Time For Perspective On World Cup Popularity
Every four years[?] we hear the same thing. Truth be told, as sports fans we’ve been hearing it for more than 40 years now. Soccer is “on the rise” in the US and it’s only a matter of time before it dominates our culture and becomes our most popular sport. Well, I’m handing out a red card on that BS.
Yes, Sunday’s brutal tie with Portugal drew huge ratings. According the Nielsen company close to 25 million viewers tuned in on either ESPN or Univision. ESPN also claims another 490,000 streamed the match on-line. Congrats soccer zealots one of the matches in you’re tournament was more popular than Game of Thrones this summer.
Which on a side tangent, while TV’s version of Dungeons & Dragons is popular, it is not nearly the social phenomenon it’s overly aggressive viewers believe it to be. Netflix has more subscribers than HBO which carries the show and when you consider – according to Nielson – 96% of Americans have a TV, I’m fairly certain the NFL (or Big Bang Theory, or most of the easily predictable CBS procedural dramas) are losing any sleep about a drop in popularity due to GoT or soccer. Game of Thrones was not among the Top 50 rated shows for 2013-2014 season. Come to think of it, fanatics of both soccer and Game of Thrones have a lot in common. They’re both passionate and extremely defensive when they find someone (aka – the majority of the country) doesn’t share their passion. A dead giveaway of an evangelist of something outside the mainstream.
Anyway…You want to know why soccer will again be unsuccessful in taking over the American culture, here are some reasons.
- It ain’t football – as in NFL, NCAA, High School or Pop Warner. When your sport’s major selling point is that there’s limited commercials so it ends quickly it seems more like your promoting an oil change instead of something “we can’t get enough of.” Yep, there’s time between each play in football and breaks between possessions, but that’s a major reason it has thrived on television. Football provides the perfect amount of time between plays for our A.D.D. culture to tweet or post on Facebook without missing any of the action. Commercials provide the perfect break to grab a beer or hit the pantry for munchies and not miss a play. (Sadly baseballs downfall in pop-culture is it allows enough time to balance your checkbook between each pitch – whack 20 of the typical 30 seconds between pitches and watch your sports ratings, and relevance in America grow.)
- Americans are an aggressive lot. A rugged quality was required to build the greatest nation the world has ever seen – or in the case of the Republic of Texas – the greatest “state.” We want aggressive violent action, not the over-dramatic flopping of a four year old girl who’s overtired and cries of lifelong physical impairment because her older sister brushed flesh. Offer that girl a cookie and suddenly it’s “what pain?!” Soccer encourages this melodrama as if contact with an opposing player will require life-flight and most likely an organ transplant. But give that team the ball and suddenly it’s “what injury?!”
- Is an official time-keeper beyond your officiating capabilities? Why is it that every other sport in the civilized world – except baseball which is killing itself by avoiding time limits – has a game clock that runs when the action is on, and stops when the action stops. Never a moments doubt about how much time is left in the contest. Soccer chooses to have a “running clock” with arbitrary extra time at the end of regulation. Apparently flipping the on/off switch is beyond the sports’ ability. Basketball gets down to the tenth-of-a-second, in soccer – we’ll let the clock run for a while and suddenly….times up! Do we really know exactly how much “extra time” was left when Portugal scored the tying goal? Was it not at least a little suspicious that Valera scored Portugal’s tying goal just as time expired? Without an actual game clock we’ll never know just how much “extra time” there was when that goal was scored, what if there wasn’t any? Or what if there was another minute? Dempsey scored in :34-seconds against Ghana. But for a soccer fan – who cares?
- The vuvuzela. If there’s a more annoying noise-maker in sports I don’t know it. (Although Mississippi State’s cow bells ain’t far behind in second place.) I thought we had rid ourselves of that pure irritating sound those useless plastic tubes provide. But there I was watching US-Portugal at Chula’s Sports Cantina on Sunday with many of my SportsRadio 610 brethren, and sure enough out come the vuvuzelas. Check please.
- Finally, on a more serious note, I believe soccer in America suffers without a competitive product in the US. Current NCAA President Mark Emmert was right about one thing he said while on the stand during the Ed O’Bannon trial as the NCAA tries to keep spending money from its workforce so it can pour those billions into coaches salaries and water falls in their overly palatial indoor practice facilities. Americans have minimal interest in minor leagues – which he thinks the NCAA would become if they gave players a dime. For soccer, the best and most skilled players must go overseas to compete at the highest level. As sports fans we’re not really interested in the inferior product, and I can’t believe it doesn’t hurt the growth of developing players capable of winning the World Cup, knowing ultimate success means moving to Europe.