Friday, August 31, 2007

David Beckham USA Soccer Savior? Really?

There are times in American sports where hype never meets reality. Think Ryan Leaf, Brian Bozworth or Grant Hill. Now think David Beckham. He may not be in the same group as those other guys nor do those three get grouped together. What I'm saying is they none of them lived up to expectations imposed on them. I've grown old and tired of hearing about David Beckham being the savior for American Soccer.

The main problem with marketing him as the savior to a sport that has been dormant since the beginning of sports, is that he isn't a scorer in a sport where scoring is at premium. Beckham is only famous for one thing, his ability to score off of penalty kicks when he bends the ball over the defenders heads and into the corner of the goal. Hence the movie "Bend it like Beckham". I don't understand why the MLS and the LA Galaxy expect Americans to pay attention to an entire game to see maybe one play of his kicks, if at all. The American sports landscape is dominated by the big three of Football, Baseball and Basketball. Soccer for goodness sakes is as irrelevant as the NHL and we all know how popular that sport is today. So I'm having a hard time understanding why he is a savior to a sport that doesn't matter to the vast majority of Americans.

In my view American only pay attention to soccer once every four years. And if you can't figure out why that is then you really don't pay attention to soccer. The World Cup is played every four years, that's the time most people will tune in their TVs to watch. I myself am not a soccer person, I subscribe to those three previous sports mentioned above, but I will watch the World Cup not only when the USA boys hit the field but will watch other matches. But when it comes to the MLS and regular soccer it just doesn't hold our attention. If I asked you to tell me how many teams are in the MLS or name more than 5 teams you could you do it?

In my opinion here is what is wrong with soccer and why it can't capture Americas attention.

* There are too many tournaments within the MLS season that teams and players compete in. I looked at the MLS web site and counted 6 tournaments that are played throughout the year. Honestly that's just too much to keep up with. For example in David's latest injury, one that will sideline him for the rest of the year, he and his Galaxy teammates were playing in a Superliga tournament against Pachuca (who) and sprained his knee. Now this tournament is right in the middle of the MLS season. Can you imagine your favorite NFL team playing one Sunday against a CFL team in the midst of the NFL season, hell no. You wouldn't stand for it. But that's exactly what soccer does. Stop playing all these in season tournaments so people can focus on your season and your league.

* Soccer regularly has ties. We as Americans expect to see a team appear victorious. We don't pay enormous ticket prices and sit for 3 hours just to see a game end in a tie. Remember the outrage when baseball ended the All-Star game in a tie? We were outraged and to think that game was just an exhibition game, they wouldn't dare end a regular season game in a tie and ties in the NFL are a rarity.

* Scoring needs to increase. I say shrink the size of the field some, does it really need to be as big as it is? Other sports find ways to increase scoring. Baseball lowered the pitching mound, NFL pushed the kickoffs back and the NBA, well they just don't play defense.

* The MLS needs to change its name. Too many people think of the MLS in real estate terms. Change it to the NSL (National Soccer League) or maybe the ASL (American Soccer League). Okay this is a minor issue but seriously, the MLS (multiple listing service) was around way before Major League Soccer.

* In America we are used to sports in countdown mode, we start at 15 minutes and count to zero, 20 minutes to zero. Nope, not soccer. They count up and then have extra time at the end. We're a countdown society. Seriously, what if we changed New Years Eve, instead of 10, 9, 8, 7...1 we went 1, 2, 3, 4....10. Wouldn't work, that concept wouldn't be excepted. Soccer needs to start at 45 and count to zero and stop the clock for injuries and balls out of play.

I'll give MLS and LA Galaxy credit for trying to help a sport grow in a country that just doesn't care, but you can't expect David Beckham to save a sport from itself. Nice try. With his injury you're not relegated to the back page of sports yet again.


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