Friday, March 18, 2011

Lessons from World Cup 2010: Americanizing is Okay

Replay showed a goal that was not called for England
Originally posted July 11, 2010

Since the beginning of the World Cup, there have been many conversations about the place of Soccer in the American sports landscape. The conversations have taken on all kinds of deliberations.

On sports talk radio, the banter is loudest. Opinions on radio of the hosts and of the sporting public showed that the interest in seeing Soccer gain more of a foothold in the States is an argument that will continue on through to World Cup 2014.

Clearly, there is ambivalence among sports fans about Soccer’s importance. From past World Cups, it seems that every 4 years, the interest in Soccer pinnacles and then wanes again. But, these next 4 years may be different.

Either U.S. club pro Soccer will emerge and stabilize, or, as it has done since its inception, it will continue to struggle to gain legitimacy with sports fans. The debate may be settled before the next World Cup.

Interestingly, the topic no one seems to want to take on with any kind of consistency is the simple nature of Americanizing the game. Every 4 years, it is a dialogue that gets attention for a little while and then gets forgotten. There are too many other things to talk about on sports talk radio.

But, the significance of the topic of Americanizing Soccer can’t be ignored. It may not get its just respect, but the topic does linger on.

What may be recognized as Americanizing is not getting mention as Americanizing. Take for instance, instant replay, the main Americanizing subject of World Cup 2010. Instant replay in spectator sports is an American ideal. It is straight out of justice within sports spectatorship, an American original.

Instant replay in Soccer may come to be part of World Cup 2014. The subject does not seem to want to go away as quietly as Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s chief executive wanted it to. He has addressed it and now Soccer purists are taking issue as well. Everyone seems to be in agreement that instant replay is an appropriate method to getting the call right and it will be part of Soccer’s future.

How far will instant replay go becomes the more interesting question. Will it only include goal-line technology or will it address off-sides and penalty box calls too? Will the coach get a red beanie flag to throw on the field like in the NFL?

Don’t be fooled and don’t get intimidated by the Soccer purists. They want to have it both ways, telling American sports fans the best way for Soccer to be watched and accepting change, but not referring to the change as Americanizing.

Sorry purists, it is what it is. Instant Replay is as American as apple pie.

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