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Review: ‘San Bernardino Alive and Kicking’ (2016)

Rockerrazzi Filmz makes visual branding videos for up-and-coming rock stars. So I wondered why Producer-Director Jared Sagal created this very good hour-long documentary about SoCal SC, a 4th division soccer team in San Bernardino.

As the film points out, San Bernardino, population 213,000, has become a city with tremendous troubles. After massive foreclosures from the 2007 Recession, the city went into Chapter 9 bankruptcy in Aug-2012, becoming the longest running bankruptcy of any city in the USA. With cutbacks to city services, crimes of drugs and violence rose along with unemployment and poverty rates.

And then on December 2, 2015, the city rocketed to nationwide attention. In a mass shooting at a Dept of Public Health office holiday party, an Islamic terrorist took 14 innocent lives and injured dozens.

This horrific tragedy happened on the same day that SoCal SC announced its new team.

Creator Sagal has taken these two events and skillfully combined them to create a story on how a sports team, and what it represents, can be a catalyst for a community’s recovery from tragedy as well as from the hardness of everyday life.

The soccer is well-edited, giving a good sense of the team’s best and worst moments in its inaugural season. And the passion is on display, as when the club’s General Manager, Daniel Gamba, angrily kicks a case of water bottles part way across the room after a dispirited loss. (The guy has a strong foot!)

I wonder if this movie may be the best thing that comes out of SoCal SC, as it brings light to the circumstances that surround a large percentage of USA residents. Sport can elevate a community’s spirit, but by itself cannot elevate a community. People beyond the community need to be aware and care, and this film should help accomplish that.

A little interaction with the Director

Oh, and to answer my question, Jared Sagal kindly took my call and explained how this movie came about. GM Gamba had earlier approached Sagal because of his music video series “Young Ronaldo”, which had gone viral. After the tragedy, Sagal realized the real story was rebuilding and promoting the community, as well as the club, and the club agreed to proceed. In these music videos and his documentary, Sagal demonstrates a great talent for capturing soccer and expressing his own passion for the sport. I hope he gets to produce more such work.

After watching this film, I was intrigued not just with why it was made, but why an NPSL team existed in San Bernardino. And what is the NPSL, anyway? The rest of this post is about those questions.

SoCal SC – The Southern California Sports Club

I actually lived in San Bernardino County as a child, where my father had a chicken farm for decades. The best thing about San Berdoo, as we used to call it, was that it was a pretty short drive to Disneyland. Years after my dad sold his farm, San Bernardino County became an inexpensive bedroom community for Los Angeles commuters.

About 5 years ago, i went back to the area to referee at a tournament in nearby Riverside. That’s when I realized that my old San Berdoo had become quite the soccer community, with large soccer complexes in the cities of Riverside and San Bernardino. These are complexes that we would die for in the San Francisco Bay Area!

SoCal SC’s website says that it is working top-down from the 4th Division, kicking off with a professional level team and building up a supporting youth development system. Springing from GM Gamba’s background, the club plans to train kids the Brazilian way, starting with futsal.

Jun-25-2018 Update: In checking broken links on my website, I discovered that SoCal SC ceased operations in Jul-2017.

Hey! Everyone Gets a Promotion?!!

The 4th Division NPSL is far from the top of USSoccer, which is actually the 1st Division MLS. Actually, due to the Dec-2016 ruling by USSoccer, elevating the USL to 2nd Division, for 2017 there is no 3rd division league. But the NPSL cannot move into that vacancy because it is technically an amateur adult league.

The National Premier Soccer League actually originated in Northern California in 2002 and now has 80 teams. Their goal is to reach 100 profitable teams and help the USA become a soccer nation. Many of the teams have college players trying to stay fit in the off-season, and by NCAA rules, they cannot be paid. The league is growing and has a lot of community grass roots support. It’s refreshing to see, versus the good-ole-billionaire-boy network of USA major sports franchises. Go out and support those NPSL teams, coming to a town near you!

NPSL map
NPSL map

Minor league teams can be big business

With NPSL growing, Elmore Sports Group founded SoCal SC. Elmore is based in Indiana and owns six MILB teams, one of which, the 66ers, operates in San Bernardino. The Group is family-owned and operated, and its mission is to provide affordable sports entertainment.

Elmore also owns East Coast Hockey League teams and companies that provide facility management (such as the San Bernardino Soccer Complex), hospitality, special events, and concessions. They also own travel and incentive companies that specialize in major sporting events, such as the Olympics. In 2013, they invested in Lane United FC, a Eugene, Oregon team that plays in the PDL Premier Development League, a competing 4th Division organization. I assume the purpose of the Elmore soccer acquisitions is to make connections into the World Cup hospitality bonanza.

I didn’t realize that minor league sports could be so profitable and build a conglomerate that almost rivals Donald Trump’s in complexity. Let me modify what I said about those spawning NPSL teams: make sure you support one that has the community at its heart.

8 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 8


My thanks to @Chris_Wimmer_77 for making me aware of this film. Check out his Soccer Syndrome website for soccer addicts.

Update on Jun-25-2018: The SoCal SC team ceased operations in Jul-2017