Just came back from International Stadium after watching the first leg of the Suntory Championship - yeah, scored a ticket when a student of mine invited me, and how do you pass up going to a soccer game? As I have said before, the play (and now I will add the reffing, as Yokohama received a giant break on a clear foul in the eighteen that the official called diving) leaves much to be desired, although it was a good and uncharacteristically physical game. I still miss the MLS style of play, but that's another thread for another day. What I did want to write about is the atmosphere, which others have called exciting and I have admitted as exciting - although, I have to say, much of the fanfare is mainly of South American tendencies. Surely the supporters of the American domestic league can think of something original to do, but again that's another thread. Among the capacity crowd at the stadium was a fair amount of children of all ages. The grown-ups dominated the makeup of the audience, especially within the supporters' sections, but fans of all kinds made the trip. Even the family that invited me had a young daughter accompany them. It only leads me to conclude that whoever said that a soccer game with children in the stands was an impure product is, in fact, lying. I have no doubt that it's no playground in the stadia over in Europe, and I would never think that a game in Mexico is a family event, but with an attendance of 64,000+ for a game that was particularly nasty on the field, families made up a sizable part of the atmosphere. The verbal abuse was kept to a minimum - generally when and only when the ref was terrible, which, on the other hand, could have been anytime - and fans were raucous and lively while courteous at the same time. While J-League has maintained the level of intensity of a South American league game, it has kept out the brutishness that soccer purists consider to be proper. On some level, this is not difficult to accomplish in MLS; Americans are far more puritanical than those of any other developed nation, and whatever the changes in marketing in MLS over the years, the league on some level continues to target soccer moms and their children. I don't believe MLS will ever be as open and welcoming to everyone as J-League, though - I have seen cursing and "inappropriate" behavior at many a Metros game, but I've also seen as much at basketball and football games. Should we be able to keep it at or below that level, there's no reason to believe MLS can't continue to market its product to parents and their kids. As an aside, maybe we can now put aside all the "we must be more like Europe as theirs is a pure game" arguments and ponder on what it's really going to take to get the American mainstream to accept soccer, instead of satisfying a bunch of Eurosnobs who ignorantly embrace the "uniqueness" of the game yet not its variety. But that's just me.