Sunday, June 20, 2010

I (Heart) Football

Today’s guest poster is Melissa of Smitten by Britain, a self-confessed anglophile who freely admits her love of Britain has grown into an obsession. This obsession began early, around the age of thirteen, and has recently culminated—though certainly not stopped—with her blog, Smitten By Britain. In between, Melissa has managed to actually live in Britain for a time, and acquire a British husband. Talk about an obsession ;)

I (heart) football (okay, soccer) and completely understand why it’s the world’s most popular sport. It is a great unifier as well as a great equalizer. You can be from the wealthiest country and play or you can be from the poorest country and play. All you need is a ball.

I consider myself a frustrated fan. I enjoy EPL play (English Premier League) and struggle to get good wall to wall coverage here in the States. I guess I can understand that since we now have Major League Soccer here in our country. So naively I thought seeing the opening ceremonies of World Cup 2010 would be a cinch. Not so. As I sit here I’m cursing ESPN and Fox Soccer Channel for not showing it live. This is the world’s greatest sporting event and they choked big time. It’s equal to not showing the opening ceremony of the Olympics, which is a celebration that gets people in the mood and excited for what’s to come. As far as I can tell, ESPN only carried it on a premium paid HD channel which most people do not have. And how can you call yourself a soccer channel, Fox Soccer, and not cover its biggest event? Blasphemy!

As usual it comes down to dollars and cents. ESPN bought the rights years ago so it’s theirs to do with whatever they wish. But in my view, the MLS should be dogging them to do what they can to promote the sport, for god’s sake, and showing the opening ceremonies of the World Cup is part of that. It would only serve the MLS better.

Things are changing here in the U.S. Since my son’s generation, kids have grown up here playing football (soccer) and it’s now part of their DNA. ESPN would do well to stay on top of it, all of it. How about an ESPN soccer channel? For far too long we’ve been on the outside looking in and it has passed the time for us to join the family. Nine hundred and fifteen million fans can’t be wrong.

I hope Americans will take some time over the next thirty days to watch at least one match. It’s a beautiful game. (Try not to let the sound of swarming bees put you off; the vuvuzelas are a South African thing, not a football thing.)

Interestingly, I found this article today which argues that the US wouldn’t be where it is without England.

So if the US loses, can we blame England too?


No one has ever mistaken me for a sports fan. But when the World Series was on, and when the Super Bowl rolled around, I always became caught up in the hype and excitement. You sort of have to if you don’t want your patriotism and/or masculinity called into question.

It’s no different here. When World Cup season arrives, I generally find myself more interested in soccer (Sorry, I still refer to it as soccer) than I thought I could be. This never happened when I lived in the US. In fact, I can’t recall ever hearing about the World Cup when I lived in the US, even when we hosted it.

These days, that seems to be changing. E-mails from friends and family back home reference the World Cup and indicate that they have not only noticed it, but have the opportunity (and actually took advantage of the opportunity) to watch the games. Still, I have to think, for true die-hard fans such as Melissa, the coverage must appear frustratingly sparse when compared to the 24/7 saturation available in much of the rest of the world.

I have seen Green’s bobble of the ball so many times over the past two days (it is, believe it or not, showing as I write this) I expect I’ll be dreaming about it tonight (as opposed to having nightmares about it, as Mr. Green undoubtedly is).

But gaffs aside, the coverage here is all-inclusive and we have the added advantage (or not, depending on how you feel about soccer) or endless commentary, opinion and prognostication.

I suppose, if you want this sort of coverage in the US, the only way to get it is for the Americans to win the World Cup, then people, and the media, will begin to take a real interest.

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  1. I'm not sure why you struggle to get coverage here in the USA: all 20 weekly EPL matches are shown live in the US (ESPN, FSC, Foxsoccer tv) and that's not the case in Britain where live coverage is limited (for example, Sat 10am matches cannot be televised in order to keep up attendance figs). FSC has a lot of improving to do, but we are thrilled to have several hours of Sky Sports News, highlight shows, and EPL matches, and we love that all World Cup matches have been live on ESPN and ABC (Martin Tyler). I'm thrilled that they have the rights as the coverage has been brilliant--we DVRd 6 hours of live opening day coverage on ESPN. We've been in the US now for 3 years and remain shocked at the amount of live matches available--it's made giving up our season tickets much easier as we thought we'd have to rely on internet feeds. When the UK family and friends visit they are gobsmacked by our coverage--so much more than what's available there.

  2. As a P.S. some may find this interesting: the England v USA match had higher ratings than NBA final matches 1-4, higher than all Stanley Cup matches and was double that of WC 2006. So pleased to see ESPN/ABC going 'all out' on coverage.

  3. I guess I'm supposed to disagree with you Mike but I don't. America likes winners and when/if the Americans win the World Cup, the interest will follow.
    Jennifer, I wrote this article on the first day of the World Cup and it was out of frustration of not being able to see the opening ceremonies live. Like I stated, unless you had a premium channel, you could not see it. My mother did tell me she saw a recorded version later that night on ESPN. Better than nothing but not the same thing as the excitement of watching it with the rest of the world. Frankly, I don't want to have to bounce around three different channels and pay premium prices, which FSC + is for me. So for me, it is a struggle. So I guess I'm a lazy fan. My dream would be to have a dedicated EPL channel but from what you say it sounds like England doesn't even have that.

  4. I didn't realise there was more to what was on-we had the concert/kick-off live on ESPN2 (not premium for us, thankfully). Seems to be a habit for American networks to tape delay--NBC likes to tape delay Olympics coverage and last year delayed several Wimbledon matches--I joined the 'complaint' email campaigns on both. So frustrating.

    England doesn't have a dedicated football channel--the World Cup is shared between 2 networks and the rest is split up much like here with certain networks owning rights to certain times and matches. By law, none of the Sat 3pm/10am matches can air live, so we're grateful we get those here. I agree it's a pain to switch from source to source--but I'm chuffed that it's possible to not miss a match.

  5. Although the World Cup is well covered here in Chicago (ie. every where you go), I was just about to mention the usually crap coverage of Wimbledon we get. My interest in tennis has deteriorated considerably since moving here (20 years) because of the non-US coverage.

  6. I like soccer I really do and I watch EPL and the WC when I can, but asking the ESPN to have a dedicated soccer channel seems a little much. I don't think it matters so much what the UK has as much as what ESPN has. ESPN doesn't have a dedicated NFL channel or an MLB channel or any channel dedicated to one sport. Why would it have a channel completely dedicated to a non American league of a sport isn't nearly as widely followed in the US as those other leagues? That doesn't make much sense to me.

  7. I've found the soccer coverage fine here but the Olympic coverage was really irritating - major downhill ski races were tape-delayed until the evening, and half the events weren't even shown. The main networks really don't seem to have caught up with the digital age. Similarly Wimbledon coverage is pretty awful unless you have a special tennis channel on cable.

  8. Well if we're talking Olympics, American coverage was summed up by one of the track events (400m I think). As the second place woman came off the bend accelerating to overtake the leader, NBC switched to a camera covering the third place running cruising along alone. She was the only American in the race.

    As for the footy, I'm loving the coverage here in the US - all the matches, all live. Mind you, I've got 200 channels, the minimum allowed through my provider.

  9. England - or rather the UK - does indeed have dedicated football channels, albeit ones which are exclusive to certain teams, such as Manchester United, Liverpool, Celtic, Rangers, Chelsea etc.

    Mike, I too have seen green's gaffe on so many occasions now that I'm half convinced that one of these times he will save it......

  10. Toni, I agree about Wimbledon coverage too, especially in the past. We would see the quarterfinals and semifinals and of course the finals, but the first week was virtually ignored.

    As far as WC goes, I am here to eat my words. This year, ESPN has excelled itself in coverage of the World Cup. Even my parents are watching matches during the day. In past WC's this hasn't been the case however. Even the major networks are reporting on results which is a giant step forward. Although, I stand by my gripe that they didn't show the opening ceremonies live. I also don't expect a dedicated EPL channel here which is why I called it a dream, but it would be nice for Fox Soccer Channel to show every MLS match and every EPL match so one doesn't have to channel surf and patch work their viewing. Or pay for a premium channel. Maybe FSC could have a 1 & 2 like ESPN.


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