Wednesday, July 20, 2011

World Cup rating aside, it's still only soccer

Here's how the Miami Herald framed TV viewership of the Women's World Cup:

The United States lost a dramatic Women’s World Cup final to Japan on Sunday but won over millions of fans, scoring a bigger TV audience than last week’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game. ... ESPN’s coverage of the Women’s World Cup final drew an overnight rating of 8.6, making it the second-most watched women’s soccer match in history behind the 1999 final, which drew a 13.3.

Cynic that I am, here's my take:

The greatest moment in U.S. women's soccer history was the 1999 victory, which drew a 13.3 rating and allegedly was going to take the sport mainstream in America. Twelve years later, despite even more hype fueled by technological advances, the rating was almost 5 points lower. So I'm scratching my bald head trying to figure out who are these millions of new fans supposedly "won over" by this year's event?

Yes, one of soccer's most hyped events ever can get higher ratings than a given year's All-Star Game. But the next "big" soccer event -- say, the MLS championship or some cup of some kind -- won't get higher ratings than some regular-season Saturday ballgame between the Giants and Phillies.

At the end of the day, it's still only soccer. It didn't just get popular among U.S. sports fans overnight, and it isn't about to get popular 1,000 overnights from now.

So folks need to stop pretending there has been some kind of breakthrough.

Because there hasn't been.

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