Thursday, August 13, 2015

Chp. 9) Foreign Interests

I've gotten pretty tired over the years with all of the British lingo I hear to describe soccer action on Tv.  It takes some getting used to and their accents are pretty thick to begin with.  The lingo has now infiltrated broadcasts of MLS teams (or 'clubs' as they often say).  Just to name a few terms: pitch = field, clean sheet = shut out, nil = zero, boots = cleats and derby = rivalry,

I have always thought that part of soccer's problem with gaining more mainstream interest from U.S. casual sports fans is the borrowed terms and customs from other countries.  I can appreciate borrowed terms and customs when they make common sense, but if there isn't sensible reasoning involved, I'll be the first to make a stink about it.

I started my stinkage in 2011 with two articles, 'MLS Nicknames Confuse Joe Sixpack Sports Fan' and 'The Soccer Scarf: A Transplanted Accessory that Doesn't Make Sense.'

Which seems like a better nickname, the LA Galaxy or FC Dallas?

FC should not be associated with any MLS nickname.  Too many sports fans don't know what it stands for and it makes them feel further separated from Soccer than is really the case.  Reality is that there is not a big divide between U.S. sports fans and Soccer.  Everyone is familiar with the game.

MLS will never achieve the success they desire until the average everyday Joe Sixpack Sports fan understands what is going on in their game.  There is a lot to overcome, but rather than making it easier for them, some MLS teams decided on foreign names that are not consistent with U.S. lexicon.

Many nicknames of MLS franchises and words used to describe basic tactics of the sport are articulated without consideration of Joe Sixpack Sportsfan.  There is an air of snobbishness exuding from MLS that has not been addressed by the media.  Instead of having names that make sense and talking about the game as Americans would, fans must jump through hoops to understand.  Its like saying, we don't value you as a sports fan unless you learn us.

From the beginning, MLS should have required franchise names to be recognizable to all sports fans.  Toronto FC, Sporting KC, Chivas USA, FC Dallas, Seattle Sounders FC, Real Salt Lake, Vancouver Whitecaps FC are unnecessary names. 

FC at the end of the Seattle and Vancouver nicknames is a showy offering to the Soccer purists in order that they buy into the brand.  Both Dallas and Toronto win the prize for the most unoriginal way to attract Soccer purists.  The others are ridiculous marketing ideas to Soccer purists that make their brand much harder for sports fans to get to know. 

There are some outstanding MLS nicknames that have been able to transcend mainstream sports.  The LA Galaxy and DC United (hopefully, United is not a direct steal from Manchester-but was chosen because of nation's capital related to the U in USA) are easy flowing and have a ring to them.  DC is the only Washington sports franchise of the 5, including football, basket, base and hockey to use DC as their moniker. 

Teams should remove FC and accept themselves for what they are, not Football Clubs nor Futbol Clubs.  Also, the others that chose foreign names should consider renaming themselves to accomodate sports fans who may want to get to know them better.  U.S. pro Soccer teams don't need to replace the FC with SC as has been done with several minor league teams.  Soccer Club is just as unnecessary, a little less disrespectful to U.S. sports fans, but nevertheless, unnecessary. 

An original, artful nickname is just fine.  Any decent American effort will do.

The Scarves article went like this:

When Soccer scarves pop up among Soccer fans in MLS stadiums, they seem pretentious and out of place.  It seems like American Soccer fans are trying too hard to be something they're not.  Soccer in the U.S. is played mainly in the spring and summer months.  It is not played in winter months when scarves would be most necessary to keep warm.

Its hard to say who sets the worse example, the fans or the commissioner.

Don Garber tries hard to bring his scarf to interviewing situations whenever possible, as do so many other executives involved with pro Soccer.  Often, a press conference for any new team or new product for a team becomes one more chance to show off the team's scarf.

Scarves are a borrowed, unoriginal, marketing opportunity to get U.S. Soccer fans brainwashed to how things have to be in the world's order of Soccer.

Why couldn't MLS or U.S. Soccer clubs/people come up with something else to showcase that would be more authentic to Americans?  How about socks, since the Summer months get hot and most people are wearing shorts, why don't fans get a pair of their team's socks to strut around in so others take notice of who their team is.

Fans have pride for their teams and want to show their support, but people who bring scarves to games are like mice/sheep.  There is no common sense in wearing a scarf or bringing one if the temperature does not fit the occasion.

So many people try to act like they're European so they can think they belong.  The scarf represents a sense of belonging.

American Soccer fans who wear scarves are wanting to be accepted among Soccer's elite.  The elite they're trying to impress primarily are Soccer fans either in the U.S. or in Europe who may think MLS is not a top-notch league compared to the more well-known kings of the hill leagues of England, Spain, Germany and Italy.

Soccer scarves are not a noteworthy piece of fashion for the most part in Brazil, Argentina or any of the other Latin American countries.  These countries and their club leagues are reputable, sound and world-renowned.  Fans of these teams are not running out to the local sporting goods store for Soccer scarves because the weather isn't cold enough to need them.  They are not chasing a trend.

American Soccer fans would be better off to start new traditions than to always be one step behind whatever everybody else is doing.  Wearing scarves any time but the winter is uncomfortable.  Also, it is unbecoming of a U.S. sports fan. 

Soccer scarves send the wrong message to U.S. sports fans who may want to give Soccer more of its spectator time.  It is one more item that feels foreign and unfamiliar.

I couldn't stop with nicknames and scarves; I had to give my two cents worth on British accents. In 2012, I wrote 'The Overselling of British Accents to American Audiences.'  Interestingly, this article ended up being an evaluation of American culture in general, not just soccer.

Whether its news, politics, entertainment or advertising, the British accent seems everywhere in American culture.

There are many contemporary British accented characters making a heavy impact, including Piers Morgan of CNN, Stuart Varney of Fox News, Stewie of Family Guy, entertainer/host Ricky Gervais and the Geiko Gecko.

The simple explanation for all these British accents may be in how Americans perceive them.

A recent Harris Interactive Poll indicates that for Americans, when comparing American accents to British accents, the British accents receive much higher marks for sounding well-educated, intelligent and sophisticated.

This research seems to indicate the preponderance of British accents in American popular culture can be attributed to marketing efforts by entertainment and advertising executives.  A British accent sounds smart, reliable and knowledgeable.  These marketing efforts are one more way to get to the mind of the consumer.

Of all the broadcasts for American sports on television, Soccer seems to be the one utilizing the British accent most often.  The effect of using this marketing tool may work for Soccer fans already accustomed to the sport, but is it the best idea for reigning in new fans to the sport?

Nicknames and terminology in Soccer already have a foreign touch, will too many British sounding announcers add to the chaos and be a turn off for new fans or will fans not notice the subtlety of the marketing ploy?

The subliminal effect of the British accent is what executives seem to be most interested in.

What goes unnoticed, yet is accepted, is the most important message.  Reeling in the consumer without them catching on to why they are being influenced is the most effective type of promotion.

There is an obvious gamble being taken with British accented television broadcasters doing American Soccer matches.  New viewers to the sport may grow frustrated with the abundance of technical jargon these broadcasters are known for and may grow to feel more alienated to the game.  So for attracting new fans, the ploy could be defeating its purpose.

Writing on these three subjects-the scarves, nicknames and accents, further cemented my role as the 'Americanizing soccer' figure.  I was dug in at this point, especially with these three articles.  There was quite a bit of vitriol spewed my direction for going up against the purist fans of soccer.  But, I was just saying what needed to be said and hadn't really ever been said before with enough detail.

Looking back on these articles now, I think it doesn't really matter-none of it.  I've heard the argument that all of these foreign ways will bring the U.S. closer into the fold of world soccer.  We are accepted as legitimate.

Fine, if listening to foreign accents and accepting foreign nicknames and customs are what will bring the most casual American sports fans to the stadiums and to watch on Tv, then so be it.  So far, though, it doesn't appear to be completely working and in some ways, these methods are probably alienating plenty of potential sports fans from becoming soccer fans.

I took it up to a whole other level when I scrutinized soccer's relationship to the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.  In 2011, I wrote 'The Royal Wedding's Influence on Soccer.'

At first glance, Soccer appears to be quite distant from anything related to this week's Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.  But there's more to it than meets the eye.  The English Premier League is, of course, one of the greatest club Soccer leagues in the world and has been for many years.  England is a powerful entity in the world of Soccer for its incredible, rich history of club Soccer at various division levels, its venerable stadiums and its performance in multiple World Cups, including winning one.

Possibly, England's greatest contribution has been it link to Soccer's beginnings.  Most sports historians will tell you that the origins of Soccer as an organized sport began in 19th century England.  It was cultivated there and streamlined there over generations to how we recognize it today in its most modern version.  England's impact and continuing influence on the game is unique from any other country in the world.

As a Royal Wedding goes under the microscope, so does the Constitutional Monarchy.  The modern world is finding less and less understanding for a monarchy's purpose.  There's greatness in foundations and human rights issues represented by monarchies, but does the end justify the means?  Any monarchy now tries to position itself as defender of the people to retain its reputation and place within society while knowing tourism is the only practical reason to be saved.

The U.S. has its own kind of royalty.  Those considered for the roles change with the times depending on their popularity.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have been referenced as royalty.  The movie stars have a big following.  Interestingly, they also collaborate as regular people working for non-profit foundations, including Pitt's dedication to restore parts of New Orleans after hurricane Katrina.  Also, Jolie has been recognized for her volunteerism towards human rights as an Ambassador for the U.N.

In the U.S., a person earns a Congressional Medal of Honor for service to their country.  In England, people are delved out figurehead names of Sir and Madam when they make a contribution to society as part of the tradition of the monarch.  Other names, Duke, Duchess, Prince and Princess are part of the birthright upheld to maintain the order of the monarch.

The U.S. fought its Revolutionary War to get away from the Rule of the Monarchy and almost 2 centuries later saved that very same Monarchy's existence from Nazi Germany.

Soccer's rise to become the world's most beloved game found its derivation under this same Monarchy.  While its certainly possible that a wonderful game could be invented under these circumstances, could it also mean that the minds of those who molded it were constricted by Monarchical influences?

Why must U.S. sports fans bow down to the King and Queen of England?   Shouldn't the U.S. expertise in guiding innovation in modern sports be a factor for change in Soccer?

The obsession with the Royal Wedding provides more credence to England's superiority.  Everyone flocking to cover this non-news event is boosting England's reputation as an elite country.  Thus, if England is so wonderful and its monarchy is so great, it must know all there is to know when it comes to perfecting the art in Soccer as well. 

The Royal Wedding is a reminder of how different England is and that Soccer is a borrowed sport in the U.S.

No comments:

Post a Comment