Friday, 8 June 2007

Such a major turn off?

The ‘sawker section’ of ESPN’s website recently asked visitors to vote for their favourite player in a poll unlike any other. Instead of meaningless popularity contests – the ones that you suspect actually matter to Frank Lampard – this poll by America’s leading sports channel decides which players go forward to perform in the league’s showpiece All Star game against Celtic in July.

The equivalent in England would be interesting to say the least. Surely some online petition to get Lee Trundle in there could be a success. Meanwhile Jose Mourinho could talk of online conspiracies that denied his players a place. You’d suspect Ashley Cole and Gary Neville would be watching the game from their armchairs anyway.

A good idea is still a good idea though and the fact that this came from the MLS is a bit of a shock. So are there any more earth-shattering ideas from over there? Well, no… but then that may be due to the fact that aside from the players poll, that section of ESPN’s site (along with most of the official MLS site) devotes much of its front page to one Mr. D. Beckham.

They have a countdown to his arrival, they have ‘Beckham Watch’ with all the latest news, and one of the scribes has just written a piece where he predicts that the arrival of His Becksness will have the same initial impact on American sports that Pele’s introduction to the New York Cosmos had in the ‘70s.

Strong words indeed, but chances are that Beckham landing in LA will signal a huge upsurge in interest in the league across America. Over here however, there’s as much appetite for the MLS as there is for a new series of Dinnerladies or 2.4 Children.

But why so? Admittedly, the standard of the league is hard to gauge, no one will argue that. Considering a near-ancient Cobi Jones still plies his trade for LA Galaxy and former Juventus player and Time Magazine ‘Person of the Century’, Ronnie O’Brien (trust me, look it up if you don’t know the story), is also playing in the top-tier, the playing level doesn’t sound that great. But they’re the players we know – half a generation on from USA ’94 surely there’s some rough diamonds out there.

For a start, it’s competitive football and surely that has to be better entertainment than international friendlies and nonsense like the Amsterdam Tournament. At present, Sky Sports, Setanta and Eurosport have no immediate plans to screen any of the US league games though.

Yet between them they regularly show matches from Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Scotland, Ireland and the Conference in addition to the Premiership cash cow. Would you prefer to watch Dunfermline or Freddy Adu trying to prove his class for Real Salt Lake?

We can watch rigged Spanish games at the end of each season due to the ‘win bonuses’ that clubs offer each other to take out their rivals. With our addiction to the game, we can even force ourselves to watch a French league so uncompetitive that the last two managers of its champions Lyon left when they get bored of constant victory. That’s what Sky and Setanta are offering at the moment anyway.

So why not screen the American games? I mean even the excuse that we’ll watch any football going in the close-season has some weight behind it at least. But no, Sky and rest won’t bite, and that even includes the Beckham-obsessed ITV who have been known to show the bloody Intertoto Cup.

It’s not as if everything that comes out of England is worth watching anyway. The FA Cup, for instance, is still marketed as the most watched domestic cup final in the world. While that may be true, the games are usually awful and the audience numbers dwindling with each run down a blind alley by Ronaldo.

In fact, FA Cup finals had the patent on “shit hanging from a stick” a long time before Champions League semi finals.

At the other end of the scale from the MLS, Serie A in the early to mid-nineties was undoubtedly the best league in the world yet after a few years of Gazzamania, viewers started to desert it. Even the football of Brazil is the preserve of the graveyard shift on Channel 4. Different leagues, it seems, just don’t sit well with Premiership or Championship viewers; even La Liga doesn’t attract huge numbers on Sky.

Maybe it’s a need to have football on TV; or maybe it’s just the curiosity of their system of blooding players in college before the big leagues; but perhaps a few folks out there wouldn’t mind a bit of ‘sawker’ of an afternoon.

“The Euro snobs will be watching, too,” writes Michael Dell Appa on ESPN of Beckham’s debut. Don’t be so sure, we’re too snobby to even get the TV rights apparently.



Mark V said...

it sould be quite fun to watch an all star game from the premiership, it's be hard to see many of the top four in there, since they're all a bunch a cunts really.

for the record, some of the players I think would get in:

Cech - doesn't speak to the press much

campbell - everyone feels sorry for him now because he went a bit mad for a while, and he's no longer playing for Arsenal. dead cert.

Scholes - boring ginger man, who wins the sympathy and skill vote

Berbatov & McCarthy - not around long enough to annoy people


MLS - I wouldn't really stay up late to watch it live, wouldn't mind a highlights package. But really, I've enough to be doing watching hundreds of Premiership, CL, etc games a season. I don't really watch any other league, despite my passing interest in them - spain, germany, italy. There's really not enough hours, so unless it's on the news (i.e. Sky Sports News) tehn I won't see it

Parrotbait said...

Hey lads, idea for the podcast. The under-21 European championships are starting this week how about a run down on each team, best players, most likely to make it or just if there are any 'crazies' in the making there. Probably the only decent football coming out way in the next few weeks, hopefully England don't win it or we'll be hearing about it.

Cheers for spotting my boring blog, might put up my own soccer/random drivel one at some stage, one there now is rather boring.

MLS - check out this
Apparently its the top 100 players since the league has started based on who's got into the Best XI each year. Ronnie O'Brien in joint 14th with 2 nominations. Other luminaries such as Donadoni,Valderrama,Richard Gough, Ronnie Ekelund(think he signed for Barca at one stage) and a 99-year old Stoichkov

Have a look at De Rosarios goals on youtube scored some crackers he has

tyduffy said...

The MLS has its fair share of problems. The skill level isn't quite what it should be. But, that said, it is still about at the level of the Championship and often proves far more exciting than the turd sandwiches the Premiership and FA force down our throats.

Yes, it is shit. But, maybe if it was on TV in the UK and Ireland your pundits wouldn't dismiss it outright without even watching a match.

JJ said...

Okay... despite my defence of watching the MLS, the standard of interview style from the Americans may leave a little to be desired....