Monday, August 10, 2015

Chp 6) Developing the Niche

I responded to comments, did the whole search engine optimization and got a Twitter handle @MakeSoccerSense.  I found an audience with my website and tried my best to engage the audience with enlightening and unique articles.  I tried to fuse soccer ideas with how Americans perceive the 'big 3.' 

The quirkiness of American football's scoring system needed some analysis compared to soccer's way of scoring.  A touchdown does not tally one point.  In most cases, touchdowns are seven points.  The other significant form for scoring in American football is via the three-point field goal.  

For an article in 2012, I wrote, 'What if MLS Scores Were Counted like MLS Scores?.'

There are definitely more points tallied week to week in the NFL over MLS.  But, how much of a difference would there be if touchdowns (all extra points and two-point conversions are considered part of the touchdown) were counted as one point like one goal in Soccer and field goals were thought of as half a point or half a goal?

Safeties are not scored often in the NFL, so for the purposes of this comparison, they will not be considered as part of the final equation.

Here is the breakdown of scores for this week in the NFL:

NFL SCORE                                                           NFL SCORE as MLS
San Francisco 13                                                                    2
Seattle              6                                                                     1

Houston           43                                                                    6
Baltimore        13                                                                    2

Green Bay       30                                                                   4.5
St. Louis          20                                                                    3  

Tennessee       35                                                                    5
Buffalo             34                                                                    5

Indianapolis    17                                                                   2.5
Cleveland        13                                                                    2

New Orleans   35                                                                    5
Tampa Bay      28                                                                    4

Dallas             19                                                                    3
Carolina          14                                                                    2

Minnesota       21                                                                    3
Arizona           14                                                                    2

New York         27                                                                   4
Washington      23                                                                   3.5

New England   29                                                                    4
New York        26                                                                    4

Oakland           26                                                                    4
Jacksonville    23                                                                    3.5

Pittsburgh        24                                                                    3.5
Cincinnati       17                                                                    2.5

Chicago          13                                                                     2
Detroit             7                                                                      1

The scores from these 13 games amounts to a total of 84 points.  The average per game is 6.46 or 6.5 points.

Generally speaking, the totals set in Vegas for most NFL games range from 40-46 points, which would amount to 6 or 6.5 for goals per game.  For example, 24-21, 31-13, 24-20, 27-17, 23-20, 31-14, 23-21, are all equal to 6.5 goals.  This week's average fits the trend.  It is in the general range of the typical totals for NFL games.

MLS averages almost four goals less per game.  'Lower scoring' doesn't mean less exciting, but to an American audience it may.  In MLS, there are roughly 2.5 goals scored per game.  In the past, scores were lower for MLS.  Most international leagues have scores in the range of 2.7, give or take a few percentage points. 

In an article from 2012 on Mario Balotelli of Italy (with heritage from Africa), now a journeyman soccer player, but once an international star, I compared American athletes from baseball, football and basketball to him.  

Four American Athletes that Resemble Mario Balotelli

He's listed as 6'2", weighing 180 pounds.  He looks like a pure athlete, like he could have played American football or NBA basketball.  But, Mario Balotelli is a forward in Soccer, a goal-scorer, a striker.

He's coming off excellent performances in Euro Cup 2012 that raised his profile worldwide.  So, why not compare and contrast him with some other famous American athletes to see how he fits among them.

Balotelli shows that the best American athletes need not gravitate only to football and basketball. They can make it in Soccer, too.  (A good sense of humor helps promote success-as this video shows.)

When comparing, it is also important to note his off-field distractions.  He has become difficult in some circumstances to count on.  He is mercurial with a big ego.  He wants things his way.

His reputation is like his haircut, unique.  After the championship match Sunday, it was talked about that he didn't shake hands with Spain.  This guy is equal to American pro sports athletes in everything controversial and athletic.

Then, I went on to compare his attributes with Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, Stephon Marbury and Torii Hunter.

Balotelli could suit up to sprint the sidelines and his end zone dances would be more than satisfactory.  It would be great seeing Balotelli going for a dunk.  Center field would be a fun sight to see for Balotelli, roaming the area and making the occasional dive.  He'd be fun to see at the plate taking hacks and running the base paths, too.

For another article from 2011, I compared how a MLB hitting streak from a relatively unknown player was being obsessed about by the media.

What is Soccer's Equivalent to Baseball's Hitting Streak?

Dan Uggla, the second baseman for the Atlanta Braves, is in the midst of a quality hit streak.  He reached 33 games on Saturday.  The streak is allowing him to become a household name among sports fans.

The hit streak was made famous by Joe DiMaggio, who was able to hit safely in 56 games.  Since Dimaggio set the record in 1941, the closest any player has come was Pete Rose, whose streak ended at 44 games in 1978.  What makes this statistic so interesting among baseball fans and sports fans that it even has its own Wikipedia page?

Some of the interest generated by the record is the sheer difficulty to break it.  Most sports fans think it is one of the records least likely to ever fall.  But, this is not really the gist of it.  There are plenty of other records out there which are less likely to be broken than this one.

What interests the sports fan in this record is the daily grind to keep it up and the drama that builds with it as the amount of games increases.  The chase for DiMaggio's record is now part of baseball's lore.  It is attached to one of the most storied names, sits far enough away to make it almost seem impossible to reach, but close enough to think it's possible.

There is no way a guy like Dan Uggla will break this record.  But, predicting when it will end is part of the fable.  Baseball is riding this one out and reaping as much benefits as possible.  If baseball had its druthers, it would ask that Uggla get to 50 before going hitless. 

The other most notable of baseball streaks is Cal Ripken's ironman streak of consecutive games played.  He was able to best another all-time great, Lou Gehrig.

In tackle football, the ironman streak was made noteworthy most recently because it was attached to Brett Favre's consecutive starts.  As he retired and unretired, the record accompanied him.  Football has a few excellent streaks to choose from, like touchdowns thrown in consecutive games or field goals made without a miss.  Basketball does too, like triple-doubles in consecutive games or free throws made.

But, no other streak matches baseball's hit streak.  The length of time involved, not too much (6 weeks), not too little (4 weeks), makes it special.  Also, it's perfect for television because sportscasts can break and go to the game during the player's at-bat.  An at-bat only lasts a minute or two, usually. 

In Soccer, what makes for a special streak?  Should MLS promote more record breaking and more streaks?

Maybe, one in which a player can score or assist in multiple consecutive games would be one to remember.  Would how many consecutive games with a goal or assist be enough to get the sports fan's attention so that they tune in to see if the streak lives or dies?

My aim was to write articles that shined the light on soccer, but with an unconventional approach.  I realized quickly that soccer was not being written about with this kind of an American slant.  I was making comparisons that hadn't been synthesized yet in major forums, newspapers, online magazines or other parts of the American sports media world.

Soccer is still not yet completely part of the American popular culture sports news daily cycle
(on par with the 'big 3') and I wanted to spotlight some different means for telling an American soccer story.

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