In Praise of the Beautiful Game


I’m not sure I know why the whole planet is transfixed by the World Cup, but I think its a good thing. Deep in the Amazon jungle, villages running their sole TV off of car batteries gather to celebrate athletic excellence. What distinguishes sporting acheivement from that in other fields, is that it can’t be faked. Brittany Spears can lip sync her Vegas concerts, and  Ted Cruz can pretend to be a statesman, but Cliff Dempsey has to show up and play his heart out with a broken nose for 90 minutes in the steaming heat of Manaus. No excuses. No pretending. The other thing that distinguishes World Cup football from American Football or Basketball is that the athletes are the kind of people you could encounter in an airport and not blink twice. The are not seven feet tall. They do not weigh 300 pounds.

The U.S. audience for this sport is growing and I think the fact that the American team will probably make it through to the next round will help grow the interest in the sport. Of course the US TV networks hate soccer, because there are no regular breaks for commercials, and so they have shunned the sport. But if ESPN’s ratings continue to grow, that may change. And of course, because we are a country of immigrants, it doesn’t really matter how far the US gets in the tournament, because we all have a second team to root for based on some great experience in Brazil, the Netherlands, Mexico or maybe France. The next three weeks will be fun.

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One Response to In Praise of the Beautiful Game

  1. Alex Bowles says:

    Because the US is presumably not included in the metrics for in-stadium ad sales, it seems like the networks could make a deal with FIFA that allows them to superimpose their own placements over the screens surrounding the field.

    Technically, this would have been very sketchy just a few years ago, but it’s entirely within the range today. At most, it would involve a second or so delay, and having watched today’s game streaming on Univision, current broadcasts are at least that far behind Twitter, which seemed to a few seconds ahead the entire way.

    It’s soccer, not surgery. A bit of latency is okay. And as indicated by this clip from São Paulo, the Vuvazela is not a precision instrument.

    Anyway, if the ads can be made to work, the sport will invade. A huge number of kids in America already know how to play.

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