhile. Make them smile. Encourage them. Just be nice.

The Great American Burger Debate: Which is Better, Five Guys or In-N-Out?

As a native to Georgia where we have no In-N-Outs nearby, Five Guys is everybody’s go-to burger place. They’re everywhere around here, and their burgers are near-universally accepted to be the best out of all the common fast food places. However, during my travels out west, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had In-N-Out a dozen or so times over the years. With the great debate raging on between Five Guys’ fans and In-N-Out loyalists, I feel qualified to throw my two cents out.

There are two main problems with the In-N-Out versus Five Guys debate: 1) most East Coasters have never had In-N-Out, so they just scoff at the idea that it could be better than Five Guys and 2) the two burgers are vastly different from each other.

An In-N-Out burger is characterized by the “spread” a condiment which is derived from thousand island dressing, giving the burgers a unique taste. In-N-Out also uses very fresh lettuce and tomatoes. A typical In-N-Out burger, the double double, can be seen here. Burgers and fries can also be ordered “animal style” which adds an extra portion of spread as well as grilled onions.

Five Guys is a bit different. Their burgers are a bit cruder than In-N-Out’s, but they taste pretty dang good. Like In-N-Out, Five Guys’ burgers have the traditional toppings of onions, tomato, and lettuce, but they lack the x-factor of a defining topping like “spread”. However, Five Guys does give customers (literally) an entire bag of fries when you order fries, and they serve peanuts in their restaurants if you eat in. Have you ever ordered fries and seen them just plop a fries container in the bottom of the bag then scoop fries all over? A greasy bag of Five Guys’ fries is a good time.

But which is better? Sorry to all my fellow southern folks, but I’m going to have to side with In-N-Out on this one. The spread is really what puts them over the edge for me. It gives their burgers an extremely unique flavor and blends well with the freshness of the burger patties. In-N-Out also seems to use fresher lettuce and tomatoes than Five Guys, and they don’t get as soggy and saturated with grease as Five Guys’ toppings.

So yes, In-N-Out is better. Five Guys isn’t bad by any metric, but it doesn’t have enough uniqueness to make it superior to its West Coast counterpart.

SunTrust Park is a Stadium Worthy of Housing the Atlanta Braves

When the Braves left Turner Field for the last time last year, I think a lot of people had doubts about SunTrust Park. The renderings looked nice, and everyone in the Braves organization assured fans that it would be a great ballpark, but how could any stadium ever replace the beloved Turner Field, “The Ted”? SunTrust Park was built to solve the Braves’ attendance problems and move the team to a location which could be built up into a commercial area with consumer-friendly surroundings. The location at the congruence of I-285 and I-75 in Cobb County has been seen as… questionable, to say the least, by most Atlanta residents. Still, the ballpark was built. The question is: how nice is SunTrust Park?

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And, as you can probably guess from the title, I think SunTrust is a gorgeous ballpark. The location was not as big of an issue as I’d expected; traffic was slow near the exits for SunTrust but no worse than traffic for Turner Field had been before. The shopping/dining area around the stadium, named “The Battery”, is small but vibrant. The presence of an Antico Pizza is a major plus.

Once inside the ballpark, a few things are clear: 1) this place is nicer than the Ted and 2) it feels like a Braves ballpark. Maybe it’s the drum or the Chick-fil-A cow or the thousands of tomahawk-chopping fans, but there’s no denying that SunTrust Park is the true home of the Atlanta Braves. For the longest continually operating franchise in American sports, nothing short of spectacular could suffice. I’m happy to see SunTrust Park lives up to the legacy.

Maybe the Braves aren’t a playoff team yet, maybe they’re not going to sell out every game, and maybe they are going to rename the nearby G-Braves… but at least the 3-time World Series champion Atlanta Braves have a world class stadium to call home now. I’ve gone twice this season, and I’m sure I’ll be back soon. Get over to catch a game if you’ve not been yet, and go Braves!

 

Restaurant Review: Pizza Time in St. Augustine, Florida

Crammed into St. Augustine’s bustling St. George Street alongside dozens of other shops and restaurants, the aptly named “Pizza Time” restaurant is home to some pretty serious pizza. My quest to find the nation’s best food has led me to some great spots before, and I’m happy to say that Pizza Time is now one of 4 pizzerias from TripAdvisor’s list of top 10 American pizza spots that I have visited.

The eatery proudly displays its recognitions from various media sources on the windows and the walls. Needless to say, I had some fairly high expectations. They sell pizza by-the-slice, and their slices are genuinely pretty huge. I decided to get some garlic knots and a slice of the lasagna pizza (as pictured).

Pizza Time makes some gooood pizza. Not my favorite, but definitely a worthy member of my top 5 favorite pizzas. You can taste the quality in the ingredients, and they have extremely good crust which complements the saltiness of the cheeses and meat. The garlic knots are good, too, but they need marinara sauce for dipping (which you can obtain, just ask) or they’ll be a bit dry.

Overall, I had a very enjoyable experience at Pizza Time. I’ll probably go back and try some of their other pizzas the next time I find myself in St. Augustine.

Rating: 8.8/10

My Top 5 Favorite Cities in America

As someone who’s been fortunate enough to travel all over the United States, I’ve visited numerous great American cities. I love many of them, but these 5 are, in my opinion, in a league of their own.

Portland, Oregon

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The Rose City is truly a beautiful place. On all sides and even down the city streets in Downtown Portland, there are trees everywhere. It carries the same Cascadian feeling as Seattle, yet Portland seems a bit calmer and a bit… weirder. But in a good way! It’s really a lovely place. They also happen to be home to Portland Timbers, formerly my favorite soccer team (although I have since dropped them in favor of my hometown club, Atlanta United FC). If you’re thinking about going to visit the PNW, don’t you dare pass up Portland. In many ways, I prefer it to Seattle.

Seattle, Washington

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The Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and the CLink. The home to thousands of avid fans who cheer the names of Seahawks, Sounders, Supersonics, and Starbucks to the heavens. Seattle is a magical town full of wonderful, intense people. Unlike Portland, Seattle is a bustling center in the middle of Caucasia. Flanked seemingly on all sides by volcanoes and a volcano of human activity in itself, Seattle’s Starbucks fueled energies create a beautiful blend of cultures. Unlike Los Angeles where I felt as if cultures merely coexisted instead, Seattle feels part-East Coast, part-Asian, part-Californian, and 100% Cascadian. The rain might discourage you from living in Seattle if you’re used to sunlight all the time, but don’t ever let it stop you from getting out there to visit.

Anchorage, Alaska

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I’ve talked about Anchorage before in this post, so I’ll keep this brief. Anchorage is a breathtakingly beautiful town. The culture (to me at least) seems like what would happen if someone took Dallas’ don’t-mess-with-Tex attitude and the laid-back lifestyle in Cascadia, then mashed them together. There aren’t many tall buildings and there’s not even a tenth of the people as there are in a city like Seattle, but it’s still a nice place to visit and take in the scenery.

Manhattan, New York, New York

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As far as *being a city* goes, NYC is the most city-like city there could possibly be. You can walk on the streets and be flanked by 60-floor buildings all around. The jungle is real, and it’s all around you while you’re in Manhattan. You could spend a year just in Manhattan–let alone the other boroughs which I’ve not visited properly yet–and never have reason to be bored. It’s a sea of yellow taxis. It’s an amazing view from the top of the Empire State Building. It’s the great universities of Columbia and NYU. It’s a calm day in the middle of Central Park, far away from all the noise and out of sight of the buildings. It’s NYC, and it’s whatever you want it to be. That’s what makes New York so magical for me.

Atlanta, Georgia

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Atlanta will always be home to me. I’m a suburbanite in truth, but this is the city I’ve always felt attached to. Soon, I’ll have my first address within the city proper, and I’m looking forward to getting to know it better (which I shall share on here). ATL or A-Town (just never Hotlanta), I’m proud to say that I’m from Metro Atlanta and I love it dearly. The skyline is one of the country’s best, especially coming in on I-20 Eastbound. Now more than ever, the town is becoming a melting pot of culture, and the city is–for the most part–embracing new cultures and peoples as they arrive. The city is even embracing soccer now with a near-religious fervor, something I never thought I’d see.

If you’ve never been before, come visit Atlanta. Eat at the Varsity (or just visit for pictures and eat at Chick-fil-A). Watch a Braves game. Come scream and yell with thousands of other Atlanta United supporters. Enjoy the city in the forest because it’s really quite a nice place to be. Just try not to mind the traffic.