What does skim milk, carpooling, Cash-4-Gold, Season 4 of Entourage, jean shorts (jorts), and sitting in the exit row on a commercial flight all have in common?
That’s correct! They all have a comparable approval rating in the U.S. with soccer, the most popular sport in the rest of the world that somehow continues to be stuck in the status quo of ho-hum here in America.
It’s not that soccer or it’s aforementioned culture comparatives are all completely dismissible (they’re all practical), it’s just that us Americans staunchly prefer the alternatives, especially when it comes to sport.
Please don’t say Americans and their affinity for violence is over-hyped, or that violence has nothing to do with soccer’s level of obscurity here.
On MMA night in Fargo, N.D., why does the inside of a Buffalo Wild Wings look like the theatre scene from the movie “Gremlins”? As opposed to a televised U.S.A. World Cup qualifying match, in the same restaurant, where the atmosphere feels like that of a retirement home’s multi-purpose center on canasta night? Hmmm…
Reason 1) Why soccer will NEVER become an American National Past Time: Marketing Futility
In order to influence, patronize, and inspire Americans to invest time in your product, your gonna need a party of home-grown, English speaking, charismatic, world-class athletes (all of which David Beckham is not, read further for more on him). Take bowling for instance. It’s accessible, affordable, and fun. Yet, can you name any bowler not named Earl Anthony, Roy Munson or Ernie “Big Earn” McCrakin?
Big Earn, played by Bill Murray, was a three-time Odor Eaters champion.
Nearly 30 years after Pele unwittingly failed to institutionalize soccer in America, while playing for the New York Cosmos, the U.S. Men’s Soccer Federation attempted to seduce us with a “Chosen One” in Freddy Adu. Remember the hype centered around young soccer phenom? The Federation marketed Adu, a grassroots prototype, as one who could bring “balance” to the proverbial soccer force in the world. Adu would finally make the Stars & Stripes a soccer power.
In hindsight, there really is nothing satirical or cynical to speak of with the U.S.’s effort in an attempt to foster Adu’s estimated high ceiling of skill. They had to try something. The 1998 World Cup effort was an embarrassment: 0 wins, 3 losses, 1 goal scored. And its not like the attention swelled Adu’s ego. He wasn’t saying, “Cheese” on the face of any lunchbox, or pedaling Gatorade on every commercial break, or squiring starlets around town.
But he couldn’t build a soccer bandwagon the size of Alaska for this country to ride in himself. Michael Jordan couldn’t do it with basketball alone, he needed Magic and Bird behind him.
The answer that Adu revealed to us then and David Beckham is showing us now, walks hand in hand with life: you can’t succeed going about it alone. While you may be able to reach the platform, someone still has to control the lights, and sound.
The best way to describe it: Goosebumps. Chastain became a household name in America after scoring left-footed to clinch the World Cup Championship in a shootout versus China.
Nobody did this better than the 1999 US Women’s World Cup Soccer Champs. Would Mia Hamm be one of the most recognizable sport figures in the world without Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy and the rest of the elite alumnus’s from that iconic team? That’s arguable. Would we identify Hamm as a World Champion though? No.
In a recent Sports Illustrated feature on Chastain’s, her agent, John Courtright was quoted as saying, “I think Brandi transformed the way corporate dollars are spent on female athletes.”
To become an international powerhouse, the ‘99 U.S. Women’s soccer team were fortunate enough to work on the grandest of platforms while using a combination of great athletes who happened to be marketable.
Compare that to Adu’s situation: One male teen who probably wasn’t even old enough to date, let alone drive a car by the time he scored his first professional goal.
Check in for the next post, with a further explanation of why Men’s soccer will never become as popular to the average American sports fan as football. Keywords: teenage commitment, modification, distinction