FIFA's lust for commercial riches is unbecoming in a body so august. Money is the only reason the soccer-poor U. It scheduled the U. There even is evidence to suggest that FIFA disqualified Mexico from this region's tournament in order to guarantee the U. These are minor intrusions by the standards of U. Making players play soccer at noon in June in Mexico is no worse than asking baseball players to play baseball at night in October in Boston. FIFA's proposal to slice soccer matches into quarters may offend traditionalists, but the fact remains that once games are under way, soccer viewers abroad are spared TV commercials that intrude on play itself.
Nothing separates the U. I do not refer to commercials run during the natural breaks in action, or even such travesties as the TV time-out. Rather, confronted with games like hockey or soccer that offer few regular stoppages, our TV producers do worse by simply running commercials over the game action. It is impossible to imagine TV daring such high- handedness during news broadcasts or popular dramas. There are ways to cater to the needs of both a game and its sponsors.
Budweiser has pioneered the use of the shrink-screen technique for commercials, in which the company's logos and slogans appear on the perimeter of the screen while the announcer reads a polite plug and the game video plays on reduced in size, in the middle. Few companies have followed Budweiser's lead.
TNT plans to show four second commercials during each half of its World Cup telecasts, purportedly at their sponsors' insistence. Our TV people persist in such vandalism on the theory that such intrusions do no real harm to game coverage. TNT's Susan Polakoff lamely cites studies showing that the ball is not in play for 28 minutes of a soccer match's 90 minutes—studies that also show that the ball is not out of play for more than a few seconds at any one time.
TV sports producers also argue that replay technology means that viewers will see even goals scored during a commercial. Unfortunately for the viewer, goals are not all that is important about soccer, any more than orgasm is all that matters about sex. Playing is often as interesting as scoring. Continuity is also crucial in a good soccer match—the flow of play, the ebb and flow of tension.
Imagine having a broadcast of a Brahms symphony interrupted by commercials, with the missing crescendos replayed after the break the replays of course causing their own interruptions , and you will have some idea why soccer fans get into such a lather about commercials. Univision, interestingly, does not break into its game coverage to show commercials.
It knows its fans will not accept such intrusions and so does not allow sponsors the option. Commercials are bunched before and after the game and during halftime.
The policy hasn't hurt the sale of commercial time during its upcoming Cup telecasts; recent reports have Univision setting sales records, while TNT still had plenty of spots unsold as of late April. Even in America, integrity doesn't always lose money. The core audience for soccer in the U.
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Univision producer Mal Karowski reports that bidding for the Spanish-language rights to the Cup was spirited, because the audience is "enormous," relatively speaking. In Cup matches drew Super Bowl-size ratings in Univision markets, giving them a 46 share among Spanish-speaking households. The fact that the Cup was held in Mexico no doubt boosted that audience share, as did the fact that Mexico's team survived into the second round. This year's tourney—whose finals field includes teams from Costa Rica, Colombia, Argentina, and Spain—should find an audience too.
FIFA does not make it easy to sell soccer in the U. As noted, schedules favor Europe's viewers, so that many games show up on U. TV on weekday afternoons. That was the reason Univision decided this year to show only 33 of the 52 games it has rights to. All the deletions are first-round group games; on days when games are not shown, Univision will offer a minute prime-time highlight show instead.
Compared to the larger U. Karowski admits that the 2. Univision's World Cup audience is augmented by non-Spanish-speaking fans, but the size of this crossover audience isn't known or even sampled. Nationalism is a powerful compenent of the World Cup's appeal, as is reflected by its TV audience. But nationalism's appeal has been overestimated by Anglo soccer programmers. It doesn't run as deep among de-ethnicized Americans.
I can only hope the ratings proved them wrong. An exception was that memorable ice hockey final from Lake Placid during the winter Olympics. A team of college upstarts from the U. With such ill-matched teams, the game was as meaningless in sporting terms as Olympic team events always are, but it made a hell of a TV show, and U.
TV networks no doubt entered negotiations for rights to the World Cup with that game in mind. But that match had been promoted in effect for 35 years by the likes of John Foster Dulles, Nixon, and good ol' Joe McCarthy, whose anticommunist fulminations added a note or two of good versus evil to the David and Goliath theme. However dubious its source, the passion was real. Indeed, one reason the telecast was so memorable was that the atmosphere at the rink was so like that of a soccer stadium.
Theoretically they could meet in a semi in Naples on July 3; theoretically Gorbachev could resign to run off with Ivana Trump. Apart from the Olympics, international competition in team sports hardly exists on U. Insularity begets indifference, which begets insularity. The weekly highlight show English Soccer has been preempted more often than it has been shown by SportsChannel so the audience won't miss, in chronological order, Chicago harness highlights, a local bodybuilding how-to, and a rerun of a women's kick-boxing match.
Internationalism is integral to Univision for the same reason that Anglo TV rejects it: audience demand. Ted Turner, as usual, is an exception. But internationalization seems to be a trend among club owners. NBA teams are becoming as ethnically diverse in their membership as the top soccer leagues in Europe. But internationalization is unlikely to increase viewer sophistication: seeing a Nigerian center playing for Houston seems as unlikely to broaden the horizons of hoops fans as seeing Venezuelan shortstops has broadened those of baseball people, who still insist on calling a championship between San Francisco and Oakland a World Series.
It is the unreconstructed chauvinists among us who thrill to the poetry of the Trib's Bernie Lincicome, the Lyndon LaRouche of sports columnists. In a column about TV coverage of the Cup he wrote sarcastically, "Any sport in which the French are favored cannot be missed. He was offended too by brown-skinned people's insistence on spelling place names in the style of their places. Brasil and Espana, he explained, are "Brazil and Spain to you and me.
go to link So why bother to watch the World Cup, which is so alien to our sporting traditions, in which the U. All of the above. You may not be thrilled, but you will see much to intrigue you.
The White Sox can wait; the World Cup only happens every four years. Sitting down in front of the tube to watch international soccer is, I'm afraid, much like going to a party at which you know absolutely no one. Allow me to make some introductions:. Who to watch? The favored teams are Italy, West Germany, Brazil, and the Netherlands, all of which will meet in the later rounds. A few group games also look promising, including:. Recent World Cups have been showcases for great players rather than great teams, however.
The German Lotthar Matthaeus has impressive versatility and range, the epitome of the modern European midfielder. The Italian Franco Baresi is a fluent, cagey sweeper, which is a cross between a free safety and quarterback.
Brazil's Careca still knows how to shoot the ball, a skill most of the rest of the world seems to have forgotten. England's Peter Shilton, like all great goalkeepers, demonstrates how much athleticism owes to intelligence. And of course there's Maradona. This is his third World Cup. He left the first in disgrace and was hailed as a hero in the second. He's older now, much abused by opponents, and like all top players today has been asked to play much too much soccer. He is prone to theatrics that mar his game, but is as close to a Michael Jordan as the game has had since Pele.
However, the Greeks and Romans played football and ball kicking games. But why American peoples hate soccer? During the late 19th century, soccer was brought to the United States. History of Soccer Soccer is a well known sport throughout the world. The fans of Atletico Nacional, one of Medellin's two professional teams, unfurl a massive banner before the game starts. Mountains former a picturesque backdrop to Medellin's soccer stadium, which played host to a World Cup Qualifier Colombia vs. Football Soccer Sports 2 Pages.
Maradona plays professionally in the Italian league, for Naples, and I saw him play at least a dozen matches this season. Even during lackluster performances he manages to do two or three things that astonish. I recall how, on a breakaway, he. Never mind. Watch some games and get your own memories.