We were was listening to Chris Russo’s Sirius radio show this afternoon and he went off on a rant about a subject – the upcoming World Cup – that hit all the usual cliches and was filled with ignorant statements.
The thing we don’t get is, why? Why is soccer, and the possibility that someone might actually want to watch a match and enjoy it, so threatening to so many people, primarily members of old media?
We first noticed this in the run up to the 2006 World Cup. We stumbled across Greg Brinda on WKNR – this was pre-satellite radio – and he was on a tirade about how he “wasn’t going to watch the World Cup just because it’s on TV. No one cares about it.”
As with most of the things that came out of his mouth during his radio career, Brinda was wrong. TV ratings in the U.S. for the tournament were strong, with the final being watched by 16.9 million viewers – which was more people than watched that year’s NBA Finals and on par with the World Series and the NCAA men’s basketball championship.
We kind of understand Brinda’s fear of the World Cup as he is trapped in a 1950s view of America, where baseball and horse racing are the dominant sports in the country and kids gather on sandlots to play pick-up baseball games. There’s not room in his tiny world for anything else.
Fast forward to today. We’re once again on the eve of the World Cup and Russo decided to unload his insecurities about the tournament. He hit all the usual, tired points:
The games are boring because there is little or no scoring.
But somehow, we’re supposed to be orgasmic over a 1-0 baseball game where one team only gets three men on base and none of them ever advance past second base? May want to rethink that one.
The team that scores first almost always wins.
That’s one we don’t understand. Sure, scoring can be at a premium, but that assumes that a team trailing doesn’t generate any scoring opportunities.
There are never any “bottom of the 9th” comebacks or “late drives” to win a game.
If you say so. But you are so, so wrong.
Too many teams make the knockout stage of the World Cup – 16 out of 32.
In the NHL and the NBA, 16 out of 30 teams make the playoffs and I don’t hear anyone complaining.
The final game is decided by penalty shots and that’s not fair.
You mean like an NFL playoff game being decided in overtime when only one team gets the ball?
Americans don’t watch the tournament. ESPN can hype it all they want.
We’ve already blown that myth out of the water, but here are two additional points on that nonsense:
Sports Illustrated‘s Grant Wahl was on the phone and he rightly pointed out that Russo should expand his definition of “Americans.” With the number of Spanish-speaking Americans on the rise, Americans do watch. Maybe not in Russo’s WASPy Greenwich, Conn., neighborhood, but in plenty of other places.
The second point is the nonsense of the argument “just because it’s on TV I don’t have to watch it.” Well no kidding. That’s true of any sport and there are far more sports we don’t watch and have no interest in than we do. Such as:
- Auto racing
But do we care if anyone watches those sports? Of course not. Why would we or anyone else? But for some reason, soccer threatens the old school media in this country.
Look, if you don’t want to watch it’s not a big deal. We can’t get too preachy because we’ve only been a fan since the 2006 World Cup. With all the hype surrounding the U.S. team that year we decided to give the tournament a shot. The U.S.-Italy game was the first time we’ve ever watched a match in its entirety and we were hooked. Now, four years later, we can’t wait for the tournament to start. It sure beats watching the Indians lose again.
But if you’ve never been a fan, why not give it a shot? You never know what you might see.