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Monday, July 03, 2006

[An Attempt at] An Even Handed Look at the World Cup

Soccer has a weird place in the heart of America. "Football" is the most popular sport in the world. Nearly every other country celebrates soccer as its chief sport, and those most of us in the states have ancestors from other countries, we have not caught on. Most of our children will play the sport at some time, yet we don't seem to be great fans. All of this can bring about some tumultuous conversation. Well, I have come to save the day, providing an even handed look at the World Cup.

Media Coverage

In the first week of the Cup, we were bombarded with it in the states. ABC was covering every game they possibly could, some from countries I had never heard of. But weren't those games the opening round? Now, when the games get really good, you can't find the Cup on television (at least not public tv). Shouldn't the games get better as the field gets better? But they cut the coverage just when the games are starting to get good.

Patriotism

One reason I believe the TV coverage has waned is that the US team did not advance. Not only that, but the team the US looked most miserable against (Czech) didn't even advance. America is a fickle place. If you can not put a winner on the field, we're not really interested in supporting it. The American public will probably be hesitant to get behind a team until they see the team have a respectable shot at victory.

The Game

We've heard the complaints. One reason soccer can't take off is because there is not enough scoring. These complaints are not unique to soccer, however, as the NBA, NFL, NHL (is it even back from its strike?) and MLB have all changed rules (or not developed rules...ie. steroids, Mr Selig?) to try to accommodate these complaints. But I've never bought that argument. Competition is competition. Spectacular plays can be appreciated even if they don't result in scoring. Then, when a play does end with points, it is even more amazing.

I think the real problem for Americans is the drama. A kick to the shin or ankle can certainly hurt. But when a player flops or flails around (as if they are Vince Carter, or dare I say, Dwyane Wade) as if a limb has been severed in an attempt to get a call, it becomes a bit laborious. While watching a recent game, a player was hauled off on a stretcher...a stretcher, only to get back out on the field in a couple of minutes. I understand they want to get him off the field quickly so that play can resume, but whatever happened to putting your arms around a couple of teammates necks and hopping off the field? Do we really need to put a sheet over a players head, have a priest give the player his last rites, and begin to dig a burial plot beside the pitch just to make everyone realize it really did hurt?

Conclusion

I enjoy watching the Cup, when I want to. It doesn't rival the NBA playoffs (or draft), nor a good interleague matchup in baseball. But when I cruise the TV yesterday, and my options are Wimbledon highlights (not even tape delayed full matches) or obscure PGA/LPGA tournaments, I wish there was more Cup coverage in the States. (But not as badly as I wish we were into the next NFL season.)

5 Comments:

  • At 2:58 PM, Blogger TheReformedThinker said…

    The other big reason is that most other countries do not have 15 different sports channels devoted to NBA, NHL, NFL, NCAA, MLB, NASCAR and Poker tournaments. If we didn't have all of those options we would be just as fanatical as they are.

     
  • At 3:23 PM, Anonymous ty finch said…

    but have you noticed that soccer is becoming a little more popular around the states? last world cup there werent many games on regular t.v. i enjoy watching any games on t.v. that i can get, even without the U.S. not advancing. but thats just me...

     
  • At 9:30 AM, Blogger ~d said…

    i think part of the reason soccer is not as popular here is because it did not originate in the U.S.

    it's been around forever in the latin american countries (and most of europe?). when i was in spain, wherever there was a group of boys there was also a soccer ball....

     
  • At 9:48 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    i think you're on to something d, though i'm not sure why that is the case. i don't think it is arrogance or superiority taking place (for few people probably even realize that basketball originated here), but it does seem to be a factor.

    as for other countries...in many where a soccer ball can not even be found, they still find a way to play soccer.

     
  • At 11:46 AM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    Nene used to play soccer. So did Hakeem. And Ryan Wolf, this dude I went to high school with.

     

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