Television and the World Cup

Could all that flopping cause soccer to flop on TV?
by Jim Fair | Source:

Like millions of American sports fans, I have spent a good deal of time watching football (American football) on television.  But I expect I am in the distinct minority who would rather watch soccer (football in the rest of the world).

This preference was an acquired taste.  It began when my children were little and started playing park district soccer.  Like many of the dads, the first game I coached also was the first I saw.  My son became the soccer enthusiast in the family, playing on his high school team, traveling team, indoor team, summer camps – pretty much the entire soccer litany.

The more I learned about the game, the better I liked it.  Then, I spent a couple years working in London, where the football on television was soccer.  I was fortunate enough to attend a few games in person.  The enthusiasm of the crowds, the rivalry among the teams and the speed of the game were great fun.

And there was another huge benefit to watching a game on television:  no commercials during the time of play.  That’s right.  During television coverage of a soccer match they show commercials before the game, at halftime and after the game.  But they never, ever show commercials during the game.

As a result, the viewer gets to see 45 minutes straight of competition – perhaps a couple minutes more with stoppage time.  In American football, the majority of the time spent watching the game is occupied by commercials, time outs, replays and huddles.  Thus, it takes more than three hours to watch a 60-minute game.

Soccer, a 90-minute game, is a two-hour television experience.

In addition to enjoying the action and hoping for a Team USA miracle, I had two wishes for this year’s World Cup.

First, I dreamed that American broadcasters and football owners would realize that a game is more interesting if you don’t stop the action every couple minutes to sell beer or cars.  I don’t see any evidence of this dream coming true.

Second, I dreamed that Americans would be entranced by the speed and flow of soccer and want to see more.  The jury is still out on this dream, but I’m worried.  The championship match was a battle between two teams trying not to lose (something that has happened in more than a few Super Bowls). 

The game was dominated by pushing, shoving, tripping and (sometimes in response) a great deal of flopping.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a flop occurs when a grown man is bumped by an opposing player and responds by flinging himself to the ground, writhing in apparent pain while looking to see if the referee is watching and might call a penalty. 

Frankly, I find this behavior unmanly and lacking sportsmanship.  If a player conducted himself this way in baseball, American football or hockey, his opponents would soon make sure he had a genuine reason to writhe in pain.

No, I’m advocating violence.  But soccer is such a great game to watch on television that I just wish the players would play, not act.


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Published by: Joan
Date: 2010-07-22 12:24:12
Actually, it was one of the teams that played dirty most of the time. And the referee seemed to be kind of tolerant with violence during the game. All who watch attentively the match will understand what I mean.

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