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Soccer Bashing Persists Despite Growth

Mike DeCourcy is Sporting News' senior college basketball writer, but he's also a soccer nut, so please welcome him to TSB for a brief cameo.
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↵And you thought the noise had subsided when the last vuvuzela blew at the Confederations Cup. ↵

↵Oh, no. This is soccer we're talking about -- soccer in America. And when some large portion of this nation's sports fans turns attention to soccer, there is guaranteed to be a large portion of this nation's sports media turning loose the same, tired, anti-soccer bigotry. ↵

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↵The only difference with this week's columns is they broke the quadrennial cycle for soccer-hating. Usually, it's only unleashed in World Cup years. ↵

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↵At the end of perhaps the greatest eight-day period for this country's national team -- decisive victories over Egypt and Spain along with a harrowingly close loss to Brazil -- Mike Celizik of NBC Sports reached for the same tired discussion about what impact the Confederations Cup would have on soccer in the U.S. Yep, he brought up Pele and the New York Cosmos. ↵

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↵How dated is that reference? When the Cosmos last were a relevant to a discussion of soccer in America, Landon Donovan had not been born. ↵

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↵The avenue followed by Mike Freeman at CBS Sports was at least different. The logic was hard to track, but it traveled from: David Beckham in Major League Soccer wasn't the big deal it was supposed to be, the U.S. lost to Brazil, so soccer doesn't matter here. ↵

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↵Jim Donaldson of the Providence Journal Bulletin took the most unusual approach. He declared the 2.7 rating ESPN got for the U.S.-Brazil game a disappointment -- even though it was the network's largest for a non-World Cup game, and though it far outdrew the national ratings for Major League Baseball and Wimbledon tennis on the same weekend. And here's the kicker: The soccer ratings do not take into account the large number of people who watched on the Spanish-language Univision network, which World Soccer Daily radio host Steven Cohen estimated would more than double the total number of Americans who watched the game. ↵

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↵What these gentlemen don't seem grasp is that as they hibernated since the last World Cup, soccer's growth in the U.S. escalated. Major League Soccer's rapid expansion continued. The U.S. victory in the 2007 Gold Cup drew a substantial TV audience and sent the Americans to the Confed Cup. U.S. players Jozy Altidore, Freddy Adu, Brad Guzan and Clint Dempsey were sold to clubs in the biggest European leagues. Perhaps most important, ESPN made major commitments to expanding its telecasts and coverage of the sport. ↵

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↵Soccer has arrived here. It's bigger than it used to be. It's not as big as it will get. It'll never be as big as the NFL, or baseball, or the NBA, but those who continue to scorn it will be missing the point -- and some really entertaining games. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.