Soccer will never grow in U.S. without easy access via television.(Friday, October 1, 1999) -- How will soccer ever grow in this country if most of the major games are not televised to a mass audience. That is what a couple dozen readers asked in response to Jerry Langdonís column "MLSís invisible accomplishment . . . and other comments." Here is a sampling of those e-mails.
A broken record
Congratulations to Jerry Langdon on another excellent article, "MLS's invisible accomplishments. . . ", which summarizes how many frustrated U.S. soccer fans feel: disappointed and annoyed at the United States Soccer Federation and Major League Soccer.
Unfortunately, this is starting to sound like a broken record from the fans. Can't MLS and the USSF realize they are making a big mistake, when fans continue to complain about the lack of TV coverage for U.S. soccer? How do they expect to develop new fans, when they can't even please the few that they have?
I read, in one of your previous articles, that U.S. Soccer (marketing director) Mark Noonan explained that the lack of TV viewership was inhibiting sponsors. As other readers have already stated: WAKE UP! At this juncture of this business (U.S. soccer), one must be willing to televise, even if it means doing it without too many sponsors, and losing money. It's the only way they will be able to grow the sport.
I consider myself a soccer fanatic. Particularly when it comes to U.S. teams playing international games. Unfortunately, I am one of the 270 million people (out of 275 million) in the U.S. who will not have access to the CONCACAF Champions Cup tourney. So, do you know what I'm going to do this weekend? I'm going to watch the Pittsburgh Penguins open the hockey season and the Pittsburgh Steelers play against Jacksonville.
The way the USSF and MLS market their sport, they certainly make it easy for other sports, vying for the same marketing dollars, to steal away their few fans: Just don't show the exciting games (CONCACAF, Confederations Cup, etc.) on TV to the majority of the public. Boy, (new MLS commissioner) Don Garber has his work cut out for him in trying to explain to MLS and USSF. how the real business world works!
You are right on the mark about the CONCACAF Champions Cup. Very frustrating not to be able to watch D.C. United's progress in this tournament. This tournament could (should) be on the same level as, say, the Ryder Cup, yet as you mention it is virtually invisible to Americans.
Would anyone have cared much about the Ryder Cup outcome if it hadn't been televised and analyzed to death? No. And what is the deal on playing on a lousy field in Las Vegas? Who arranged that?
Robert Gluck [firstname.lastname@example.org]
While I enjoy your comments on the state of soccer broadcasting in the U.S., I feel that your disappointment may be misdirected. I feel Fox Sports World does an outstanding job of broadcasting games that no one else will touch. Sure, I had to get a satellite dish and fork over an extra 10 bucks a month to add Fox Sports World to my basic subscription, but at least they recognized that there are people out there that want to see these games.
I honestly doubt that all the soccer fans in Europe and Latin America have to get dishes to view the top games, but this is just another example of the U.S Soccer Federation's lack of forward thinking. The general population can't get excited by something they can's see. The Women's World Cup was easily accessible and you saw the excitement generated, likewise with World Cup USA '94.
I honestly believe our National menís team is on the cusp of something special and now is the time to build the fan base. Thanks for your time and for being a source of relatively unbiased information on a game I and so many others in the U.S love.
Dan Tyree [SMTP:DTyree@etrade.com]
Langdon is noticed
I just wanted to let you know that Jerry Langdonís work isn't going unnoticed. As a self-proclaimed soccer fanatic, I update myself on the in and outs of U.S. soccer through your columns via Internet.
Michael J. Thompson [email@example.com]
Jerry Langdon has done a great job over the years covering MLS and soccer!
Glenn Davis [GDavis1998@aol.com]
U.S. Soccer lacks self-respect
Bruce Arena was emphatic in responding to a Brazilian journalist's query as to what U.S. men's soccer had learned from the success of its women. Nothing, he replied, and why would anyone think there was anything the men could learn from the women, it being two completely different games?
I admire Arena, and maybe there is nothing for him to learn. But U.S. Soccer generally can learn a lot. Like believing in soccer, and in the U.S. game.
Travesties like no TV coverage for important matches, the MetroStars playing on National Football League Astroturf, or the CONCACAF games being played on a 65-yard-wide hardpan field -- or the wind-down clock, time stoppages, and shootouts for that matter -- show a lack of self-respect. Not to mention hiring an NFL veteran as Major League Soccer commissioner. We will never make progress against the soccer haters when they seem to control U.S. Soccer.
The U.S. women and their entire organization clearly believed in themselves and the beauty of their game. Self haters will never generate that kind of popularity. Arena is a true soccer person, his love of the game and understanding of it have shown brilliantly wherever he has coached. It is no wonder he was considered an outsider before winning his way to the top.
Why not replace the entire U.S. Soccer organization with people selected by Arena and those who made the Women's World Cup what it was. Let brilliant soccer shine. Don't ask NFL people to change soccer to make it more attractive to non-soccer people. This is the line that divides the women's Game, and Arena as well, from the rest of the soccer chaff.
Cary M. Adams [CAdams@murphyaustin.com]
I just wanted to say that in general I agree with your statements about the Champions' Cup, especially how CONCACAF messed up by placing the tourney in Las Vegas.
But I would point out that people who truly want to see the games can do so in almost any reputable sports bar in the country. This is due to the fact that DirecTV, which now carries the soccer network, is the primary satellite vendor of sports bars around the country. If the fans would put out the effort, they could easily see the games. All it would take are a couple of phone calls and a willingness to ask the proprietor to tune in the appropriate channel.
I am one of those few diehards that purchased DirecTV solely for the ESPN\MLS Shootout, and I got more than had ever hoped for when DirecTV added Univision, Galavision and Fox Sports World. When I saw that FSW had picked up the CONCACAF event, I knew right then and there that I will never switch my satellite service again (assuming the programming remains the same).
It's scary, really. Four years ago I could only see about 10 games in whole year. Now I can see 10 games a week, and many of those games are played by professional teams right here in the USA. I'm glad you guys are out there voicing your criticism because we still have a long way to go before true stability actually will take root. But to see how far things have come in such a short time, I'm ultimately quite satisfied.
Clint Nurnberg [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Since I first started watching soccer in the U.S. in the early 90's one thing I have noticed is that the commentating in this country, for the most part, is deficient to speak positively of it. I must admit it has evolved commensurate with the level of exposure the game has received and we are no longer forced to be tortured with explanations of what a corner kick is.
But, I believe we are at a point with MLS where we no longer need to dumb the game down for the less knowledgeable fan and should work on the respectability that comes from honesty and understanding of this sport. I'm not saying that there should be expectations of Serie A quality for a league that obviously right now does not measure to that standard. I am saying that commentators have a duty as interpreters of the game to give an honest analysis of what is happening on the field to empower those at home to possibly speak about a nice run someone made to open themselves up to move into scoring position, rather than rattle of useless points and reporting of notices that lead the eye only to where the ball is.
Teach what the game is about and be passionate instead of sounding like your reading a cue card telling you to sound this way. You don't have to yell unless you feel the need to; on the other hand the commentating from England never let's lose with the shouts of gooool!, but they are none the less passionate. If this is not possible with the current television talent, do you think it is possible to have these commentators listen to some of the higher caliber talent in the English game, or possibly learn a new language, maybe Spanish or Italian, in the hopes that they will learn what true commentating is?
Maybe we could set up a commentator exchange program like we have done with the referees?
G. Move [email@example.com]