As a self professed comic book nerd I can appreciate the concept of alternate realities and multiple universes. That being said I'm generally not a big fan of sports fiction so this soccer book is a bit of a departure from the other efforts reviewed here. Michael Maddox's "The Ten Shirt" sort of made me feel like I was reading one of the possible alternate reality stories that I encounter after picking up the new weekly stash of reading material on Wednesday afternoons at the local geek store.
Maddox uses the concept that the United States 1-0 victory over England in 1950 set off a tidal wave of soccer popularity in the United States that fueled the creation of an American Premiere League. In the 32 years following that monumental victory the country is able to produce players who are stars at home and abroad while less popular sports like the National Football League struggle to gain attention. Massive television contracts are in place and the country tunes in to watch Howard Cosell on Monday Night Soccer.
There are some familiar teams and names that are mentioned in the book which aren't necessarily the focus of the piece but their references managed to help create the sense of the "alternate" possibility that I'm referring to. The Chicago Sting plays in the Texaco Premier League and their goalkeeper is the US starter. Rick Davis is on the squad although most of his teammates are fictional characters. The New York Cosmos are in full effect although Pele and Giorgio Chinaglia never seemed to make their way to the Big Apple.....maybe in another reality.
The Ten Shirt is a fun look at what could have been. Although some of the game action is a bit tedious, Maddox's alternate universe is most entertaining when describing the possibilities that may have taken place and while establishing the relationships between foreign and domestic American players.
Professional soccer has a long and checkered history in the American sports landscape, surviving the death of the NASL and each of its predecessors to get to the point where we are now. Maddox wonders what it would have been like if the game was handled properly in the infancy of the television explosion in a march towards the World Cup in 1982. If you're into lighter fare in between Soccernomics and other soccer related books "The Ten Shirt" might be worth a look.
You can order it here.
By the way...if you're into the highbrow world of comic book literature check out Red Eye's "It's Geek To Me" - one of my favorite Chicago Now/Red Eye blogs.