Wednesday, July 02, 2014

How to improve the World Cup

The World Cup is in full swing and has become an international sensation.  But that's not enough.

Here in America (i.e. the center of the universe) we have been a little slower to the dance than other nations. This is because we didn’t invent it (although maybe in the Book of Mormon we did). And yet, we’re trying to get aboard. There’s a professional domestic league and some teams are doing quite well. In Seattle the Sounders are outdrawing the Mariners. And U.S. children have embraced soccer.  Since they’re not allowed to use their hands they can text during games.

But the World Cup has begun to catch on here.

Sorta.

It’s on all the time and GAME OF THRONES is over. But it’s not the huge juggernaut that it is in other countries. And as we all know, for anything in the world to matter, the United States must be suitably excited. So here are some of my minor suggestions for how we could better involve the most important nation in the history of the planet:

First: ESPN – hire a host who has an eye problem. We appreciate sporting events way more if we can be distracted from them. Guys are just kicking a ball around. Zzzzzzz. But whether the host will be able to go on camera – THAT’S drama. And if he doesn’t, who goes on instead? Talk about watercooler gold. Will the substitute host be a man or woman? Or better yet, will they switch off? Who will score better ratings? Now you’ve really raised the stakes.

And then, for the finals, have Tina Fey and Amy Poehler anchor coverage.

Never schedule a match between two neutral countries. The matches must always be between countries we love and countries we hate. I realize this is difficult because we now like so few countries but there’s always Canada and nations that offer great vacation packages.

Involve Ryan Seacrest. Suddenly the World Cup becomes important.

We don’t have to watch the whole game. Cut away during the slow parts (i.e. 99% of it). Produce five-minute heartwarming profiles on players who have overcome adversity. We root for individuals. So give us a goalie with one testicle and we’re yours.

Invite stars from our various primetime shows and cutaway to them incessantly during the game. There are crowd reactions aplenty as it is, but they’re just rabid fans wearing the bright colors of their country. Who gives a shit? But is Kaley Cuoco having a good time? That’s the stuff that draws us in.

We Americans don’t love low scoring games. Extend the goals another thirty feet. If a team is losing by 6 goals with 2 minutes left but still has an excellent chance to win then we won’t switch over to SAY YES TO THE DRESS.

Cut the game time down from 90 minutes to 9. They kick the ball back and forth. We get it. In fact, why not just skip right to the shootout? That’s when things start happening.
And finally, you must let us win. I know it tarnishes the integrity of the competition somewhat , and you other countries could argue that winning means nothing if you don’t earn it, but we don’t care. We just need to win. Even though Team USA lost in an earlier round you still found a loophole to advance them. You need to do that again now that they lost to Belgium. The U.S. needs to triumph over some countries (or at least appear so). If we can win the World Cup that means we can have a victory parade and citizens won’t shoot each other for a couple of hours.

Yes, we know the World Cup is getting massive ratings around the globe, and that’s all fine and dandy, but what good is being in the finals if you can’t get endorsement deals from Nike and Odor Eaters? Why play in a championship game if Bruno Mars doesn’t do your halftime show? Yes, you may have to throw the final game, but we’ll take care of you.  It’s so hot in Brazil. Wouldn’t you rather spend summers in Seattle? There are commercials, guest appearances on ELLEN and a roster spot on the Sounders for all of you.

And as for the nations themselves, if the US is watching, you can charge ridiculous TV rights, enough to balance the budget of every country participating. And all you have to do is throw the games, change your format, and cater only to us. I’d say it’s a win/win. Tell Ryan Seacrest to pack for Brazil. Otherwise, it's back to ELLEN in the daytime and WHEEL OF FORTUNE at night for all us yankees.  Let us know who really won.

34 comments:

Johnny Walker said...

It'd be great if America (and, I guess, Canada) joined in on the world party that happens every four years. (And the separation is seen in odd ways: Visit any non-US version of Google, e.g. http://www.google.co.uk on a match day and there's a different doodle -- on Google.com, nothing.)

Commiserations to the US team, but I hear your match with Belgium was great.

Here's an amusing take on the fact that the USA was hosting the 1996 World Cup (from 1994): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQ82aMQONvc

RG said...

Ken,

I put your theory into practice but it turns out I am still not any more interested in John Kruk as a broadcaster.

Though I did like the t-shirt he wore after the surgery, something like "If don't let me play I'm taking my ball and going home."

VincentS said...

You've summed up my attitude toward soccor in general and the World Cup in particular, Ken: Guys are just kicking a ball around. Zzzzzzz.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eduardo Jencarelli said...

It’s so hot in Brazil.

Technically, it's winter here in Rio right now. Temperatures hovering around 75F or so. To me, it's only hot when it gets over 90.

And finally, you must let us win. I know it tarnishes the integrity of the competition somewhat , and you other countries could argue that winning means nothing if you don’t earn it, but we don’t care. We just need to win. Even though Team USA lost in an earlier round you still found a loophole to advance them. You need to do that again now that they lost to Belgium. The U.S. needs to triumph over some countries (or at least appear so). If we can win the World Cup that means we can have a victory parade and citizens won’t shoot each other for a couple of hours.

Easily the best part.

Involve Ryan Seacrest. Suddenly the World Cup becomes important.

Easily the worst.

Eric J said...

Satire at its best is nothing less than truth. This is spot on at every point. If broadcast sports were as interesting as high school sports, I might watch.

VP81955 said...

A nice modest proposal, Mr. Swift...er, Mr. Levine.

Scooter Schechtman said...

Chuck Klosterman has a theory about why soccer is not as popular in the US as its boosters want it to be. He says soccer is played by kids who don't like sports, and they're unlikely to continue soccer as adults. I may have mangled his "theory" with my bad memory but the article was hilarious.

MacGIlroy said...

Hah. Funny. Every idea would absolutely ruin the game. So many outdated cliches, so little time. The millions of us American kids who fell in love with soccer 40 YEARS AGO go through this every four years. I don't have cable and have to watch the matches in Spanish on Univsion and can enjoy the game just as much. Saying soccer is guys kicking a ball around is like saying baseball is just guys playing catch!

James Van Hise said...

In America, golf has more fans than soccer, and golf is not exactly a fast moving sport. But in golf things happen. In soccer the match can go on for 90 minutes and end with a 1 to 0 score, which is why the sport has so little support in the US. There have been attempts to organize soccer leagues in the US but they can't get sponsors and very few people turn out to watch the games being played, and most of them are immigrants who grew up on the sport in other countries. Americans have as much interest in soccer as they do in watching Olympic curling.

Howard Hoffman said...

Lions. Televised soccer should also include lions.

MacGlroy said...

> There have been attempts to organize soccer leagues in the US but they can't get sponsors and very few people turn out to watch the games being played

Based on what evidence? MLS attendance is more than 6 million a year, averaging nearly 20,000 per game. Just because it's not a huge TV sport (no commercial breaks!) doesn't mean its not popular.

Anonymous said...

Baseball is SOOOO much more boring than soccer. I really don't understand the allure of watching 20 fat guys standing around scratching their balls and chewing giant wads of tobacco...

Simpsons Fan said...

Reminds me of Homer Simpson watching baseball sober: "...the windup and a 2-2 pitch. Oh, no, wait a minute, the batter is calling for time. Looks like he's going to get himself a new bat. And now there's a beach ball on the field, and the ball boys are discussing which one of them's going to go get it."

Matt said...

I love it when baseball fans call soccer boring.

BetterYeti said...

I'm not a soccer evangelist and don't want to come off as the "you just don't get it" snob that so many of them are.

One of the things soccer fans love about it is that something IS ALWAYS happening. No timeouts, no belly scratching/velcro ripping between pitches, no huddles testing the delay of game limit. For those of us who enjoy it, watching a play build and result in a near miss or save is just as exciting as a goal.

The difference between soccer and, say, football (and I stick by these choice of words, because USA) is that I can enjoy watching a steady beat of two football teams whaling on each other, with incredible runs and improbable catches without having much insight into the nuances of the game. This is much less true about soccer where, if you haven't played or otherwise been immersed, it will too often look frustratingly like a bunch of guys kicking the ball at each other.

Johnny Walker -- Maybe it's because you're accessing from abroad but Google has been all over the World Cup here. Different animated doodles every match day during Group play and country/match specific doodles during the Round of 16.

Phantom Dreamer said...

About the Sounders and Mariners, the Sounders don't have 81 home games to fill.

chuckcd said...

Also, get rid of stoppage time.
Only one person on the planet knows when the game is going to end?

And forget red cards for all those fake injuries. Next time a player
writhes around on the ground for no reason, just shoot him.

Cap'n Bob said...

One way to make the game more interesting is to make the pitch half as long as it now is. That saves all that wasted time running across the no man's land in the middle.

And Mr. Anonymous, there are 9 players on the field plus whatever base runners might be aboard. You obviously know nothing about the great American pastime.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Cap'n Bob.:) I was actually counting the players on BOTH teams, including the coaches. There's no difference between what's happening in the dugout and what's happening the field.

Mitchell Hundred said...

It'd be great if America (and, I guess, Canada) joined in on the world party that happens every four years.

Excuse me, but Canada gets plenty excited about soccer. We just cheer for countries other than our own, because we have no soccer to speak of.

Also, I don't know from packages, but I resent Levine's implication that there's no good vacationing in Canada. We've got plenty of lovely natural wonders to see.

Normally I wouldn't have spoken out on this, but badmouth us on the day after Canada Day and you can expect to get told off.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

In what the Americans call the "Pacific Northwest", there is a fierce rivalry between the Vancouver Whitecaps; the Seattle Sounders, and the Portland Timbers. Each city has their crazy booster clubs.

GC said...

Americans men don't like soccer. Americans women love soccer. European men like soccer. And Americans men still don't get why European men like soccer. It is just great!

Mike Barer said...

That is a funny piece! Let's not forget that the NFL once upon a time did not have overtime during the regular season and games actually did end in ties.

mmryan314 said...

Baseball is boring? I have a friend who went to a SF Giants game June 2013(free tickets)who got bored and left in the 7th inning. Tim Lincecum continued on to throw a perfect game. Imagine her surprise the next day when it showed up all over the news. Needless to say, no one offered her free tickets to this year's Lincecum perfect game.

Pat Reeder said...

All sports bore the hell out of me, but the difference between every other sport and soccer is like the difference between time standing still and time actually moving slowly backwards.

RCP said...

I enjoyed this funny post but have to disagree with some commentors that soccer is just a 'bunch of guys kicking a ball around' or that it's not a 'real' sport that requires any skill. Try it with people who know how to play.

XJill said...

The most frustrating thing about futbol is the feeling that I MUST be missing something. I mean, this is a sport beloved by BILLIONS. And I get why, you don't need equipment besides a ball and anywhere can turn into a game, that's very cool.

Soccer is hugely popular with kids in the U.S. because parents don't have to buy gear and their kids get to run around and burn off some energy.

I have enjoyed watching the World Cup; it's the first time I ever have. The internet and having online friends all over the world has played a big part of this for me personally.

All this being said, you would have to pay me to go to an LA Galaxy game.

Cap'n Bob said...

I knew a guy whose daughter was on a soccer team, perhaps at the collegiate level. Her gloves and shoes set him back over $1000.00.

Mr. Anonymous: You have the right to dislike any sport, but if you think baseball is that boring you obviously don't know the game. And only chickenshits post anonymously.

Anonymous said...

The problem people have with baseball is that they won't learn the rules of the game.

Hell, they can't even be bothered to learn the player's names.

Now, let's see. You have Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know's on third . . . .

Greg Ehrbar said...

Ken -- I'm just impressed that you picked Kelly Cuoco. It's an art to choose just the celebrity, just the level of fame, and just the name with the comedy bite.

Plus, her name has that Sunshine Boys "K" sound like crazy.

Huzzahs!

Johnny Walker said...

Apologies Mitchell. Very glad to hear you're one if the many nations who get excited by the World Cup! I had no idea.

Happy belated Canada Day.

Johnny Walker said...

@BetterYeti Weird. I can always see US specific Google doodles on Google.com -- no idea why I couldn't see the World Cup ones. Nice to know that you guys saw them, too.

Buttermilk Sky said...

It's not the low scores that Americans don't like. Hockey has low scores. Hockey also has violence. Soccer needs to encourage biting, gouging and poking to make inroads into the USA. Less overacting, more real injuries.

I kid, I kid! There is already such a sport, called rugby.

And if you think baseball is dull, you've never watched cricket.