Monday, June 28, 2010

How to Save Soccer

By Steve Weddle

Most Mondays I devote this space to saying something about crime fiction, hoping the tens of people who read what I write are interested.

Today, however, I devote my triple-ish digit IQs to solving the problem of soccer. Because, as I've learned the past few weeks, the world must figure out how to make Americans like kickball. I have solved the problem, thanks to my wife's genius. Yes, world: You're welcome.

My lovely bride and I were watching the World Cups Kickball Tournament this weekend when she explained to my why kickball hasn't caught on here in the states.

"The whole foreigners in shorts thing," I suggested.

That wasn't it.

"No blue line for offsides?"


"The dives and fake injuries and prima donna play?"

Not so much.

My wife nodded towards the teevee. "The commercials."

"What commercials?"

"Exactly. Our sports are full of commercials. Soccer doesn't have them."

And that's absolutely spot on. How can the teevee stations make any money when they can't break every seven minutes for three minutes worth of commercials about light beer and soft peters?

In throwball, you've got built-in stops. Imagine if soccer broke each time they changed possession. Heck, in throwball, the teevee people won't even let the QB get the ball until you get through another one of those commercials about old people sitting in bathtubs and watching the sun go down. (I'm not sure he needs pills for his soft peter as much as a change of location.) Imagine if they went to commercial each time Ronaldo lost the ball by hotdogging, diving, or taking an ill-advised shot. Ronaldo loses the ball. Cue the Slap Chop guy.

In baseball, a sport made for teevee (except, you know, for the sleeping viewers), you've got breaks each half-inning. And each pitching change, which, if you're watching a Tony Larussa game, happens more often that a herpes outbreak on an MTV reality show.

Hockey is split into thirds instead of halves, with the occasional breaks thrown in when Joey Kocur breaks someone's head. (Haven't watched in a while.)

And golf goes to commercial whenever Tiger isn't addressing his balls. (I'm tired. Write your own joke for that one.)

So as long as soccer refuses to take a commercial break every five minutes or so, it'll never catch on in the US of A. Most people here get their games on the teevee, unlike in Foreignland when each petrol station seems to have its own Football Club United. We used to have the same sort of thing 50 years ago here in the states with baseball teams. You can drive through the east-coast country side, for example, and still see backstops from that era. Cool stuff. But if it ain't televised here in the states, it ain't important. The opposite is also true, as we have learned that "being famous" is its own profession.

So soccer, you need more commercials. You need to be like the National Football League here in America, our most popular sport. Instead of having two 45-minute halves of non-stop action, take a cue from the National Football League.

In a three-and-a-half hour professional football game, you've only got ELEVEN minutes of action. That's eleven minutes of action up against about an hour of commercials. And this is why it is so popular. The teevee people have a stake in it. The beer companies want you to watch. The soft peter people want you to be excited about their pills.

When I watch a soccer match, I'm focussed on the game itself. The players. The movement of the ball across the pitch. A striker sneaking in down the side. I'm invested in the game. Only the game. I'm not thinking about how my truck is old or how thirsty I am or that I need to fill my belly with pizza. Why in the hell would the corporate overlords of the US of A get behind soccer? For that little rectangle next to the time in the top of my teevee? A sponsorship deal? Are you kidding?

The companies that broadcast the games are the companies that are trying to sell you a new truck or a cure for what ails ya. They own the radio stations with the SportsTalk programming. It's in their interest to get you interest in their interests.

People have to make money off of the sport in order for it to succeed. And the way the NFL and MLB and whoever else makes money is through commercials. Until soccer does something about this, corporate America will never find it useful. If the big businesses can find a way to put Smiling Bob or the Slap Chop in front of you every few minutes -- and not a just logo on a jersey, DC United -- then soccer will succeed in America.

Football is something to hold your interest between commercials. Same as that 30 minute sitcom that's really 19-20 minutes of show and 10 minutes of commercials.

C'mon, Soccer. Wake up. As my wife said, "Commercials." Yup. That is what will save soccer here in America. And hurry up because I'm ready to buy me a jersey.

Believe me, more commercials for lite beer and soft peter pills is the answer. Then soccer will be all over the teevee and you won't be so hard up for some scoring.

Wait until you hear about my idea to save fiction publishing. Two words: Product Placement.


Paul D Brazill said...


Paul D Brazill said...

Oh, and a great way to save American Rugby-apart from getting the players to take off the cushions and helmets- is to bring in superheroes

Irene Ziegler said...

I'm glad you credit your wife for the epiphany. But "light beer and soft peters"; that one made me shoot hot tea through my nose at a high velocity.

Steve Weddle said...

Paul -- Thanks for that. I have a Spider-Man and the Dallas Cowboys comic from a few decades ago. That one you link up is hilarious.

Irene -- Sorry about that. Hope you weren't visiting with folks at Panera or anything.

Joanne Young Elliott said...

Commercials...of course! That's the whole reason we watch the Superbowl isn't it?

Dave White said...

My soccer opinion...

You make good points too... But during the USA England game, watching twitter was hilarious. Everyone for the first ten minutes was all "USA!!!" and then by the 14 minute mark "WTF, this boring!"

Steve Weddle said...

Joanne -- Yes. Can you imagine the excitement if the International Kickball Tournament had a big push for its ads? But they have no place to put them. That's the problem, isn't it?

Dave -- Also, they play game while the US of A is at work. They need to play the games on weekend afternoons or at whatever time makes it 7 pm my time. Probably something like 2 am in Europe, but that's ok with me.

Travener said...

This is actually a pretty good theory. Novel, too. Usually you hear that Americans don't like it because there's no scoring. Hell, there's no scoring in hockey, either. Of course, those guys are on a much smaller field, on ice skates, carrying big sticks, slamming into each other all the time, and whacking "the ball" about 150 mph. I consider myself a sophisticated internationalist but have the usual American aversion to soccer.

Cricket, on the other hand, rocks.

Jay Stringer said...

Great theory steve. Tell the head of the household that she's a genius.

It's better tha hearing people complaining about 'ties,' like they want their fiction to be grey areas but their sport to be black and White. So many different tactical approaches, so many different ways to draw a game and the tension that comes with it. Wouldn't trade that for any sport in the world.

Except maybe a naked one with chocolate.

Steve Weddle said...

Travener -- Don't even get me started on curling.

Jay -- Yup. Some of the most exciting baseball is the tightness of a 1-1 game going in to the 9th.

Eric Beetner said...

Finally someone admits what the issue is! Your wife is dead right. Of course you could take 5 min commercial breaks in soccer and not miss a damn thing but that's beside the point. Kudos to your wife for finding the answer most Americans don't want to admit to.

Mike Dennis said...

My biggest objection to soccer (apart from the lack of scoring--a 1-0 lead can be "insurmountable") is the fact that if the game ends in a tie, I believe they give each team five free kicks. Is that it?

Well, what they've done is switch at the last minute from a game where it's impossible to score, to a game where it's impossible NOT to score. It's like switching from soccer to shooting free throws to determine a winner of the soccer game.

Jay Stringer said...

really don't get the complaints about 'ties' to be honest. Its overlooking all the drama, the tension, the politics.

its like great fiction. the story is HOW the two teams get to that result. there are so many different things involved.

a game might end 2-2, 3-3 or 4-4 (ive seen them all) after two teams have gone all out for 90 minutes, a drama of neither side deserving to lose. Ive seen teams sent out to draw, where they gamble that the opposition wont nick a goal and that a draw is better in the long run. I've seen a team get a man sent off and then hold out against a siege for 60 mins to earn a draw thats as priceless as a win.

Surely fans of great crime fiction also enjoy a sport with as many complexities and subtleties as football?

A football match is 90+ minutes of passing, of movement, of tactics, of team work or individual flair, of underdogs or arrogance, or goals and saves and fouls.

its just missing commercial breaks. and nakedness. and chocolate.

Hmmm....i think i have invented a new sport today.

Mrs. Weddle said...

Next week I am going to supply Steve with my plan for fixing baseball.

Paul D Brazill said...

I think they should put adverts in films, too. You could skip most of The Searchers and Lawrence Of Arabia and put a nice advert for a weak beer instead of all that boring desert stuff.

Paul D Brazill said...

How to save baseball? Superheroes!

Evan Lewis said...

Brilliant plan. To which I might add... cheerleaders in bikinis and public executions at halftime.