NEWS BLOG (WSAU) With the FIFA World Cup being played, we’re ready to rekindle the debate about why the sport has limited popularity in the US.
It’s a false debate. Soccer has caught on as a playing sport, not as a spectator sport. There are at least as many kids playing soccer as there are Little League baseball. Some will stay with it. Unfortunately if they want to play professional soccer they will probably need to catch on with an overseas team in Europe or South America.
Of course, soccer is low scoring so it lacks some of the excitement of the NFL or NBA. But I have another theory of why soccer hasn’t caught on in the US: it doesn’t look good on television.
I say this with a semi-educated opinion. I’ve watched a tremendous amount of live soccer this year since my son began playing in a school league. Even at that low level, you see soccer differently in person than what’s presented on TV. In person, where you see the whole field and all the players, you see the plays unfold. You see more of the strategy so the game seems less random. You see one team pushing up, mounting an attack, pressing an advantage. You have a much better idea of why and how a goal was scored. TV captures none of this with the standard television pan-shot.
There are other sports that look totally different in person than on a small screen. Watch a boxing match in person, and you see the punches fly and the sweat fly off the men in the ring. Watch horse racing in person, where you see a thoroughbred with its 30-foot stride at top speed. The power and strength of those animals doesn’t translate to television. Hockey pucks are hard to follow and the intensity of the hits are lost. Baseball, football and basketball generally look good on TV. If anything, watching those games may be a better viewing experience than being there.
I listened to an internet radio feed of the USA-Algeria soccer match. There’s no future in soccer play-by-play on the radio.
Operations Manager-Midwest Communications, Wausau