This is by no means scientific, but it’s a few true anecdotes that have happened to me in the past several weeks that point to the rapid growth in interest of the Premier League in the United States.
For the past 12 months, I’ve been taking my daughter to soccer practices and games for her travel team. It’s a relatively busy social setting with parents speaking to one another as they wait for their children to finish up practices, and it’s easy to eavesdrop on nearby conversations.
Like you, my life is consumed by soccer. For me, it’s literally 7 days a week, 365 days a year where I’m watching, listening, reading and thinking about soccer — whether it’s in my personal or business life. So while I don’t expect mainstream America, or in this case, soccer moms and soccer dads to be discussing the sport in intimate detail, I’m always observant regarding the interest level among other parents, to see how the professional sport is penetrating their lives, if at all.
Last season, I was surprised by how so many of the parents knew little about the professional sport. These were stereotypical soccer moms and dads that enjoyed watching their kids play, but had little to no knowledge of the professional game. One of the only talking points last season was when Leo Messi was interviewed by CBS’s 60 Minutes TV show. A couple of the parents spoke about Messi, and I was shocked to hear that they didn’t know who he was, until that show.
This season has been a complete turnaround. Just this week at soccer practice, I overheard one man discussing with another soccer dad the predicament that Sunderland was in, and how they were fighting to avoid relegation. A few minutes later, I heard a completely separate conversation by another pair of dads discussing Liverpool and how they keep on “stepping off the gas” during games, as well as the plaudits they gave to Luis Suarez.
In a separate conversation a few weeks ago, I spoke to a soccer mom who got into the Premier League this season on NBCSN, and how she and her daughter make it a Saturday morning routine to sit and watch the Premier League matches together. She was incredibly excited as she told me how she loved watching the games. Plus, she enjoyed the off-the-pitch antics and “soap opera” stories that happen during the week.
And then yesterday, I went into a Walgreens pharmacy and picked up some Panini World Cup stickers for my kids and me. The cashier remarked how there’s been so much demand for the stickers, and said that she has so many people coming into the store every day asking whether they carried Panini or not. She added that she never gets so many people coming in and asking for specific products.
These are just a few of the anecdotes that I’ve encountered in recent weeks. When I arrived in the United States in the 1980’s, soccer was literally a joke. This current season, thanks in large part to NBC Sports, the sport is on the map. And in a major way.