How essential is watching an all star game to being a fan of a sport?
That’s the question I am asking myself with the MLS All Star Game later tonight. ESPN2 will be broadcasting MLS All Stars v. Manchester United (The Rematch) beginning at 8:30 PM ET and I suspect the ratings for the event will be decent (relatively speaking). MLS has done a good job of making its biggest players available to the media and spreading them out to numerous outlets, including Good Morning America. Hans Backe has also been honest and open to the trade press, trying to appease the fans by including all of their voted selections on his squad, and constructing a team that he thinks can win. So I am not necessarily offended by the process (although some of the selections I have major qualms with). I just wonder if I need to watch a glorified exhibition.
For the record, I tend not to watch all star games of sports I enjoy. No matter what the schtick (players pick teams, domestic v. foreign, winner gets homefield), if the game doesn’t count for something meaningful then I tend to enjoy it less. And that I think is the root cause of my lack of interest in tonight’s game.
Except for a major injury, no matter what happens on the pitch tonight it won’t matter. No trophies will be awarded, no points towards a final goal will be given, and there is nothing for MLS to gain from this match. If anything, there’s more to lose: witness the press surrounding last year’s game. I may be in the minority, but when there is so little at stake in a game I have little impetus to watch it on television.
In the past I have stated that I enjoy international friendlies; does this make me a hypocrite? Not at all, because I think the key difference is that I am watching this game on television. I can watch Manchester United on ESPN2 plenty of times in the coming months, in games that matter. If I were at Red Bull Arena and feeling the atmosphere of the game, I would be more excited and interested. But I am relegated to my couch, so I lose the atmosphere of the game and what appeals to me most about friendlies: seeing a team I can’t normally see play in-person.
Further complicating things is the counter-programming. Tonight at 8 PM on Fox Soccer is the CONCACAF Champions League match with Toronto traveling to Real Estelí. And while Toronto will likely lose (sorry Reds fans), this match has the things I want to see in a soccer game: a venue I may not normally see, a team in Real Estelí I can’t normally watch, and the drama of the outcome of this match meaning something important. While the picture for the All Star Game will be better (stupid Comcast and their FSC stubbornness), I am definitely more interested in the CCL game tonight.
In the end, I will probably watch the All Star game or flip back and forth between the two soccer games. But I won’t feel passionately about it and if there’s some compelling reason why I shouldn’t watch it, I may skip it altogether. Does that make me a bad MLS fan? I hope not.
What do you think? Are you looking forward to the game tonight?