With the World Cup set to take over the American TV and radio airwaves for the next four weeks, here are 17 reasons for first-time American viewers to be excited about this thing called the World Cup.
1. If England’s Roy Hodgson was an American football coach and had Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson, and Larry Fitzgerald as wide receivers, he would ignore them, use the Power-I formation and run up the gut every time. England will probably have a dull World Cup, but they actually have some really exciting young talent in Raheem Sterling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Daniel Sturridge.
2. Guys like Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey will get buckets of air time on American television, but you may want to temper your expectations for the team overall. Spain or Brazil could see 20-30 injuries to different outfield players before either of those were even in the conversation to play if they were named Miguel Bradley and Dempsinho.
3. Cherish this time with ESPN and their classiness. You will care about the broadcasting in 4 years and FOX has the rights to the next two World Cups. Going by the early indications, it would not be a huge surprise to see Piers Morgan and John Madden in the booth for the 2018 opener.
4. There’s this guy for Italy named Andrea Pirlo. Cherish him. Admire his beard. Imagine his musk. He’s reached a rare stratosphere where he’s loved by everyone.
5. If Skip Bayless was a soccer fan (and he may be – I’ve been managing to avoid him for almost 3 years now), Lionel Messi would be all over his troll radar. Messi has individual honors and Champions League medals coming out of his ears, but there’s this push from some in the media that he needs national team success to cement his place in the Pantheon of all time greats.
6. Brazil is starting a striker named Fred. “Marcelo gets the ball on the left flank, lays it off to Paulinho, who slides the throughball into the path of Hulk, backheel to Fernandinho, and he fires in a cross and finds a mannnnnnnnnnnn and it’s put away by Fred.” Kind of a letdown in the cool Brazilian names department. Kind of a letdown as far as a striker too, but that’s a different story for another day.
7. This World Cup stuff is very exciting, but it’s just a fun little offseason sideshow if you fall in love with a club team. Your mileage may vary. Probably influenced drastically by the talent in your club team and national team. I also may be saying this because I am a Liverpool fan and I blast the Champions League theme song every day right when I wake up.
8. Everyone seems to have a different interpretation on how to deal with the umlauts for the German players. Be sure to annoy your friends by saying Mesut Özil and Mario Götze over and over again in the most interesting way you can think of.
9. Italy’s eccentric Mario Balotelli will somehow steal the spotlight at some point of this World Cup. It will either be with goals or with ridiculous behavior, but it will happen.
10. Dutch manager Louis van Gaal is like the Gregg Popovich of soccer when it comes to the media. Times ten. Let’s hope some journalist throws him up a softball so we can feel his wrath.
11. Sorry, but we’ve got to do another Roy Hodgson thing here. Just watch his mannerisms on the sidelines. Majestic scenes. ESPN3 needs to ditch the tactical camera for England matches and do a Hodgie Cam instead. I’d even consider flinging the Hodgie Cam to the big screen and having the actual gameplay footage on my 7 inch tablet screen.
12. To be a professional American football player you need massive size, speed, toughness or all of the above. Succeeding in the ranks of baseball requires a rocket arm or the ability to hit the ball four hundred feet when it’s coming towards you at ridiculous speeds. A lot of basketball dreams die when you’re a junior in high school and have only reached 5’9”. One of the beauties of soccer is that you can be deluded enough into talking yourself into the idea that you could’ve made it somewhere! Even obscure countries that you haven’t heard of have professional leagues.
13. It’s a multi-billion dollar sport with billions of eyes on it. Something as simple as calculating the amount of time lost to injuries and substitutions should be added at the end of each half and is probably down to an exact science, right? No! The only time you ever hear about it is from a bitter manager and then it seems to go away quickly thereafter. Bizarre stuff.
14. Can you notice how there are no commercials during gameplay? The English Premier League signed a 3 year, $250 million year deal in 2012 for the United States market knowing that there are no commercials during gameplay and that the latest weekend game starts at 9:30 am on the West Coast. Remember that and let your anger boil as the NFL goes to break for every turnover on downs and the NBA has multiple television timeouts on top of the 7 total timeouts each team is afforded.
15. Belgium has managed to swing from underrated to overrated and then back to underrated again in the past couple of months. They’re like the Russell Westbrook of national teams.
16. You see that huge, quick, and powerful guy named Pogba covering every inch of the field with aplomb for the French team and leading them very deep in the tournament? He’s only 21 years old and Manchester United lost him and got nothing in return. Hating Manchester United will probably be a thing for you if you stick with this soccer stuff, so be sure to get a chuckle in at their expense.
17. Try to throw away preconceived opinions from our culture that you have incorporated into your own psyche and just enjoy what’s on the television. I still get snarky comments from people close to me for scrambling for a television on Saturday and Sunday mornings, but I just don’t care anymore. One of the best parts of maturation is coming to terms with the idea that you should just enjoy whatever’s fun and ignore external perception.
What are some of the reasons why Americans, as first-time World Cup viewers, should watch the tournament until its climax? Share your advice in the comments section below.