To the average viewer of “scream” shows about American sports such as Around the Horn, Rome is Burning and The Best Damn Sports Show Period, the ongoing revolution in American sports preferences may have flown under the radar. That’s because so many of the sports writers that feature on the shout shows like Jay Marrioti, Tony Kornheiser, Jim Rome and Brian Burwell have gone out of their way to ridicule soccer and to help reduce any coverage of American Soccer or International Football to the back pages of the sports sections of most American newspapers. (the Miami Herald, Washington Post, NY Times and LA Times are notable exceptions)While the vast majority of sports fans don’t watch these shout shows, or read the columns they write that spew with venom towards soccer and most notably towards David Beckham (whom I would add as proper journalists they should have made an attempt to understand before despairing his career, his personal life and his agenda in moving to Major League Soccer) they are ultimately influenced by the shows and the editors of major newspapers who reduce one of the most popular sports in the nation, and the most popular sport in the world to the same status that bowling and billiards enjoy.
The mainstream sports media gave little acknowledgement when the combined Spanish/English telecast of the US-Italy World Cup match exceeded that of three games in the NBA finals. This same group ignored the ratings achieved on Spanish Language TV for the CONCACAF Gold Cup finals, a rating two and a half times that of Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals. While the NHL’s TV ratings continue to plummet, the league continues to enjoy enormous exposure on sports news shows and usually two full pages in season every day in most major market newspapers. Soccer would be lucky to even get one third of that coverage, and believe it or not most Mexican Football League telecasts beat NHL telecasts in the ratings head to head. But the sports media pleads ignorance.
Ignorance turned to venom however when a certain Englishman hit our shores last month. Those same commentators and sports editors that had made every effort to ignore or even belittle the beautiful game decided to attack the game and the very person that is David Beckham.
What makes David Beckham so special, and so threatening to the average soccer hater in the sports media? Well for one he’s more popular worldwide than any American athlete save perhaps, Tiger Woods. Secondly, Beckham is a figure unlike any other in world sports today: He mixes genuine celebrity with international stardom and a speciality, his set piece taking that are unmatched by anybody alive. Besides, Beckham unlike so many athletes today is a true professional and a genuine person who has overcome amazing adversity and fan hostility to become a one of a kind footballer. How popular is Beckham among the grassroots in the United States? Let me give you some startling case studies.