While interviewing MLS commissioner Don Garber, Tuesday, I mentioned that his players were considerably easier to interview and more accessible than NBA players.
Garber was careful not to insult players from other leagues, but did say, "There's something unique about soccer players. They understand being part of something bigger than they are."
That can't be said for a some American athletes. However, I will say that there are probably fewer self-centered jerks in sports than most people think. Going over the Jazz players in my mind, I couldn't think of a player still on the team who isn't at least a fairly nice person. (Deron Williams was only occasionally nice.) The jerks just get most of the headlines.
Let's face it, signing an autograph isn't a headline-grabber, but refusing to sign can be.
Anyway, Garber went on to say being grounded is "part of soccer culture. They're so thankful and appreciative."
He called it a "special DNA" soccer players have. I wouldn't go that far. I can imagine what dealing with some of the European and South American soccer superstars must be like. But Garber and RSL president Bill Manning went on to say after RSL won the MLS Cup in Seattle in 2009, L.A.'s David Beckham made a point to go to RSL's locker room directly after the game and congratulate its players and coaches.
My guess is for every pampered, indulgent, preening jerk in sports there are two or three pretty ordinary people. I've never known Mehmet Okur, C.J. Miles, Ronnie Price or Andrei Kirilenko to act superior. For all times I've been annoyed by the attitude athletes have, sometimes I think they get unfairly lumped into one bad stew.
Sort of like, you know, media.