You'll hurt their feelings

"My son is so disappointed," Wendy McMahon said. "He understands that winning isn't everything - that [soccer] involves taking the good with the bad." So, did Adam McMahon's favorite pro team lose a big game? No. He plays in England's nine-and-under Sheffield and District League and enjoys assembling a scrapbook of newspaper stories about each season. Or, he did - until a recent game ended in a 29-0 score, and the local Derbyshire Times wrote that the losers had been "trounced." Result: a gag order. Teams are forbidden to phone in their scores until the paper agrees not to use "descriptive" words in reporting on games, so as not to "humiliate the children" on the losing team. The Times is refusing to - um - play ball. Editor Mike Wilson says he thinks the league has succumbed to political correctness. As for Mrs. McMahon, she's trying to overturn the new policy via a petition drive.

Finally: Signs that pro soccer may succeed in US

Unlike previous hopes that the sport would catch on at the professional level in the US, Major League Soccer looks as though it may stick. While it hasn't attracted huge crowds since its launch after the US-hosted 1994 World Cup tournament, attendance has remained relatively stable, if modest. And this year there's an exciting new headliner, 14-year-old Freddy Adu, whose D.C. United team opens the MLS season Saturday in Washington against the defending champion San Jose Earthquakes in a game to be carried by ABC-TV. The league maintains realistic expectations by playing mostly in custom-built new stadiums with 20,000 to 25,000 seats. The average paid atttendance at games in the 10-team league:

1996 17,406
1997 14,603
1998 14,312
1999 14,282
2000 13,756
2001 14,961
2002 15,821
2003 14,898
- Major League Soccer

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