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Monday, June 19, 2006

World Cup Open Thread


(AFP/Valery Hache)
Stop thinking that. Don't bullshit me, I know
what you're thinking and you need to stop,
Now.

Monday, June 19, 2006
TIMEHOME AWAYMATCHVENUE
Jun 19 09:00 ET Togo v Switzerland
Match 30
Dortmund
Jun 19 12:00 ET Saudi Arabia v Ukraine
Match 32
Hamburg
Jun 19 15:00 ET Spain v Tunisia
Match 31



Ok, first, a belated Happy Father's Day. I spent mine with my niece and nephew, who are visiting. On short notice. Which means Jen stayed home, because she's a horrible short notice person.

Anyway, Brazil gear is everywhere in NY. You would think it would wait until the knockout stages, but it will get even worse. I own a Ronaldo Jersey, but wouldn't think of wearing it until the US is out. I also have a Van Nistlerooy jersey as well.

I think the US has crossed a bridge here with soccer. This is a booming sports season, with a tight NBA championship, the Mets rampaging in the NL East and Tigers in the AL Central, but for the first time in memory, soccer is being treated seriously. You might get the radio ranters, but in the papers and on TV, soccer is respected. It's not the funny game furriners play any more.

I think Europeans don't get that soccer is never going to be number one in the US, but part of a four sport, year round cycle. So you will never have the kind of insane passion that people have for an AC Milan. But it's going to be of interest to people.

It's partly that the games are on during the day, but because the games have been of relatively high quality, people are taking a look. The greatest knock on soccer is that it's boring, you don't hear much of that or about hooliganism these days.

And the criticism of Arena and the US play has been revolutionary. Everyone shrugged in 1998, and was suprised by 2002. Now, expectations have entered the game. People expect to play hard.

Ripping the ref: ABC's coverage of the USA-Italy World Cup game Saturday might have set a TV record for kvetching about the officiating after two U.S. players were ejected and the team could only have nine on the field. Game analyst Marcelo Balboa was irate about Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda, saying he had "no clue," "blew the game" and "ruined the game." (ABC analysts agreed. Even Giorgio Chinaglia, the ex-Italy star, said the ref was "disastrous.")

But Balboa, who'd candidly pointed out U.S. mistakes that led to Italy's goal, didn't seem angry just because calls went against the USA — Balboa seemed fairly objective. And play-by-play announcer Dave O'Brien, scorned by some soccer fanatics before the Cup because he hadn't called soccer, was workmanlike and dutifully used terms such as "nil" and "pitch."

ABC/ESPN World Cup ratings are way up from 2002. That's predictable, given that 2002 viewership was hampered by the extreme time-zone challenge presented by games being played in Japan and South Korea. But this is impressive: The 5.2 overnight rating for the Italy-USA tie — translating to 5.2% of 56 urban TV markets — is higher than every game overnight in the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Cups except for the Brazil-France title game in 1998.

Here is some idiocy in action

One Last Thing | Why America's not watching

By Jonathan Last

There's good news and bad news on the World Cup front. The bad news is that, despite the instructions your media overlords have given you, no one in America is watching the great quadrennial soccer carnival. Sure, if you read only the headlines ("World Cup Ratings Soar"; "World Cup Scoring with American Viewers"), you might think America has finally submitted and embraced soccer.

But the numbers don't lie. Last Sunday's network World Cup broadcast scored a 2.7 rating. Each rating point represents just less than 1 million households. To put that in perspective, the women's French Open final did a 1.9 on a Saturday morning; the national spelling bee pulled a 5.9. On Monday, the game between Team USA and the Czech Republic had a rating of 2.4.

The good news is that it will take a near miracle for the U.S. squad to advance to the next round. That's good because, truth be told, you and I don't care and the rest of the world cares very, very much. An American loss in the World Cup is basically a requirement for international stability. Look how upset everyone got when we toppled a murderous dictator in Iraq. What would happen if America - not just America, but George Bush's America! - won the World Cup? Panic? Riots? The upheaval of civilizations? It wouldn't surprise me if Bush's "pep talk" with Bruce Arena before the Czech game was really a veiled threat: "Hey, coach, good luck out there. If you win, the vice president wants to take you quail hunting."
So, the US -Italy game, on a weekend, drew close to the NBA championship series. Ok. I don't think anyone at Bristol is in fear of their jobs. To draw half that on ESPN2 is going to make a lot of execs happy for weekday games. Because a lot of the weekday games are seen in groups in bars and offices. You can see them everywhere, stores, restaurants.

But the assholes have to act like soccer is going to rip their balls off, so they make shit up.

posted by Steve @ 11:53:00 PM

11:53:00 PM

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