One man’s experience of American soccer’s years of bust and boom.
As a teenager, Agovino (The Bookmaker: A Memoir of Money, Luck, and Family from the Utopian Outskirts of New York City, 2008) fell in love with the beautiful game. Born and bred in the Bronx, where the typical American team sports of baseball, football, basketball and hockey reigned, the author nonetheless found himself captivated by a game that most Americans disdained when they acknowledged it at all. By 1982, when Agovino attended his first real soccer match, an all-star game at Giants Stadium featuring some of the world’s elite players, the luster of the North American Soccer League’s New York Cosmos was fading and the United States men’s national team had not made the World Cup since 1950 (and would not do so until 1990). Agovino played for his high school team, went on to New York University, where he covered the varsity team for the school paper, and upon graduation, found a series of jobs in journalism and as a freelance writer covering soccer as much as he was able. Agovino’s passion rings clear throughout this well-written book, but it is difficult to discern his intended audience. His personal journey through the sport is idiosyncratic, and the book is neither a history nor a traditional memoir—though it is closer to the latter than the former. Newcomers to the sport may find themselves a bit lost, and while the author purports to hate a common breed of exclusive and elitist American soccer fans, he betrays his own version of off-putting elitism and condescension. Nonetheless, those readers who buy in will see the growth of soccer in the United States in a deeply felt, personal journey.
Soccer has taken its place in the American sporting constellation in no small part due to fans and writers like Agovino.