The initial 16 games are in the books. (Let’s act like Brazil and Mexico haven’t played their scoreless draw yet) It’s been a whirlwind of a week. It’s a tough life consuming 24 hours of football over 6 days… but someone has to do it. There should be a day off tomorrow to denote the next round of group matches, but I would run the risk of being too efficient at work. These are my quick thoughts on the tournament so far:
1. Goals. 3.09 per match so far. It’s a popular theme in the American media to praise the amount of goals being scored. If goal scoring is up, casual fans will be interested and TV ratings will follow a similar path. I’m just excited the popular theme is not about a crazy, uncontrollable ball, such as the Jabulani from South Africa. Although the heat and humidity conditions are a popular mention, it doesn’t necessarily breed unexciting football. Generally, the start of a major tournament can be lackluster. Teams play conservatively, not minding a draw. With the exception of a couple of matches, the run of play has been wide open and free flowing.
2. It’s natural to overreact, but don’t. Writers have to be salivating at a shot to dig into the end of the Spanish dynasty, the massive meltdown of the Portuguese squad, or the demise of Uruguay while their polarizing star looks on. Expect these teams to bounce back. These teams have all been here multiple times before and are too talented to fold after one bad result.
3. ESPN is the big winner. American fans can be dismissive of watching or supporting “soccer” for a number of reasons. Ties, low scoring, USA is not elite, flopping, lack of masculinity, etc. These reasons are scapegoats for the lack of interest in the U.S.A. To those casual fans – This has been a high scoring, only twice drawing tournament featuring a broken nosed Dempsey helping the USA win. Not only can point to real solutions to those issues based on the initial 16 matches, we can resolve the real issue why football is not as popular in the United States relative to the world. We don’t have it shoved down our throat on ESPN like we do baseball, basketball, and american football. Casual fans don’t know 20 of the 23 United States squad members because they don’t play their club games on American television. There are a lot of reasons why football isn’t on ESPN more, but with the World Cup, we get non-stop coverage. Americans have no choice but to get interested. We will gradually accept anything that is pushed on us. (See most all of pop music radio) It just really helps American interest when we have such a fantastic start to the World Cup. A start that nixes the aforementioned issues from casual fans.