Sunday, August 16, 2015

Chp. 10) Missed Opportunities

Whether its Tv commercials or movie themes, soccer in the U.S. has been behind the curve for many marketing opportunities.  To become truly mainstream, soccer in the U.S. would want to have every possible marketing opportunity for the public's consumption, including movie scripts and restaurant franchises.

In 2012, I wrote 'No Overtime Means No Chicken Wings for MLS.'  It was about the television commercials advertising Buffalo Wild Wings that feature football, baseball and basketball. Amazingly, some supernatural force is able to turn a regulation game into an overtime game.  It just so happens to be the game that is being watched on Tvs by customers at the BWW restaurant.  All the customers (sports fans) end up thrilled to spend more time watching their favorite sport.

Getting to see extra time due to a tie in a sporting contest is what sports fans live to see.  It's the driving force to watching sometimes.  Fans want to see how long can it go.  The longer it goes, the more dramatic and more memorable it gets.

Remember your first game.  Weren't you rooting for overtime or extra innings?  It's past nail biting, call it cuticle biting time.  An added dose of game time provides more entertainment and more opportunity away from your real problems.

Buffalo Wild Wings has captured this essence in spectating and capitalized on it for its commercials.  They've done it with a comical edge.  Each of them takes the extra time to the extreme.  Their marketing group so far has done multiple spots for basketball, football and baseball.

Haven't seen one yet for hockey, though it might be in production.  As for Soccer, doing a spot may be tough to do.  There is extra time in Soccer's World Cup and other FIFA-sponsored regional Cups, but only in the knockout rounds.  The extra time does not end the game always because penalty kicks are used if teams can't win in extra time. 

Using PK's (Penalty Kicks) to end a game is a different topic altogether.  The main point here is that overtime is not used in MLS regular season.

Overtime for MLS could take a page from the NFL's regular season by having one 15-minute period in which teams play to win or tie and go home.  The first to score wins has been the principle for years, though it has been altered slightly for playoff action.  The overtime has worked well in the NFL regular season, producing titillating wild finishes and rarely a tie. 

How much would MLS benefit from at least one overtime session?  The sport would probably at least get more coverage in tv commercials by a national chicken wing chain.  More drama, more entertainment can't be a bad idea even if there's no guaranty of a winner after the one overtime session.  Certainly, many games would have a winner.  This used to be called a 'Golden Goal.'

Surely MLS would consider the 'Golden Goal' element for overtime, but it can't because of its own ties to FIFA.  FIFA  does not use extra time in case of ties, so MLS can't do it either.  Sounds crazy for an American League to not have overtime after a tie game, in fact it doesn't sound American at all.

There have been plenty of great sports movies.  Soccer has been featured in some decent ones, but nothing anyone could rattle off the top of their brain if asked to name the 'best sports movies.'  In 2015, I wrote about Kevin Costner's latest sports movie that thrilled audiences in, 'Soccer Needs Its Own McFarland, USA.'

As far as inspiring team sports movies go, Disney's McFarland, USA is a heck of a movie. It pretty much presses all the right buttons. The underdogs rise up and win. And, they do it with dignity and grace.

There was excellent character development and the plot moved quickly.  A two-hour movie didn't feel too long and Kevin Costner did an excellent job portraying Coach White, the one who had the idea to start the McFarland high school cross-country running team.

There have been plenty of sports movies made over the years that have had the right blend of movie magic.  But, the ones based on true stories seem to have a little more grit to them.  This genre has brought us Remember the Titans, Hoosiers and Glory Road.  McFarland, USA joins this elite group.

The fight in McFarland, USA comes from high-school immigrant Mexican-American kids who harvested crops before and after school and still found time to practice their running.  They beat other teams that had much more comfortable lives.  It's an amazing story.

McFarland, USA reminded me of how much further soccer has to go to dazzle audiences in American movie theaters.

When's an awe-inspiring American soccer movie coming out?  Even baseball had its Moneyball and hockey had its Miracle.  Where is soccer's box-office success?

It might take years, but I'm waiting for the urban high school kids that choose soccer and overcome the odds to win a state title.

If it ever happens like the Jackie Robinson team that made us feel good for a little while when they won the 2014 American draw of the Little League World Series, soccer in the U.S. will have a breakthrough of sorts.

When inner-city kids start playing soccer in bigger numbers, the chances for a World Cup win will dramatically improve.  Unfortunately, for right now, most of those kids like the video game better than the real thing.

After watching a rerun of 'Field of Dreams', another Costner flick, I couldn't help but think what a soccer field would look like in the middle of a corn harvest.  Probably, it would look as cool as the baseball field did in Iowa for the movie.  I shared my thoughts in 2015 on the matter in, 'Time for Reboot on 'Field of Dreams' with Soccer as the Premise.'

Would we have to call it 'Pitch Of Dreams'?

There are already corn plantations in the United States with soccer fields designed within them.  A few years ago, a man in Ohio started the trend.

Soccer is still lacking pop culture phenomena status in the U.S.  A remake on the 'Fields Of Dreams' would help cement a greater status if the movie ended up being a good one.

The remake would need a healthy story line.  The plot is what kept baseball's 'Field Of Dreams' alive in America's consciousness.  The plot and it had a bona-fide star in Kevin Costner to drive the marketing of the movie.

This year makes it more than 25 years since the movie's release.  This means it's a classic, right?  At least, that's how we know the classification of certain automobiles-25 years makes a classic.  And, to be a classic for a movie means it's ready for a remake.

There really haven't been many American made great soccer movies.  Most of the good ones have come from outside the U.S.

My two favorite soccer movies both came 10 years ago in 2005; 'Goal! The Dream Begins' and 'Green Street Hooligans.'

"If you build it, he will come" is the most famous quote the original 'Field Of Dreams' offered.  It was a saying that would resonate for years and always be associated with the movie.  Eventually, the quote has become known more with a "they" instead of "he".  Regardless, the quote made its point.

Who would the quote mean for soccer?  This is an obvious part of the plot that would need to be resolved.

The glorious 1950 U.S. World Cup soccer team could be intertwined into the remake with Joe Gaetjens playing an important role, somewhat like the one of Shoeless Joe Jackson in the original. Gaetjens, the Haitian native, who scored the winning goal versus England in the 1950 WC game, had his life cut short in Haiti by a cold-blooded dictatorship at the young age of 40.

(The movie, 'The Game of their Lives', also from 2005, was an homage to the 1950 squad and got pretty good reviews.)

In the end, the Field Of Dreams built by Costner becomes a community baseball property to rally around and the real one ended up doing the same in Iowa.

Soccer's turn for its Field Of Dreams is due.  One filmmaker may take notice and give the story his/her own twist.

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