Forward Progress in US Coverage
Being inside the bubble of soccer supporters in this country sometimes makes it hard to get a pulse for how the general sporting consensus perceives the game. The coverage by the news agencies, both local and national, has certainly increased in recent years. But, you would have to admit that if you're reading this, you're probably like me and scan the days sports section looking for soccer first and then moving on to everything else. Because in our minds, it is soccer before everything else.
I've been venturing out of the soccer sphere recently - hence the 94 day blogging hiatus - to see what I could see. Not necessarily in the name of trying to find soccer, but more in the name of balancing out my head with other thought that didn't involve a round ball getting kicked around between two nets.
During my time away I had a few encouraging experiences with the "non-soccer" media that were clear signs to me that soccer coverage has made a few steps forward.
Albeit, US sports media still has a ways to go with the simplest game, but it's good to take a step back and point out the things that they are doing well.
Step forward #1: Local newspaper coverage.
I live 90 miles north of Salt Lake City, and my local paper here in Logan, The Herald Journal, has been amazing at covering MLS. They've tapered off with the stadium coverage, but to be honest who hasn't grown weary of the drama? On field stuff, where it matters, they have it covered. The measuring stick I use is that I watch how well they cover the Jazz in comparison, and I've found that the two Salt Lake teams are equal in the amount of space and placement they receive.
Step forward #2: National Public Radio.
An ideal morning consists of getting out of bed before dawn and finding my way to the gym to welcome my body into a new day. During such excursions I routinely take a brake from music and turn the dial public radio so that I can feel connected with the world mentally while traveling to and from my place of torture that some call exercise.
One Wednesday morning a few weeks ago, while I was literally in the motion of turning my keys out of the ignition, I caught the words "let's go to Los Angeles where soccer sta..." My keys instinctively plunged by into their home and twisted just in time to bring sound back to my speakers to hear, "...ckham will take his place with the LA Galaxy later this year."
The announcer was introducing a commentary segment by longtime Sport's Illustrated writer Frank Deford - one of the oldest of the old guard. While is well respected in the realm of media and sports, the man couldn't give a rat's left eye about soccer. With the same sick curiosity you have when you can't take your eyes of a hideous car wreck, I sat in my open garage parked in my chilled car anxious to see what this old sportsman had to say about the most expensive deal in American soccer history.
Deford displayed his class by showcasing his almost perfect research on a sport practically foreign to him. Although, his credibility took a hit when he referred to the MLS Commissioner as DAN Garber (It's Don, Mr. Deford). Although, after multiple listening I'm leaning toward the train of thought that - because of the emphasis in his voice - he made the "mistake" on purpose.
You may not agree with Deford's assessment - although his point about Beckham knowing how to make an exit may not be far off - but, the part that impresses me is that he gave MLS time on his weekly commentary. And, he took the time to be (mostly) well researched.
Listen to Deford's essay
Final Step Forward: ESPN.
During the US-Mexico match this last week I was impressed to see highlights at half time. I'm not talking about clips from the US match or from other sports, but soccer highlights of the other friendlies going on that day.
The next morning at the gym SportsCenter of all things surprised me with soccer material. Now, I know this may be old hat for most of you but I don't get ESPN at home, so this was earth shattering for me. I understand that they have an ESPN Deportes section on SC every once in a while and it's mainly all soccer. Not bad, ESPN. Not bad at all.